Twitch Founder: We Turned A 'Terrible Idea' Into A $970 Million Company

Justin Kan of TwitchBusiness Insider/James CookTwitch founder Justin Kan (left) at TechCrunch Disrupt on Monday.

The founder of video game streaming site Twitch, Justin Kan, explained on stage Monday at TechCrunch Disrupt London exactly how the site grew. Acquired by Amazon for $US970 million in August, the site grew from humble beginnings to dominate the online game streaming industry.

Kan explained that Twitch had its start as justin.tv, a startup founded in 2005 when he was studying for a physics and psychology degree at Yale. His first company, Kiko Software, was an online calendar. That project failed, but the team behind it went on to create justin.tv. Kan explained that they wanted to create a “Big Brother-style” site which would stream their lives.

The initial response to justin.tv was mixed. People hated the reality show concept, but kept asking how they could use the site to create their own online video streams. And so, justin.tv eventually pivoted to allow users to stream their own video online.

Back in 2005 when justin.tv was started, streaming video games was tough, Kan explained. He said that it was “technically complex” for people to create a streaming setup, as they needed webcams, microphones and specialist software. And so, one of the first hires that justin.tv made was a specialist video game streamer who helped people set up video game streaming.

Since Twitch started as an online platform for video game streaming, the industry has grown immensely in size. Games are now the #1 category on YouTube, Kan says. Over 55 million people watch video game streamers on Twitch every month.

Kan ended his talk with a relatively uplifting message: “If justin.tv can succeed, then nobody has an excuse. It was a terrible idea.”

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