TwitchTV: How To Pivot When The First Vision Falters – with Emmett Shear

How does a company without a clear vision, go on to become a top platform?

Emmett Shear is the co-founder of the live video platform, When his co-founder was on Mixergy, he said that didn’t have a clear enough vision. Then it reinvented itself as TwitchTV, the video game broadcasting community that Emmett runs today, and the company took off.

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About Emmett Shear

Emmett Shear is the co-founder of live video platforms and TwitchTV, the video game broadcasting community.

Raw transcript

Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

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Here’s your program. Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the
founder of, home of the ambitious upstart. How does a company
without a clear vision go on to become a top platform? Emmett Shear is the
co-founder of the live video platform Justin TV. When his co-founder was on
here on Mixergy, he said that Justin didn’t have a clear enough vision, and
that they reinvented themselves.

The new company is called Twitch TV, the video game broadcasting community
that Emmett runs today. I want to hear how it took off and how they pivoted
and everything that happened with that business. Emmett, welcome.

Emmett: Thank you.

Andrew: We’ve got a little bit of a lag. We did our best to get rid of it,
and hopefully it’ll clear up as we do the interview. The audio, thankfully,
is coming in very clear. The phone calls, you made phone calls to who at
Justin TV, and how did that lead to Twitch?

Emmett: Yeah. When I was first looking into getting into the gaming space,
I decided the most important people in the space are the people who produce
the content.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Emmett: I really wanted to make Justin TV at the time, and then Twitch TV
the best place to share video game content. What I realized was that while
I loved watching, I was not a broadcaster. I had never really broadcast
video games, and I didn’t, myself, know enough to know how to make a great
site for doing that from the broadcaster’s point of view.

I decided what we would do, is I would call everyone who broadcast on the
site already.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Emmett: Everyone who used to broadcast on the site but left because it
wasn’t good enough for them for some reason. Everyone who was doing
something similar, but had never done it live. People who were on YouTube
and were recording gaming sessions, but had never tried broadcasting it

I talked to all these people who produced that content and I sort of asked
them, ‘What brought you to this? Why do you do this? What’s your
motivation? Is it for fame, for money, for self-expression, to give back to
the community? What’s your motivation? That was really important because
understanding that is key to understanding what features matter to them.

If they’re there for money, fundamentally your features better support
money. If they’re there for self-expression, fundamentally you want a
completely different set of features.

Andrew: Justin TV was basically, broadcast anything you like.

Emmett: Right.

Andrew: Mixergy, where I did interviews with entrepreneurs and still do, I
was broadcasting that on Justin TV.

Emmett: Right.

Andrew: If you happen to be watching TV, you can broadcast yourself
watching TV. Anything at all that you wanted, you could broadcast it. So,
you were reaching out to all these people to see, what’s your motivation?
What else were you asking them about?

Emmett: On top of, “What’s your motivation”–on top of, “Why broadcast
yourself playing Starcraft? Why broadcast yourself playing [??]“–we ask
them about the experience itself. It was a list of about seven or eight
questions, and there were things like, “Have you used Justin TV before? If
so, did you like it? What did you like about it? What did you not like
about Justin TV? Have you used any of our competitors before? If so, what
did you like about them? What was better? What didn’t you like as much?
What do we do better?”

I think some of the most interesting questions we asked were, “If you were
the CEO of Justin TV, what would you do?” because that question, I found,
really sparked people to suddenly take a step back and really think about
what’s the most important thing. The other question I asked was, “If you
could change just one thing–I’m going to give you the ability to change
any one thing about the website–what would it be?”

All these questions are just asking the same thing. What features matter to
you? How do you use the service? Where are your pain points? You can’t just
ask that once of someone. If you just ask someone that question, most
people don’t spend enough time introspecting about the websites they use to
give you valuable information the first time you ask. What you do is ask
that same question in eight different ways until you stop getting new
information. I tended to take 15, 20 minutes, half an hour sometimes,
before they stopped saying anything really new.

Then I found I had to interview maybe seven or eight people of each type
before I started seeing patterns and stopped getting a lot of new
information each time. We wound up doing almost 30 to 40 interviews because
there were five different classes of broadcasters that we decided we’d

Andrew: All right. Before I ask you a couple of follow-up questions that
I’ve been writing as you were talking, can you turn your camera off and on
again on Skype just because…

Emmett: Yep.

Andrew: …it looks like it froze on me.

Emmett: Yes. [??] I see.

Andrew: Here it comes back up. There we go. All right. Much better. Why
can’t you just ask people, “What are your pain points?” I guess they don’t
think about it, but if you were to ask me today, “What’s your pain point…

Emmett: Right.

Andrew: …with doing live interviews on video, I’d say, “Well, there’s a
lag. It’s never as clear as being there in person.” I’d take a worse
resolution as long as it worked and felt like it was in real time. I know
my pain point for things. Why don’t people know them?

Emmett: You’re a little special in that you yourself are an entrepreneur.
You spend your whole life thinking about websites and what’s good about
them, talking to people about them. Most people who use the service,
they’re just [??] the game. They do this because they love the game or
because they are a big part of the gaming community.

