A few months ago, Kayvon Beykpour met a fellow Stanford University graduate, Jessica Verrilli, for coffee.
Verrilli is the Director of Corporate Development and Strategy for Twitter. She asked what Beykpour had been working on since leaving Blackboard, an education company that had acquired his prior startup, TerriblyClever. Beykpour fired up his iPhone and showed her Periscope.
Periscope, he told her, was like a mobile teleportation service. It let users livestream whatever was happening around them for anyone who wanted to watch. Instead of Youtube, where a viewing experience was passive, Periscope was active. Viewers could comment, ask questions, and heart broadcasts in real time.
Beykpour and his co-founder Joe Bernstein came up with the idea for Periscope while travelling abroad in 2013. Beykpour was in Istanbul when protests broke out in Taksim Square. He wanted to see what was happening there, so he turned to Twitter. While he could read about the protests, he couldn’t see them.
“It just occurred to me, there were so many smart phones out there, why wasn’t there a way for me to ask who else was out there what was happening there?” Beykpour explains.
Periscope was founded in February 2014. Beykpour and Bernstein raised a seed round from angel investors, including Adobe executive Scott Belsky.
“When I first met Kayvon and Joe I was struck by their desire to spread truth and empathy by enabling anyone to experience the world through someone else’s eyes,” Belsky wrote to Business Insider in an email. “We joked that Periscope was akin to teleportation, a technology and user experience that lets you be anywhere and witness anything. This became a lot more serious when I witnessed a major fire in San Francisco, a child’s first steps, and a man’s cancer treatment.”
Verrilli was impressed with Periscope and offered to introduce Beykpour to some big-wigs at Twitter, including CEO Dick Costolo and co-founder Jack Dorsey.
Before long, Twitter offered to buy Periscope. And it doesn’t sound like Twitter was the only interested party.
(“I can’t comment specifically on that but it was an incredibly fortunate situation,” Beykpour says.)
The acquisition interest in Periscope felt gratifying for the entrepreneurs. “[You feel] a mix of things,” Beykpour says. “It can be hard and terrifying to build a startup and anytime there’s a minute where someone steps aside to validate you — whether it’s friends, parents or an acquirer, it’s a moment that feels really awesome.”
After seeking a lot of advice from people both inside Twitter and out, Beykpour and Bernstein determined an acquisition was the best way to ensure their product would succeed. Twitter and Beykpour won’t reveal the exact acquisition amount, but an industry sources tell Business Insider the deal was somewhere between $US75 and $US120 million.
“They paid us all in hashtags,” Beykpour jokes.
Startup stories like Periscope’s make entrepreneurship sound easy. Just put in 11 months of work and flip your app for ~ $US120 million, no traction or launch needed.
“I can tell you it’s not easy,” Beykpour says. “A year might not sound like a lot of time, but it’s our baby quite literally and we’ve been living and breathing it.”
He adds, “Acquisitions are really hard personal decisions and team deacons to make. Thinking about it objectively though, it’s total first-world problems making a choice like that.”
It’s total first-world problems making a choice like that.
Here’s everything you need to know about Periscope, Twitter’s new prized possession, and what Twitter plans to do with it.
What is Periscope?
Periscope is a mobile app that lets users broadcast live to others. The viewers can comment, ask questions, and send hearts to the broadcaster in real time. Periscope users create usernames and follow each other, just like they do on Twitter. It’s a lot like Meerkat and YouNow, two livestreaming competitors.
What are Periscope’s key features?
Some of Periscope’s best features are hearts and notifications. Hearts can be sent from viewers to broadcasters as a show of appreciation for what’s being streamed, like a virtual round of applause.
And we’re not just talking one heart. A 3-minute broadcast can yield hundreds of hearts from just a few viewers (Beykpour sent more than 40 hearts during one of my broadcasts).
Push notifications are also well executed on Periscope. You’ll receive one anytime someone you follow starts a livestream, or anytime someone you follow recommends a livestream so you can tune in.
How Periscope works:
When you open the app, you’ll see three icons at the bottom: a TV, a camera, and a group of people. The group of people takes you to a screen where you can see other Periscopers and choose to follow them.
Here, you can see a bunch of Periscope beta testers, including TechCrunch Editor in Chief Alexia Tsotsis and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.
If you click on the camera icon, you’ll be able to start a broadcast. Just type in what you’re seeing to name the broadcast (for example, I made one titled: “Tour Business Insider, where scoops break and snacks are eaten.”)
Then you can either hit the lock button and invite select friends to watch or share the link to your Twitter followers who can tune in on their desktops. You can also broadcast to everyone on Periscope. It’s pretty nerve-wrecking!
That’s pretty much it. There are a few extra bells and whistles, but the experience is easy to grasp. The hardest thing about Periscope is figuring out what to say and stream.
What’s Twitter’s plan for Periscope?
Twitter is letting Periscope continue to operate independently, with its own team, brand and headquarters. Both Periscope and Twitter want the same thing: to be the pulse of what’s happening around the world in real time.
Belsky believes Periscope will be a “huge part” of Twitter’s future.
“The concept of what I call ‘live mobile immersion’ will enable people to eye-witness news as it happens, see sporting events from the sidelines, see behind the scenes of anything official…its huge,” he says.
Chris Sacca is a renowned tech investor whose early investment in Uber made him a billionaire. He isn’t invested in Periscope, but he has been using the app in closed beta. He agrees with Belsky — the app is bound to shape Twitter’s future.
“When I first saw Periscope, I loved how immediate and intimate it was,” he tells Business Insider in an email. “There is no longer any distance between me and the people I am watching…Twitter owns real-time and there is nothing more real-time and engaging than live video. This is the future of Twitter.”