This is mmhmm, Libin’s virtual presentation startup, in action. Started in May as “a kind of joke” during shelter-in-place

As Phil Libin speaks his Zoom background changes rapidly, cycling through images of his past trips to Japan before settling upon a looping animation of a wooded landscape crafted in paper. Moments later, a Weekend Update-style screen appears in the right side of Libin’s virtual room with presentation text – and Libin follows it, his body reappearing, smaller, next to the box so that he can point with his arm to specific sentences.

This is mmhmm, Libin’s virtual presentation startup, in action. Started in May as “a kind of joke” during shelter-in-place, mmhmm now has thousands of test users, a waitlist of 100,000 and, as of Wednesday, a fresh $31 million in funding to expand. The funding, which includes a $21 million Series A investment led by Sequoia, an additional $5 million raised for Libin’s startup studio All Turtles and $5 million in debt from Silicon Valley Bank, likely values mmhmm in the ballpark of $100 million, all before its general launch.

“We all have these micro performances we do every day, where you have to perform for your employees, or your boss, your investors or your social media followers, your kids. And doing it on video is tedious,” Libin explains. “We want to level up that performance however you’re doing it.”

Known for his years running Evernote, the note-taking app that preceded a new wave of startups like Notion and Roam Research, Libin argues that the post-Covid 19 world has shifted inexorably towards “DJ-ification,” or a hybridization of virtual and live experiences he calls “IRL-plus.” Libin doesn’t believe in-person interactions won’t return, to a degree. But interactions like doctor and bank visits, concerts and investor earnings calls can all be augmented, he says, by the ability to pre-record and blend in other media. “We can remix reality,” Libin claims.

Mmhmm, whimsically named as something “you can say while eating dinner,” but more practically, with a deliberately open-ended name to reflect a potential wide range of uses across industries, is the latest product of Libin’s startup studio, All Turtles, which Libin left a venture capital gig to launch in 2017. The company is the seventh project from All Turtles to raise funding since March, Libin says, and the second to fully spin out of All Turtles. The startup already has a team of more than 20, says Libin, who serves as CEO of both All Turtles and mmhmm, while continuing to draw design and other support from All Turtles’ centralized staff.

At Sequoia, the decades-old VC firm that’s invested in companies like Apple, Google, PayPal and WhatsApp, partner Roelof Botha is reuniting with Libin after working together at Evernote. Botha and his team led mmhmm’s $4.6 million seed round just four months ago after Botha says his first experience with the product reminded him of seeing YouTube and Instagram for the first times. “It was one of those things that somebody shows to you, and you just say, I want that,” Botha says.

The rapid pace of mmhmm’s funding, including a large-sized check before official launch, bears some resemblance to a raise by buzzy and controversial voice-based social media app Clubhouse, which raised at a valuation of about $100 million in May while also in beta. Botha and Libin note a few key differences. One: with thousands of test users and a consumer launch expected for later in October, mmhmm already has some clarity on customer demands and plans to be widely available very soon. (An enterprise version is expected in early 2021.)

The startup also has at least three clear customer segments, Libin claims – and the founder expects that sprucing up videoconferencing, the way most people are first meeting mmhmm today, will end up the smallest one. The bigger opportunities: helping creators record and stream more interactive content on YouTube, TikTok and elsewhere; and the hybrid live experiences Libin calls “Twitch for people who want to stream PowerPoint slides.”

To connect with those communities, Libin and mmhmm included a host of smaller investors in its fundraising so far, from influencers in sports and entertainment like Chamillionaire and The Chainsmokers to comedian Hannibal Buress, Instagram cofounders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz and the investment arm of the majority owner of luxury conglomerate LVMH. A gaggle of early-stage VC funds also joined in, alongside Mubadala Capital and Goldman Sachs.

Libin declined to provide mmhmm’s valuation after the raise or comment on Forbes’ estimate. “I’m not trying to optimize for money or valuations or anything like that,” he says. “Any early stage stuff is crazy by definition.” In the same breath, however, the entrepreneur revealed some long-term planning, noting that mmhmm intentionally included “pre-IPO people” who could write much larger checks in the future, if asked. “I think a lesson of 2020 is, when someone’s offering you $30 million, you should take it. Because who knows what’s going to happen?”

Mmhmm will use the money primarily to continue hiring, and to a lesser extent, help bankroll its increasing infrastructure costs. The company won’t sell advertising or customer data, Libin says, but will charge a premium subscription for businesses and additional features.

The startup already connects to the big videoconferencing players of Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Zoom, as well as YouTube. Libin’s confident that while tech’s giants might eventually release their own competitors, the category will support numerous players. (So is Sequoia, a major investor in Zoom.) Still, mmhmm will likely find itself in a turf race to emerge as virtual video’s fun-maker toolkit.

“We’re not building boring enterprise software, even though we think a lot of the use is going to be in the enterprise,” Libin says. “We have to build this with character and personality.”

Originally published at forbes