Live Streaming App Stre.am Debuts: A CEO Chat at SXSW
[Editor’s note: This Q&A was done and edited over e-mail. Bowman is at SXSW Interactive.]
What is Stre.am and why did you create it?
Stre.am is a video platform for anyone with a phone to broadcast and share life’s experiences as they happen. It’s built from the ground up for mobile. Stre.am is easy to use, easy to share on other platforms, and just really fun. On the back-end, it leverages proprietary transcoding and broadcasting technologies to deliver a seamless high-quality experience that can scale infinitely as the mobile live streaming bailiwick takes shape.
Stre.am was built to help people share life’s experiences as they happen. With the continued rapid global adoption of mobile devices and real-time social networking, and the relatively low amount of options for people to do so, our founding team believes the winning mobile streaming platform will be the one with the highest quality streams and most compelling shared experiences.
I also built it for personal need. My two young daughters are growing up in Charleston, SC, while my entire family is in Michigan. I live stream all the girls’ soccer games to our family back home—plus birthday parties, lost teeth, and more. The use cases for live streaming run the gamut from person to professional use.
There have been a lot of live streaming companies over the years. Why bet on live streaming now?
Simple. The technology is finally there. Streaming 1.0 incumbents were built for a different model and are too entrenched to have a truly mobile-first platform. With Stre.am, we disregarded all the rules to built something new and authentic from the ground up for mobile.
And beyond the technology, people need a reason to use that technology:
Personal: we live in an age of sharing, from selfies to status updates. Live streaming is just the latest format for people to share their lives with others. For many, that will be a personal moment shared between family/friends, such as a marriage proposal or a birthday song. The live component draws the viewer closer to the moment, and that can be a very personal thing.
Fan engagement: Celebrities engage their fans through live Twitter Q&As, post behind the scenes photos, or video their day to day life. Adding live streaming is just another way to engage fans in the moment, and we’re already talking to several actors, musicians, and comedians about how they can incorporate streaming without a video crew into their fan engagement strategies.
Performances: Allowing fans to stream an event live—such as concerts or sporting events—transforms them from a passive viewer to an active participant. Their perspective becomes a component of the performance, which elevates not only the performance itself, but the experience of both the fan capturing the footage and the many fans viewing it. We’ve already worked with a National Football League team, and are developing enterprise-grade solutions for other brands as we move forward.
News: From citizen journalism to professional outlets, broadcasting events live as they happen from a mobile phone stands to revolutionize the news gathering business.
When was Stre.am founded? What’s the history of the company?
Stre.am started in Jan/Feb 2014. Shortly after deciding to pursue Stre.am, we were presenting our first alpha version of Stre.am at a local Charleston tech event when a Jacksonville Jaguars executive caught wind of it—they liked it so much they rolled out a version to fans and quietly used it in every home game over all of the 2014-15 season.
We’re now in public beta working toward full-scale launch. Being honored as a SXSW Interactive “Connecting People” award catapulted us into the spotlight this week—along with all the traction in the live streaming market as of late.
What does Twitter’s acquisition of Periscope and the emergence of Meerkat mean to Stre.am?
It means our timing is perfect. And sure, you can look at this as market validation—it surely is, Twitter is betting on live streaming, and that’s great—but what we’re really seeing are two things: 1) people want live streaming solutions; and 2) the technology is finally here to deliver it via phones.
Now, with regards to the latter—the tech—that’s where I’m confident Stre.am wins out in this market. We develop everything in-house, and we have no third party dependencies to stop our growth.
To be honest, Stre.am is excited about Periscope and especially Meerkat because, if live streaming behavior sticks, it will come down to best product + multiple platform support, and we think we can win here.
How does Stre.am differ from Meerkat and other competitors?
First, we’re more flexible in terms of how videos are broadcast. We built our own broadcast platform which can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, SMS, e-mail, etc. as the user likes, or it can remain limited to our platform. We don’t require anyone to use Twitter or any other third-party network. The result is a more flexible solution that the user controls. While at this time all broadcasts are public, the user can control how public they are by limiting which platform they take place on, and we’ll soon have an option for private streaming to select users as well.
We don’t rely on Twitter for our chat function, we have our own, which again is naturally more private, but still allows the user to broadcast via other social networks if they prefer.
Also, we built this from the ground up as a mobile solution first. Developing using our own stack gives us an advantage over those who outsource components to others. The smartphone is the key to the live broadcast experience, so the solution should be focused on that device over all others.
What privacy guarantees are there?
The security and privacy sides of live streaming are items that we take very seriously.
We encrypt all of our services at various stages. At this time, all broadcasts are public. This summer, we’ll add an option to invite only specific viewers to a stream. Videos on our platform are not stored. There’s the option to archive a 15-second snippet, which we call a “reel,” for 24 hours. But otherwise users can save any video they take to their own devices or storage solution separate from our platform.
With regards to location, we only show the general area someone is in, but not the exact location—and the video streamer has the option not to share location at all.