Startup School Radio, Episode 2: How Became Twitch

by Alexis Ohanian8/3/2015

In Episode 2 of YC’s Startup School Radio, a podcast that features stories and practical advice about starting, funding, and scaling companies, Aaron Harris sat down with entrepreneur, investor, and YC partner Justin Kan, and Mathilde Collin, the founder and CEO of collaborative email and text platform Front.

You can hear the episode in its entirety on SoundCloud here and on iTunes here, and read the full transcript here.

An especially interesting part of Kan’s interview details how he and the other founders of decided to focus on two new projects that would become Socialcam, the mobile video platform that was acquired by Autodesk for a reported $60 million, and Twitch, the immensely live game streaming platform that was acquired last year by Amazon for $970 million:

Justin: Then to make a long story short, we were at a point where we were about 25 people. We were thinking, ‘What do we do next?’ The site had kind of tapped out. It turns out not everything type of
content is good live, right? Only certain types of content are really
good live, and so we tapped out all of these, all the live content, and we
were having trouble continuing to grow. The site was probably about 30
million uniques a month at that point, which is pretty big website, but
it wasn’t growing. We started working on some new ideas of things that
we could potentially be bigger than Justin TV and one of those was one
of my co-founders Emmet came and said, ‘Hey guys, I think we should work
on the gaming section of Justin TV.’ The gaming section was people
playing video games and other people watching them. At the time, [co-founder] Emmett [Shear]
came and said, ‘This is the only content that I actually like on our

Aaron: How big was that segment?

Justin: That was 3% of our traffic.

Aaron: Just 3%.

Justin: It was just 3%. It was a couple hundred thousand people a month. And Emmett was like, ‘This is the only content that I actually want to
watch. Let’s focus on this content. Maybe we can be bigger.’ The rest of
us, so out of the four co-founders, I thought, ‘Hey that could be something.’ The
other two co-founders were very skeptical. At the same time we had this other idea, my other co-founder Michael [Seibel]’s
idea, which was, let’s work on the mobile part because mobile is growing
and there’s no good way to get videos off of your phone. He was really
selling mobile.

We were at this impasse, right? There were two ideas. We
couldn’t decide between which one was going to work and so we decided
let’s do both of these things simultaneously inside our company.

Aaron: That seems like a terrible idea. Like when we talk to startups
and they say, ‘We want to do two things at once’ and they’re a small
team we say, ‘Bad idea.’

Justin: Yes, we definitely tell startups not to do this and I actually think that’s right. However, in this case it worked out.


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  • Alexis Ohanian