For them the service, and the pain points of the service aren’t a big part
of their life. It’s this thing on the side. Also, they’re not used to being
taken seriously by the people who make the decisions.

Andrew: I see.

Emmett: They’re never been asked before, “What do you think? What would
you change” Most people have never had a chance to have input into a web
product that way. It takes awhile to get them going and to get their mental
juices flowing on what their experience has been like.

You have to ask follow-up questions. They say, “Oh, it’s laggy [SP]“. You
say, “OK. When is it laggy? What about it is lagging?” Then it comes out,
“Oh, it’s not laggy for most [??]. 60 or 70% of the viewers- that’s fine,
but it’s laggy for the bottom 30% of viewers because they’re broadcasting
at two megabits per second and their bottom 20% of viewers can’t watch

Then you’re trying to understand, “Here’s the problem. Your viewers have a
wide spectrum of abilities”, but they don’t think about it that way because
it’s not their job to that about it that way, fundamentally. They don’t
spend all day thinking about it. When you pull that out of them, then it
becomes clear, “Oh, what we actually need…” That was a real set of
questions I wound up asking in interviews.

What we actually need to do is we need to transcode the video. We need to
make it available at 360p as well as in 1080p, because there’s some people
who are never going to be able to watch in 1080p, and it’s not because
there’s anything wrong with the service. It’s because fundamentally some
people have better Internet connections than others.

We wouldn’t have gotten that if we just went with their first thing, their
first response, because we spent lots of time trying to improve the system
in general. But the problem wasn’t the system. The problem was the specific
piece of the system. So you really have to keep asking follow-up questions
until you figure out the specific thing that they’re worried about. Now…

Andrew: What would have happened if you would have just called them up and
said, “Hey, I want to build what the community wants us to build. I’m going
to turn it over to you. Tell me, what should we build next? What should we
do next? I’m not going to listen to every single person, but if I start to
see repeating requests, then I’ll build that.” Why not go even simpler? I
want to understand this whole questioning process.

Emmett: Yeah. The problem with sort of asking the community what should we
build and basically having them vote more or less, it is in fact that these
people don’t spend all of their time thinking about what to build. Everyone
wanted people to be able to watch video in higher resolution.
Paradoxically, the way you get there is by allowing people to watch video
in lower resolution. That’s not a mental leap that most people are going to
make when they’re presented with that problem.

Andrew: I see.

Emmett: Once it was suggested to them, they were pretty excited about it.
In fact, in a guided way, that’s pretty much what we did, which is that
after doing these phone calls and thinking about it, we sort of came up
with a set of features. Then, we could go back with those features to
people and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re thinking about building. Now, what
do you think about that?”

Generally, we were right on with that because it was based on exactly what
they had told us. Occasionally, we found out, oh wait. No, that’s not
actually going to solve your problem at all, and though they’d point out
something we hadn’t thought of. I had this whole spreadsheet of basically
feature ideas that we’d come up with based on talking to people. Then,
votes from people based on how much they wanted that featured and how
important it was to them.

Andrew: I see.

Emmett: We had different levels to the votes. Votes like, I really want
this. I can’t use your service until you have this. I would switch from
another service to your service if you had this feature.

Andrew: The way that you got this list of features, Emmett:, is just by
talking to them, extracting their pain points, and then putting them in a
list and showing it back to them and saying, “Did I understand what you
wanted me to build?” Then, they told you, “Yes. Not only did you understand
but that’s critical to me.”

Emmett: Right.

Andrew: Or, “No, you didn’t understand,” and so on.

Emmett: Exactly. There is really two phases of interviews. There is the
first phase of interviews, where I was going out information gathering.
Then, we took that information about sort of what the pain points were and
where the opportunities were, and we brainstormed ideas for how we could
fix those. Then, we sort of came up with those ideas, sort of ranked them
by how good we thought our various ideas were. We came up with like 100
ideas, right? Probably only six of them were any good. We took maybe the
top 10 ideas back out.

We would sort of bring those back out to people in a sort of a second visit
interviews, where it was a little bit more structured around, let’s talk
about your pain points again, but now we actually have something to suggest
back to you. Is this something that would solve this for you? There are
sort of two halves to the process. You’ve got to find out where the
problems are, and then it’s good to validate that you actually came up with
a solution for it by discussing it before you build it.

Andrew: You know what? I’ve got a list of other follow-up questions to ask
you about how you extracted people’s pain points, but I’m imagining a
person listening in the audience and already thinking, boy. This is a lot
of work, and it’s not so straightforward where I can have the same set of
questions. Why should I even bother with this? Let me ask you this, did you
guys do this back when you were launching Justin TV?

Emmett: No.

Andrew: Then, what happened when you didn’t do it at Justin TV?

