Running Through Walls: The Right Place at the Right Time

YouNow CEO and founder Adi Sideman dreamed of an interconnected and livecasted world. With more than 100 million user sessions a month broadcasted on YouNow, his dream is now a reality. We spoke on this episode of Venrock’s podcast, Running Through Walls, about the challenges along the way.

Sideman started out working in film and experimented with various mediums that allowed consumers to communicate through rich media. He discovered, “There is one pure form of rich media creation, and that is no barrier between the user and the communication: live video.” But brands were still reluctant to adopt live video that they couldn’t fully control.

It was the prevalence of cell phone adoption in 2010 that led Sideman to found YouNow as an independent company. How did he know it would succeed? “It was inevitable. If all these computers have video in and video out, if these cell phones are so powerful […] consumers are going to demand the kind of interactivity and entertainment and the kind of functionality that they produce. It’s just the edge of the iceberg.”

There were low points along the way, including in 2013 when traffic wasn’t growing and the team was debating several different courses of action. Sideman says, “The low point was the fact that we weren’t sure of the plan. As soon as you have a plan, it’s reinvigorating, you can corral the troops behind it, and you have a mission. The dilly-dallying around not having a good solution to a problem represents a low point.”

The ultimate plan was drastic, and involved switching to mobile-only and nearly shutting down the website. Sideman was confident in the plan, even though the company had only a few months to live if it didn’t work. After the launch, it was clear the company was headed in the right direction. Sideman adds, “It was a great validation to trust your gut, and do the right thing […] and to listen to good advice.

YouNow is one of the most well-known New York startups, and Sideman attributes the energy and diversity of the city to the company’s success. “New York is known as the home of indie art, filmmaking and media, and in that sense we are the anti-Hollywood. This is a long tail of users creating media, inventing a new format and being experimental. New York has a lot of that and part of the DNA of the city ended up in the product.”