Author: Yolanda Wang, Translator: Kevin Wang, Editor: Yunchieh Tsou
Less than three years after its founding, LIVEhouse.in has already emerged at the top of Taiwan’s live stream technology, counting more than 600,000 registered members, 2 million active users, and 800,000 hours streamed.
Last year, users watched for a total of 350 million minutes, a number set to double this year. In addition to receiving investment from Cherubic Ventures, the company received additional funds from Gamania last year, reaching an impressive total of NT$40 million (approx. US$1.26 million) in pre-A round funding.
Yet with fierce competition arising within the past year, and with big names such as YouTube and Facebook increasingly pushing their live streaming capabilities to the fore, just about anyone nowadays can stream anything as it happens on social media. How, then, has LIVEhouse.in kept its edge?
This is because the company focuses not on sheer internet popularity, but rather content and streaming technology. Moreover, in addition to their original business-to-consumer model, in the past six months LIVEhouse.in has gradually transitioned its focus to a business-to-business model, thus remaining ahead of its competition.
Streaming platform live after three months in development, with user input for quick adjustments
Sega Cheng recalls, “In the later stages of running the online karaoke platform iKala, we saw that users wished to sing online with other users, and that there was an emerging trend for online interaction between users.
This encouraged us to try our hands at developing a live streaming platform, but since nothing of the sort had ever been attempted in Taiwan, half of the company opposed the transition because of the high risk, and we even lost a third of our team right then and there. With human resources tight just as we were developing a new product, we no doubt faced a double challenge.”
“When I conceive of a new product, I always adopt a ‘hit-and-run’ strategy. I put the product out within three months to do a stress test, see what the users want, and adjust things along the way.” Sega Cheng recruited his good friends and classmates Cheng Kai-yin (COO), Frank Gong (CTO), and Candy Hsu (CFO), and the team officially had LIVEhouse.in online in January 2014.
To attract buzz and attention, LIVEhouse.in actively sought out celebrities and singers to live stream on their site from the very beginning. Their first live stream was an online interview with Dream Girls to promote their new album, and they also held live performances each Tuesday and Thursday with indie rock bands.
As the demand for educational content arose, Sega and Kai-yin invited tech experts to their platform to share their knowledge, generating income both online and offline through ticket sales. A few months later, the Sunflower Movement student protest unexpectedly pushed live streaming technology into prominence, bringing new exposure to LIVEhouse.in.
Wide-ranging content includes politics, professional gaming, and crowdfunding shows
In less than three years, LIVEhouse.in has demonstrated time and time again the power of live streaming, producing a series of live interviews with prominent political figures and celebrities that allow netizens to field questions in real time.
When the BBS site PTT (in many ways a Taiwanese version of Reddit) celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gaming competition, LIVEhouse.in set a record of 40,000 simultaneous viewers watching the live stream of the competition. The company has also reached into sports this year with live streaming of HBL basketball games, with the championship game on 20 March seeing 230,000 concurrent viewers.
Moreover, a collaboration with a crowdfunding website brought forth a marathon 14-day stream—think The Hunger Games meets The Truman Show, but with product introductions. The production saw an average online audience of 5000 throughout its course, with a total of 1.63 million views.
Technology and content at center of B2C and B2B models
Sega Cheng explains, “In contrast with most other live streaming platforms that offer nothing except live streaming services, LIVEhouse.in provides a much more diverse set of tools, since we set ourselves apart with our technology-oriented platform.
Two-thirds of the company’s employees are in research and development, and have the technical knowhow to develop new tools. We also have an advantage in producing content, since we can offer clients a fully customized solution for each segment of a live video, covering all the bases from technology and software to hardware. This far surpasses what other platforms have to offer.” In addition, product placement and business partnerships have driven most of LIVEhouse.in’s profits.
Customized OTT modules save time and money through StraaS
Eschewing cutthroat competition through internet celebrities, LIVEhouse.in has forged its own path through a business-to-business model, allowing companies direct placement through live streams. In addition, a new secret weapon was launched in Q2 2016: customized StrasS (streaming as a service) for businesses.
Says Sega Cheng, “We function as a white-label arms dealer of sorts, providing StraaS technology and modular tools for clients who need to provide OTT (over-the-top) video services, and allowing our clients to customize the look and feel to their needs.
Whether if it’s a Netflix-like video service, video product introductions, or enhanced chatroom interaction, our StraaS technology enables clients to quickly set up their own video platform, complete with a backend for video advertisements and payments, and data collection and analysis. This drastically cuts down the time and money our clients need to enter the market, and also allows them to easily collect membership data.”
Taking advantage of Google Cloud Platform to expand abroad
As for prospects for next year, Sega Cheng details a continued commitment to live streaming professional gaming, while also expanding the company’s StraaS businesses to Southeast Asia, Japan, and Europe.
Since LIVEhouse.in is a partner of Google Cloud Platform, and one of Premier Partners’ global dealers, the company is supported by Google’s worldwide resources, allowing costs to be kept low when expanding their cloud services abroad.
How should a company prepare for foreign expansion? Sega Cheng offers the following suggestions:
- Know the local regulations, and what permits are required.
- Consult with local law firms.
- Seek advice from startups that have been in the market before.
- Ask the Bureau of Foreign Trade for possible recourse measures.
- Hire local marketing and sales staff after deployment.
With prospects high for corporate live streaming, Sega Cheng anticipates revenues doubling thanks to the company’s dual track strategy of corporate video placement and StraaS businesses. By sidestepping simple internet popularity and celebrities, LIVEhouse.in takes to the open skies with customized content and modular over-the-top services.