IVS and the Psychology of Hope
The mental framework that we had in mind for Altair's "Season 1" release date has changed and assumptions we had about what would be powering Altair in its first days have been dismantled. Sound scary? Well, do we have a story for you.
Captain's Log: July 2020
When the idea of Altair was in its infancy, one of our big questions was obviously:
What's going to power our video stack?
Twitch had Usher, Mixer had FTL, and there were a slew of other technologies out there that hadn't gotten their day in the live-streaming spotlight. But the thought back in July was that no matter what, we had to build this from the ground up. In the middle of the excitement that was the initial reception to the concept of Altair, it was a sobering thought. Altair should've been here yesterday.
At the time, while we were still writing up the Manifesto, an old co-worker from Twitch approached me and tipped me to the fact that Amazon was going to release a "Twitch-in-a-Box". Amazon's Interactive Video Service launched during those nascent days. Along with some confused gazes, the offering immediately brought up the thought:
Would Amazon allow IVS to be used as a Twitch competitor? Could a group feasibly use IVS to start a new streaming service?
Spoiler alert: the answer is no.
Testing our Manifesto
Altair is a "mindfully designed" content creation service whose primary focus is to support the safety and livelihoods of its creators and their communities. The service will operate on the tenants of: transparency, accountability, and community support.
If you've read our Manifesto, you already know that sits at the top of it. Yes, transparency is emphasized, but we'll get back to that in a bit.
I'm of the belief that the way a founder navigates their first days with a new venture will ultimately determine the culture of priorities that move it forward. For a lot of companies I worked for, that culture was very technical, and very authoritative.
Altair as an organization is not that. We ask you to believe in us. There's a fundamental reason that we choose that as our language, and it stems from my days as a content creator: belief in the person and belief in the community creates a bond that no utility can match. You can't create community with just hype trains or giveaways; they're a tool to keep people around in hopes that they stay long enough to believe in what you have to offer.
Of course, it's not that simple. But this is what IVS was for Cody and I. It was the hope that we could bring action to our vision in a much quicker fashion. That hope was essential in moving us forward.
The Price is Too Damn High
Cody ran some numbers, since that was on his task list for the week. He contacted me on Slack saying "We have a big problem." If you're playing the home game, take a pause here to let that sink in.
He had used our mutual friend and full-time streamer on Team Altair, Spoonee, as an example to see just how much IVS would cost us. Spoonee streams 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Assuming in a given month that she has a constant 100 concurrent viewers, and that 66% of those viewers are subscribed to her, it would burn a hole to the tune of $1500 a month. In order to break even, we'd either need to pay 10% of the cost, or charge $39 a sub (at our 60/40 cut).
We felt silly. Should we have done the math beforehand? Yeah, of course.
Funny enough, none of the services currently out there (for example, Agora) are affordable platforms for building a streaming site. Even with all the venture capital out there, you'd still be bleeding money.
But this whole post isn't an exercise in "we were stupid because we didn't do the calculations first." Cody and I are both people that need to get our hands dirty. We needed to start implementing, to start building that "minimum viable product." When you're starting a company, there are a lot of voices in your head telling you why you shouldn't be starting that company. When you're building product, you view adversity as more of a challenge, since you can't exactly push the eject button, for better or worse.
The First of Many
I'm feeling a lot better now than I did 24 hours ago. Yes, this is a setback. Yes, this'll delay things a bit given that we now have to build out all the parts that AWS had included in one nice package. But honestly? We're already better for it.
Cody is already neck deep in research about the technology he believes will give you the best experience on Altair. There's something inherently exciting about that, and he's beaming with it. What else could I ask for as CEO? There's nothing that gets me more motivated than seeing somebody I care about working on something they are passionate about.
In closing, this was a test for me. A test to see how I'd come out to you with some updates that are honestly, a bummer. Transparency is part of our ethos, and this won't be the last setback, nor the last time I'm going to have to write something similar to this. (And yes, it's probably going to be story time every time.)
The road is fraught with perils, but this is a journey we're taking together.
Thank you for believing in us. 💫