Meerkat is living the dream of every app creator. Three weeks after launching, it is enjoying viral growth. It’s been the talk of SXSW. Presidential candidates and celebrities are using it. It’s been called the new technology that will affect the 2016 presidential election. Prominent investors want to help fund it.
While much has been said and written about the live streaming app, I wanted to share a few things I’ve found really interesting about it:
1. Its numbers are multiplying.
Meerkat told me Thursday that its user base is growing 30 to 40 percent a day since SXSW started March 13. It signed up 120,000 users in its first two weeks, so should be closing in on the one million user mark. (Thirty-five percent daily growth compounded over a week would put it just short of one million)
2. Its founder is a genuinely likable guy.
In a recent interview with Re/code, chief executive Ben Rubin corrected an interviewer who credited him as “the man behind the app Meerkat,” saying “We’re the team behind the app Meerkat.”
When a commenter on Product Hunt discovered Meerkat and lamented, “I was working on the same exact app … kinda depressed right now,” Rubin offered a pep talk:
PETE! What makes you think you are not capable of doing something better/different? It would be a very sad world if people just give up on ideas. I can tell you that live video space is still broken in terms of distribution mechanism, and that obviously Meerkat is not perfect. There’s a very good chance that anyone in the world would come up with a better product/perspective. Please, go back to code. That’s how we all build better things together, even when we work separately. We learn from each other.
Twitter caused a stir in the tech world when it cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph. New Meerkat users can no longer automatically follow on Meerkat everyone they follow on Twitter. This appears to be an intentional move to limit Meerkat’s success, as Twitter recently acquired a competing service. Instead of being angry, Rubin has taken the high road, acknowledging Twitter’s rights, and noting how Twitter has contributed to Meerkat’s success.
3. Meerkat is obsessed with making its user comfortable.
If you talk with anyone on the Meerkat team, they’ll almost certainly use the word “comfortable.” It’s a value that’s guided their decisions, including embracing the trend toward vertical video on smartphones.
“We wanted to lower the barrier to entry and make the behavior as comfortable and as familiar as possible given that the medium is still pretty unfamiliar to a lot of people within the context of social media,” community director Ryan Cooley told me at SXSW.
Rubin made a really interesting parallel between smartphone live-streaming and the first photographs, during a recent interview with host Ryan Hoover on Product Hunt Radio.
“When the first cameras arrived, people weren’t smiling. It was weird to smile in a picture. People don’t have that habit of taking a picture or being in a picture. It evolved,” Rubin said. “With live video, we don’t have this habit. My mother didn’t live stream, I didn’t live stream when I was a kid.” The challenge for Meerkat is to make everyone — especially people who aren’t early adopters– comfortable with live streaming.
Because Meerkat videos aren’t stored and can’t be rewatched later, it’s a less intimidating experience. You don’t have to worry about slipping up, and having that mistake be re-lived forever. You simply hit a button on your phone, and suddenly people are digitally right there with you.
4. Its founder thinks Snapchat laid the groundwork for it
“Snapchat did a lot of the work for us. Because Snapchat is such a compelling simple product. Now for newcomers it is a bit more complex but it made video comfortable,” Rubin told Product Hunt Radio. “It made the medium of video something that people are starting to have a habit in, and the whole selfie culture of ‘I’m okay with that, that I have a camera. I’m okay with it [and] the people around me having a camera, they’re okay with it.’ ”
5. It’s the latest app to make “the leap” via Product Hunt
Cooley credited being on Product Hunt with helping to vault the app to where it is today. It joins Yo, Ethan, Be My Eyes and Ship Your Enemies Glitter as other apps that have taken off after being featured on Product Hunt.
“That got us a group of people around us that were really super stoked about what we were doing. And it was totally organic,” Cooley said. “We had people that got it from the start. They were going out and saying ‘Hey Tony Hawk this would be dope for your audience because all the sudden all your friends can tune into you skating around the pool in your backyard.”