Where it's based: San Francisco
When it was founded: 2012
Why it's Fierce: Meerkat is the personal live-streaming brainchild of Ben Rubin, launched in March after more than two years of fine-tuning. As one of the first--and most immediately successful--companies to jump on the live streaming craze, Meerkat was immediately snapped up by the Twitter crowd, allowing users to stream videos to all of their followers at once by tapping into the social media platform's identity, distribution and communication systems. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, has hosted up to 5,000 simultaneous viewers on a single stream. (Meerkat was unavailable to interview with FierceOnlineVideo in time for this feature.)
While Meerkat has been heralded by some (like TechCrunch) as "the live streaming app Twitter should have built," Twitter instead purchased competing platform Periscope and cut Meerkat out of its social graph, limiting the app's previously seamless integration with Twitter (though users can still tweet their Meerkat links). Meerkat is no longer able to connect with users' Twitter accounts to suggest streams or users and it can't push retweets or Twitter posts from actions in the Meerkat app. Still, a successful introduction at South by Southwest in March and endorsement by celebrities like Stephen Colbert, Madonna and Tony Hawk has kept Meerkat competitive as it works out additional ways to set itself apart from the new crop of live streaming peers, including YouNow and Stre.am.
"We're in an exploratory phase," Rubin told TechCrunch in March, emphasizing that users are only beginning to navigate what he likes to call "life stream," or learning what makes good streaming content. The company is looking to the developer pool to help improve the "life stream" with a buildable API for Meerkat companion tools, like Katch, which lets users save and organize otherwise-deleted videos. Meerkat developers have praised the company for its willingness to accommodate and work directly with independent devs. Though the company lost its automatic pushes to Twitter after being cut off by the site, Meerkat has developed in-app stream comments (including an emoji keyboard), and scheduled live broadcasts, adding to its innovation in the streaming race.
Initially, Meerkat received $18.2 million in seed funding and Series A fundraising from multiple investors, including Comcast Ventures. Most recently, the company pulled in an additional $14 million in a March Series B funding round.
What's next: Rubin told TechCrunch he has long-term goals of immersive paid video streams, as well as collaborative streaming. He said Meerkat hopes to improve on a strategy of "pulling many to one" rather than "pushing one to many," as most social media networks and apps currently do.