Periscope CEO stays cool on Facebook threat as service tweaks features – USA TODAY

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Periscope Co-Founder Kayvon Beykpour sits down with USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham to discuss how it started the company and how he feels about new competition from Facebook.
Martin E. Klimek

SAN FRANCISCO — For a tech executive that has Facebook aiming directly at his business, Kayvon Beykpour exudes a preternatural calm under pressure.

The co-founder of Periscope, Beykpour helped popularize the idea of broadcasting from your smart phone when he and childhood pal Joe Bernstein introduced their live mobile-video app in 2015, quickly amassing 10 million users and announcing in March some 200 million total broadcasts.

Now Facebook has unleashed its own live video streaming service to its entire 1.6 billion-member social network. Facebook says Live is its fastest-growing product ever.

So as the David to Facebook’s Goliath, how’s the 27-year-old Beykpour responding to this threat of digital annihilation?

“Build a product people love to use,” he said in an interview at Twitter headquarters here. “Competition is good, but we don’t let it distract us. You don’t want to get into a mode where your product development is based on them.”

That can-do attitude, combined with his telegenic looks and personable style, have helped turn Beykpour into one of the tech industry’s more visible actors, appearing recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, hanging out backstage at the Daily Show with host Trevor Noah and invited to visit the White House (live streamed by Beykpour, of course.)

Beykpour grew up a computer geek in tony Mill Valley, Calif., the only child of Iranian immigrants. As teens, he and Bernstein created mobile apps for schools and in 2009, at age 20, sold their Terriblyclever company for a reported $4 million. In 2015, the pair picked up their biggest payday yet. Twitter paid $86 million when it acquired Periscope and the app Niche several weeks before Periscope launched.

Beykpour says his inspiration for Periscope came in 2014, when he was scheduled to travel to Turkey during a time of protests. He tried to find a webcam or something that would show him what the scene there was like live.

Thus, the idea for Periscope. “I wanted to drop a pin and have someone show me what’s happening there. Why can’t I see Turkey through someone’s eyes and ears?”

His idea was not a photo or video program, “but a teleportation app.”


A year after launch, Beykpour is still the CEO and Periscope is fitting neatly into Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s positioning of the social media service as the No. 1 source for live news and updates. It’s not unusual to get an update from Periscope or Beykpour (@kayvz) at all hours of the day or night, from protests, concerts or big sporting events around the world.

Twitter made Periscope and its staff of 44 a bigger part of its universe this year by having live video feeds show up directly in tweets. Beykpour joined the Twitter management team. Despite these steps, Twitter, which has had a mixed record with acquisitions, has promised to keep it fairly independent.

“We benefit from having two really strong brands at the top of the App Stores,” Dorsey told USA TODAY. In other words, he’s not looking at folding the brand and renaming it Twitter Video.




Kayvon Beykpour, the co-founder of Periscope, shows how to use the live movie video app.
Martin E. Klimek

Stand alone or not, Periscope is going head-to-head with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s giant social network that’s left parent Twitter in the dust when it comes to user growth, one of the key metrics Wall Street tracks to forecast future revenues and profits.

Facebook is pouring its massive resources into live video, turning to high-profile celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel to help popularize the concept and show up in News Feeds.

“Make no mistake, Facebook is gunning to take out Periscope and also Snapchat,” says Brian Solis, an analyst with the Profit Co.’s Altimeter Group research firm. “He (Beykpour) needs to take it very seriously.”


Beykpour says the secret sauce for Periscope is the ability for users to engage with its broadcasts, live.

On Periscope, communication tools include a large chat window, and colorful hearts that pop up on the right side of the screen, signifying that viewers are enjoying the broadcast.

“This is why the percentage of people who comment on Periscope is so high,” he says. “And that’s not the same for other solutions,” he adds.

One selling point for Facebook is that live broadcasts are saved automatically to the Timeline, while Periscope’s videos expire after 24 hours.

Periscope just pushed out a workaround update: if broadcasters add the hashtag #save, the broadcasts can saved past 24 hours to their Periscope profile or on Twitter within the tweet.

Meanwhile, analysts say there’s probably room for both Periscope and Facebook Live to co-exist.

At the end of the day, “Facebook is for social networks, conversations with your friends,” says Altimeter’s Solis. “Periscope is about the live web, it’s about what’s happening in the moment, where Facebook is about what are my friends doing.”

As a unit of Twitter, Periscope brings high-profile attention to a social media service struggling to add more users.

Facebook, for instance, has three of the top 10 apps in Apple’s most downloaded chart: Facebook Messenger (no. 3),Facebook (no. 5) and Instagram (no. 6),to Twitter’s no. 30 and Periscope’s no. 71 (as well as Twitter’s once-strong Vine for silly video loops, now at no. 195.) Apple did name Periscope its “App of the Year” in 2015.

Carter Mansbach, who runs the Jupiter Wealth Strategies market research firm, thinks Twitter can eventually make money from Periscope, once the audience size grows substantially. More immediately, Beykpour needs to appeal to the next generation — teens, he says. (This is a market rivals such as YouNow and have been pursuing.)

Periscope “needs to focus on the future,” says Mansbach. Twitter has a cool following of high school and college kids, but Periscope isn’t on their radar. They need to make it more Snapchatty — goofy, silly, fun.”

One recent Periscope addition, which could appeal to Millennials, is the ability to draw on Periscopes, little sketches and doodles that last a few seconds during a live broadcast.

Meanwhile, Beykpour bristles at the idea, shared by some in tech, that Periscope is for the “technorati” while Facebook appeals to the masses.

“That is so far from the truth,” Beykpour says, whipping open his app and counting the pins on a global map in the app showing where broadcasts are currently taking place.

He points to multiple broadcasts in France at that moment. “We’re not building a tool for technopeople in San Francisco — we want to reach people around the world, who use the app every day to see the seven natural wonders of the world.”

Follow USA TODAY tech reporter and #TalkingTech host Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham. 




Periscope CEO stays cool on Facebook threat as service tweaks features – USA TODAY

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