Today is a big day for Y Combinator graduate Kamcord, after the San Francisco-based startup announced a $10 million Series C round led by Time Warner, and a move that expands its streaming focus from mobile games to any app.
Kamcord last raised money in December 2014 when it scored $15 million from Chinese Internet giant Tencent, billion-dollar Japanese gaming firm GungHo and others. Kamcord co-founder Adi Rathnam told TechCrunch that the entire round was still in the bank when Time Warner approached the startup, and the timing was right because it had just begun early talks about raising again.
Alongside Time Warner, existing backers Tencent, TransLink Capital, XG Ventures, Plug & Play Ventures and Wargaming participated in the round, which values the four-year-old company at more than $100 million.
“It’s a tough climate [right now,] but one thing people don’t talk about as much [is that] big VCs have big funds [and are] sitting on them and only investing in companies that don’t need the money,” Rathnam said.
Kamcord is particularly keen to work with Time Warner group managing director Rachel Lam, he added, since she played a prominent part in scaling Maker Studios, the YouTube network that was sold to Disney for $500 million in 2014, and understands the needs of YouTube stars, which Kamcord targets with its mobile-focused streaming service.
Added to that, he’s impressed by the value that Time Warner can add.
Unlike other strategic investors which promise synergies but take time to deliver, he said that Kamcord is already having “early dialogue with operating divisions” at Time Warner over ways to work together. And that leads to the second part of the company’s news today — Kamcord is launching a new feature called ‘app casting,’ which allows live broadcasts from any app on a smartphone.
Live-streaming isn’t social networking
Until now, Kamcord has focused on mobile games, and in particular hugely popular titles like Clash Of Clans. Today its 1 million users can start a broadcast from anywhere on their phone — be it Facebook, a news app or web browser — mixed in with a live-stream from a standalone camera or, if on mobile, their front-facing camera.
It’s tempting to draw parallels with Facebook or Twitter-owned Periscope, which are trying to popularize mobile live-streaming. But Ratham said Kamcord is taking a very different approach for many reasons.
“These companies are all making the same mistake,” he said. “Thinking about live like it’s a social network.
“Live-streaming is really hard to do. ‘What do I say? How do I try to be funny?’ It needs to be treated like a media business. We’re going to enable creators to make the most compelling content via app casting.”
Ratham believes that the challenge of live-streaming can be offset by offering apps as a prompt. It provides some context to a broadcast, and is a prop of sorts.
For example, in the case of Time Warner, he envisages that Kamcord can “work with [its] publications or a sports league to help build a brand in front of our teen audience.” That might be a sports analyst reviewing a clip in real-time, or shows offering specific live content on a regular basis on mobile.
Some of the projects in the works include a live-stream of Y Combinator president Sam Altman reading tech news on his phone, and a popular dating blogger live-streaming her usage of Tinder.
Complementing existing platforms
Kamcord is very much betting on bringing existing broadcasters to mobile rather than ’empowering’ anyone in the world to live-stream like others are.
“There’s only a small subset of people that can be entertaining enough to command an audience for multiple minutes or hours, not everyone will create content but we believe [consumption] can be mass-market,” Rathnam said.
Meerkat, which is in the process of pivoting away from live-streaming, landed huge names like U2 and Madonna on its service but still failed, and the Kamcord co-founder believes that therein lies the issue.
“Celebrities are great and very interesting; they can give you that one-day spike. But, in the case of Madonna, she might live-stream once in a while, but she won’t come back regularly. What happens to the audience she drove [to a live-streaming app] the next day?
“Live-streamers [on YouTube or Twitch] can stream many times a week. They get how hard it is. You can’t stare at a camera and be interesting, but we think app casting can make you interesting,” he explained.
In February, Kamcord introduced monetization for live-streamers via in-app purchases that viewers can buy. Rathnam said that’s “fast approaching” a $2 million annual recurring revenue, with purchases growing at 40 percent each month. It isn’t just for those with a huge audience either. Two teenage twin boys who live-stream games from their bedroom in Australia are on track to make “well over six figures” from fans buying virtual goods on Kamcord. Yet their account —XtremeGamez — has just 10,000 followers on the service.
Ultimately, this move will live or die based on the content that Kamcord can lure to its platform. So far, with Twitch staying away from mobile with its focus on hardcore games and YouTube still known for being a video repository, Kamcord does offer something different, something built specifically for mobile.
The pitch to streamers is simple: Kamcord doesn’t want to replace YouTube or Twitch; it instead wants to offer a better way to interact with audiences in real-time and on mobile — and there’s money that can be made there, too.
“Have you ever seen a YouTube comment section?” Rathnam said, in what could probably be a one-line pitch to any broadcaster.