Beme was one of the hottest apps in the world for about two weeks. After its July launch, the iPhone app shot up the charts to 9th in social networking in the US. Twitter and the media were absolutely obsessed. People were even
auctioning unlock codes, which you needed to sign up for the app at the time.
It helped that Beme was co-founded by Casey Neistat, a filmmaker with a huge presence on social media, and it has an inspirational message to boot. The app, which revolves around short, unedited videos, is meant to be a more honest and natural way to share experiences.
But nearly four months after Beme’s debut, much of the initial excitement around the app has died down.
Beme downloads have dropped sharply each month, according to Apptopia, a mobile app market intelligence firm (Beme wouldn’t share its own data). Apptopia estimates that Beme downloads fell from 285,000 in the last two weeks of July to only 50,000 in all of October.
It’s no longer in the top 150 social media apps in Apple’s App Store either. Google Trends, which displays Google search interest over time, shows that searches for Beme have also plummeted since launch.
What’s the mood at Beme while all this is happening? We dropped by the company’s Manhattan headquarters to see for ourselves.
It turns out that Neistat and co. are more optimistic than ever.
There are two ways to know that you’ve reached the headquarters for Beme, which are housed in what used to be a furniture store in downtown Manhattan.
One is the huge green neon “B” above the frosted glass doors.
The other is the group of kids waiting outside of the office for a selfie with Neistat.
The filmmaker and entrepreneur has a huge following — 1.5 million followers on YouTube, more than a half million on Instagram, and over 250,000 on Twitter, thanks in part to his viral hits, like the movie he made travelling around the world on Nike’s dime and the one of him navigating New York’s bike lanes. His daily videos chronicling his adventures get hundreds of thousands of view in just a few hours.
During my roughly hour long visit to Beme, I accompanied Neistat outside of the office twice so he could say hi to and get pictures with some of his fans.
All were boys who appeared to be in their teens. Some wore Beme T-shirts or had Beme stickers on their skateboards. One said he had just landed from Chicago and came straight from the airport to find Neistat. Neistat signed another boy’s skateboard, writing “AJ, stay in school” in his distinct, block letters.
When you step inside Beme’s office, the first thing you notice is a big TV on the wall in the waiting area.
It features a constantly changing stream of short vertical videos arranged three across. Some showed people driving. Some showed them running. A lot of them showed kids in class. One showed a kid carving the Beme logo into his skateboard deck. In a matter of seconds, I saw indoor skiing in France and monkeys in trees in South Africa — and videos from Ireland, England, Greece, Baghdad, Colorado, Saudi Arabia, Maryland, Sweden, Texas, and San Salvador.
These are Bemes — four-second videos of everyday life — that people upload to share with their friends and connections on the iPhone app. (The office TV is running the new Apple TV app.)
Beme bears a lot of similarities to other video sharing apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope, or Vine, but unlike those apps, you can’t see your video before or while you post it. You can’t even edit it. And you don’t even know what you’re recording since your phone’s screen remains blank when you’re shooting your video.
Beme is also different because you don’t tap a button on the screen to start recording, like you do with most other apps. Instead, you cover the phone’s proximity sensor, the tiny dot on the front of your iPhone, to start recording.
Neistat demonstrates how to record a video using Beme.
The idea is that recording videos, which expire after 48 hours, won’t interfere with what you’re doing — how you capture video encourages you not to look at your phone. And instead of sharing a staged or edited post like you’d do with other apps like Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, you’re sharing something more real, something more raw.
With Beme, Neistat says he’s trying to bridge the gap between people who don’t see themselves as traditional “creators” — those who make and edit movies or edit photos — and those who just want to share.
“We’re giving the world a tool to share what their life is like, to share what their perspective is like. And that’s very different from a tool for them to create,” Neistat says. “This is not a place for sharing beautiful photos. This is not place for sharing puking rainbows. This is a place for sharing perspective.”
How does he feel about growth so far? Pretty good, all things considered.
Neistat says that six months ago, he would have described the app’s mission as “naively optimistic.” But now, after almost four months of seeing how people share, use, and interact with the app, it’s “standing on firm ground.”
Neistat emphasised that right now the company isn’t focused on getting a large number of people to download the app — they haven’t spent any money on advertising — because it’s still in beta.
The team doesn’t see the app as complete — the current version you can download in the App Store is 0.7. For example, there’s no tutorial or guide showing people how to actually use the app. There’s also no Android version yet.
The focus, Neistat said, is to keep current Beme users engaged, learn how people use it, and add more features over time.
“Our ambition in launching such a primitive product was to give us an understanding about how and why someone would use something so radical,” Neistat says.
Plamen Marinov, a 19-year old student in Atlanta who downloaded Beme the first day it became available, is one of those people.
He told Tech Insider that he fully appreciated the concept of Beme when he was at a Foo Fighters concert and found himself sharing his experience on both Snapchat and Beme.
“Whenever I would take a Snapchat video, I’d find myself staring down at my phone, thinking about what caption to put and who I should send it to, yet Bemeing moments of the concert felt effortless and I didn’t miss a single moment of the amazing show,” he wrote in an email. “By the end of the show, Snapchatting the action felt like a chore, but I only continued because many of my friends have not yet discovered Beme.”
Ronny Tam, a 20-year-old freelance filmmaker in Toronto, told Tech Insider that he likes to use Beme to see how people around the world live.
“When looking to follow people, I usually search for people who live in different continents who would have different values, cultures, hobbies,” Tam wrote in an email. “That allows me to get a glimpse of their life but not enough that it’s intrusive.”
This is exactly what Neistat is going for with Beme.
Beme doesn’t have a mission statement written anywhere in the office or online, but Neistat said it’s “to promote empathy by sharing perspective.”
“If you can look around and see how everyone else lives, you can see that everyone else lives the same, regardless of social status, gender identity, sexual preference. By understanding how whole world lives — understanding that we’re all the same — empathy will grow from that,” Neistat says.
It’s a message that Neistat and his millions of fans believe in. Now they have just got to convince the rest of the world.