After a crazy day, Meerkat founder says "I want to be in India, I want to be on Jimmy Fallon... I want to be everywhere"
Yesterday was quite a day for Meerkat founder Ben Rubin. First, his company announced that it had raised money from Greylock Ventures and a bunch of other venture funds, many with connections to the entertainment industry: Lorne Michaels-connected Broadway Video Ventures, Universal Music Group, and Comcast Ventures. Then, later yesterday morning, Twitter, which served as a conduit through which Meerkat quickly gained widespread popularity, unveiled Periscope, its own live-feed application, described by some as a Meerkat killer.
When you think about it, it’s all pretty wild for a guy whose company built Meerkat as an experiment.
A little more than a month ago, Rubin and his team were trying to figure out if their idea - that people would be interested in live video broadcasting - was even viable. “It was hard times for the team to find the right product market fit,” Rubin tells me.
And yet, Rubin’s company is now in the crosshairs of an Internet social media giant and is banking checks from the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk, Ashton Kutcher, and Jared Leto.
But like the king in the old “This too shall pass” folktale, Rubin doesn’t seem overly worried about Twitter’s recent attempts to stem Meerkat’s success, or too ecstatic about the app’s current popularity.
Maybe its because even with the highs and lows of the day, Rubin and Meerkat have a decent plan. Over the next week or two, the company will be releasing the first updates to the application, which Rubin promises won’t take away from Meerkat’s signature simplicity, but could position it to be able to scale and actually thrive after this moment in the limelight passes.
The updates, which will roll out over the next couple weeks, are actually the first updates to the original product that the team built as a side project for parent company Yevvo. “It’s one of the first steps to build our own graph and to decouple from Twitter,” Rubin says.
The first of the updates, which should come in the next couple of days, will feature new discovery features built into the app. "It will be easier to find people and people will be suggested to you, there will also be a lot of ways to help people find you."
The follow-up update will take huge steps to actually allow Meerkat to decouple from its reliance on Twitter, according to Rubin. Although he didn’t want to delve into too many specific details, Rubin did say, “We’ve got to grow up outside of Twitter.”
“We definitely see, especially with Facebook’s latest announcement about introducing the API to Messenger, that there is much more potential to integrate with Facebook in various ways,” he says. “We are exploring what an integration with Facebook would look like.” Although he wouldn’t give the exact timeline, don’t be surprised if Meerkat feeds start appearing on Facebook profile pages in the next couple of weeks, somewhere that you probably won’t see Twitter’s Periscope anytime soon.
And speaking of Periscope, Rubin even took some time on Thursday to write a review of Twitter’s Meerkat competitor on Product Hunt. His message: A congratulations to the Periscope team.
“This thing is beautiful!” Rubin wrote. “Huge congrats to the team. Everything looks so slick and thoughtful; zoom in/out, orientation agnostic and specifically the hearts which are our team’s favorite! Beautiful product…”
The keyword: thoughtful, which is a good way to describe Rubin.
For a peek into Rubin’s psyche at the moment, all you have to do is ask what drove him to build a mobile application that can send live feed videos throughout the world through the Internet.
“Tech is just a means to achieve a vision,” the Meerkat founder explains. “What I want to do is to be everywhere. I want to see everywhere.”
“If you close your eyes for a moment,” Rubin says, “it’s just you and the things around you in that moment physically. But then there’s the vast and huge world and there are so many things happening and you are just where you are.”
“I feel like I’m constantly missing out,” he says. “I want to be in India, I want to be on Jimmy Fallon, I want to see the Red Bull events, I want to see the prime minister of Israel. I want to be everywhere... Not so much have my face being shown, but to be present and watch the world."
Laughing a bit uncomfortably, Rubin adds, “I feel like that’s kind of a weird thing.”
Although it may seem odd, the people flocking to the Meerkat app are confirmation that Rubin’s wild vision may not be too far out there.