Talking tech since 2003

Have you ever seen a YouTube video and just knew it was going to go viral?  Well, now you can bet on it.  BetTube, which launched over the weekend, is an online gambling platform for betting on the future success of YouTube videos.

The website was the brainchild of Clemens Ley, who posted a video called ‘Kony-2012’ to Facebook one day and immediately got a strong reaction from friends who hated the organization behind the video.

“I later understood that I didn’t post the video because I liked it,” Ley said, “but because I thought it would go viral.”  And it did, he told me; 80 million views in three days.

Then a lightbulb went off and Ley founded the Munich, Germany-based startup in January.  BetTube, which currently only allows play money gambling, will allow real money gambling in the future.  Users can bet that a video, which has a low view count, will get hundreds or even millions of views in the next 12 hours. BetTube aggregates these bets into a blog of videos that are likely to go viral in the near future.BetTube2

Ley said that he wants to build a customer base first before opening BetTube up to real money.  But when they do, BetTube will likely launch in the U.K. first.

“The UK is one of the largest online gambling markets with over 11% of the adult population participating in some form of online gambling regularly,” Ley said.  “In addition, the legal situation seems to be much more stable in the UK than in the US.”

Currently, online gambling is only legal in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware but other states are weighing some kind of online gambling legislation including Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa and Mississippi.  The current laws also vary by state, which could make playing with real money even more complicated in the U.S.

Outside of the U.S., the laws are a lot more lax.  Ley told me that currently there are about 70 countries that allow online gambling in some form, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Denmark, Finland, France, and some parts of Germany and Canada.

Until the company can introduce real money gambling, BetTube plans to generate revenue through in app-purchases.  The company is also weighing other options.

“One option would be sell play money for real money (e.g. Zynga does this in their poker app), another would be to sell premium features like e.g. private betting rounds,” Ley said.

Once real money gambling is launched, BetTube plans on taking a small amount of money from every pot played, similar to the way casinos make money from poker tournaments.

While BetTube is currently the only websites that allows users to bet on videos, the concept is similar to to social bookmarking sites like Reddit or Digg. But unlike those sites, BetTube features videos that will become popular to the YouTube audience in the future, instead of content that users like right now.

Ley said that BetTube is also similar to prediction markets like Intrade, but the existing prediction markets are not specifically tailored to videos.

“By specializing on videos, we can design the interface in a way that leverages the excitement that is related to videos,” Ley said.

BetTube is currently showcasing its interface and design at the Launch Festival in San Francisco.

So next time you see a video that you think will be popular, you may want to jump on BetTube and watch it go viral.  And maybe soon, you can make some cash out of it.

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