Launched about a week ago, Beme is a new video-sharing app built by viral filmmaker Casey Neistat and Matt Hackett, former VP of Engineering at Tumblr and Hacker-in-Residence at betaworks. The duo raised $2.6 million in seed funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, and have been working on the project together for about a year.
With Beme, video recording is done via the rear camera in four-second bursts. However, instead of hitting a record button and watching the screen to see what you’re filming, you capture video by covering your iPhone’s proximity sensor, which is the little dot next to the front camera.
This means you start recording by placing the phone up against your chest, forehead, or any other location (a finger also works) that would cover the sensor. In the app’s introductory video, Neistat shows how the app records when placed against your chest.
While you are capturing video the screen goes completely black, and users have no way of previewing their content before it is automatically shared. Viewing others’ videos is done via a Snapchat-like interface where you hold your finger down to play, and when the video’s over, it’s gone forever.
Besides the unique capture method, the second major feature is “reaction,” which lets you use the front camera to send a selfie to someone as you’re watching their video.
Changing Social Media
To understand why Neistat founded Beme, it’s necessary to understand his background in social media.
Neistat’s YouTube videos routinely get millions of views, and his daily vlogs often have 250,000 hits in their first few hours of being live. Nike, J.Crew and Mercedes have all paid for the privilege of being featured in some of Neistat’s work.
These videos are known for carefully designed camera shots and editing that screams attention to detail, which Neistat has admitted can take over three hours just for his daily 10-minute vlogs.
So why would someone that puts so much effort into creating the perfect shot release an app where you can’t even preview footage before it is shared with the world?
Neistat explained to TechCrunch that he had become frustrated with the fact that things shared on social media (including his own work) are a very carefully created version of what someone wants to share.
There was no existing solution to share unfiltered moments in life, which is why Beme was created. As much as Neistat loves sharing apps like Instagram (he has almost 400k followers), he says it’s not the right platform to share little photos of what he sees throughout the day. Instead, it’s a place to share “beautifully edited aspects” of one’s life.
According to Neistat, social media today is built to share with the world a version of who you are. Now, Beme wants you to share who you really are.
As we were speaking, Neistat was looking through his YouTube account to see how his latest video was performing. In seven hours he had received 150,000 views, 7,000 thumbs up, and 48 thumbs down.
However, he explained that these numbers don’t exactly mean a lot to him. While he knows thousands of people enjoyed his video, he doesn’t know what parts were their favorite, or what emotions they experienced when viewing.
Neistat explained that when he teaches college courses, he can show his videos to a room of 20 students, and by looking at their facial expressions can instantly see their emotional reaction to his films.
Beme tries to recreate this emotional response by ditching any sort of “like” or “comment” features, instead limiting reactions to a selfie that viewers can capture and sent to the creator in real time, while viewing their content.
Eight Days In
While Neistat wouldn’t share user numbers, he did tell TechCrunch that in the eight days since Beme’s official launch, users have shared 1.1 million four-second videos, and sent 2.4 million photo reactions.
This equates to about 50 days of recorded video, a tremendous feat for a small startup.
While first Neistat and Hackett decided on a slow, invite-only rollout to make sure all users had at least one friend already on the platform, the codes quickly morphed into a mechanism to throttle growth so the platform wouldn’t crash. Access to the platform reached a fever pitch a day after the launch, when codes could be found on eBay for $5 to $10 each.
Neistat told TechCrunch that the days of codes are almost over, as the team continues to work on scaling up the app’s backend.
Beme is available for download from the App Store, and users can reserve a username now, even if they don’t have access to a code.