Emmett: The problem with the way we did it at Justin TV was, while we built
a tool that works generically, it works when we tested it, and it works for
the class of users that we simulated well, which is people who wanted to
broadcast themselves with a webcam, since that was effectively what the
Justin TV show was. We had a really good insight into, OK. You want to run
a live stream show? You want to run a live streaming show of your life, or
just of you sitting in front of a computer? We understood that really well,
because we had spent nine months almost doing nothing but that.

Andrew: You mean because the first version of Justin TV was basically a
camera following Justin as he lived his life? You said, “Hey, you know
what? We understand what it takes to do that. We’re scratching our own itch
by creating a product that anyone can use to broadcast themselves.” OK.

Emmett: The instant you step outside that zone, we didn’t know what we were
doing basically. If you wanted to run an interview show on Justin TV, we
didn’t have good tools for that because we, ourselves, had never run an
interview show. Despite the fact that we like the idea of that use case, we
never talked to anyone who ran interview shows about, hey, what do we need
to build to make this experience better? At that point we’d make
improvements, but we’re just shooting in the dark, and some of them
probably work. We continue to grow. The fundamental thing we built, the
ability to stream yourself was very powerful, but it was hard for us to get
beyond there without gathering that feedback.

It was a real weakness for us, as soon as we moved outside the zone where
we absolutely did already understand the issue. I think there’s a bunch of
startups or products where you don’t need to talk to people because you are
the user. When Linus [SP] wrote [??], he didn’t call a bunch of [??] on
the phone and ask them what version [??] did they want. He knows the
version control system he wanted, and that’s what he built.

If you’re running a startup like that, you are your user. You don’t have to
worry about calling 18 people on the phone. I think it’s easy to fool
yourself into thinking you’re your user. Unless you are explicitly,
actually your user, you are actively using the product and you’re one of
the main users of the product, you aren’t your user. And it’s easy to fool
yourself there.

Andrew: And in your case, you guys and Justin were really the users.

Emmett: Yep.

Andrew: For months, you’d become the users, and the product you created for
users like you was dead-on. Maybe it’s not dead-on, but it was as close to
dead-on as you could get. The problem wasn’t that it wasn’t appropriate for
users like you. The problem was that there weren’t enough users like you…

Emmett: Yep.

Andrew: …and it was hard to monetize users like you because not everyone
who’s broadcasting themselves is buying the exact same products. Do I
understand that right?

Emmett: Yeah, exactly. We addressed this one niche really well, but it was
very hard to expand up from there. How do you get more interview shows? How
do you get celebrity appearances, or for puppy shows, what’s the best way
to do webcams of puppies?

Andrew: Yeah.

Emmett: Our technology can be used for all those things. It’s a pretty
general tool. I never actually [??] vertical, so I don’t know what we’re
missing, but I’m sure we’re missing one or two key pieces of functionality
that someone who really understood that space, who had been trying to
broadcast their puppies their whole life, would be able to tell me, “Oh
God, you’re missing the automatic cute alert, and that’s the most important

Until you go and talk to those people, you’re never going to learn. We made
guesses, but we didn’t actually talk to them, and that was a huge
difference for me when we started working on gaming. I tried to broadcast
video games when I started the project.

I tried to set myself up to broadcast, and it was so hard I almost couldn’t
do it. It made it clear to me, actually, I really need to talk to people
who are experts here, because it’s barely within my ability to even try
this, let alone to do it on a regular basis.

Andrew: I see. So you looked and said, “People who can broadcast
themselves, we’ve got a product that works pretty well for them”. They can
turn on their computers, and while they’re sitting there they can broadcast
themselves, and in fact, if you’re broadcasting yourself while you’re
giving a presentation, you can clearly broadcast easily with Justin, and
many people did that well.”

But it wasn’t monetizable, and it wasn’t a big enough audience for you. So
then you said, we need a group of people who are clearly defined who we can
monetize who we can obsess on and give them every feature that they need
that won’t make sense to anyone else. Did you then have the kinds of phone
calls that you just started telling me about, that we’ll get back to, the
kind that you had with gamers. Did you have those with people who were
broadcasting puppies and people who were doing interview shows? [??] How
did you know that this is the area you wanted to focus on?

Emmett: I’d like to say that it was because gaming was the best vertical
for business reasons. That would be the rational reason. In fact, it was
because I liked video games, and it was the primary content that on Justin
TV that I consumed.

Andrew: Why do you like watching video games? What is it about watching
somebody else play a game that’s so much fun?

Emmett: It’s a lot of the same joy you get out of watching someone play
sports or the Olympics. It’s competitive. You have someone you’re rooting
for. You want them to win. It’s highly skilled.

If you’ve ever seen one of these players at the high levels play Starcraft
or play Quake, their fingers are moving so fast you can barely see them.
They can do these truly incredible things that they’re almost, if you’ve
ever played the game before, hard to believe that they’re possible.
Watching a highly skilled thing is always really interesting. It sort of
reminds me of poker, watching someone play poker. If you’re into a game,
it’s interesting to try to get into the strategic mind set of the other
people you’re watching, try to understand why did they make that decision?
Would I have made the same decisions?

Andrew: I see.

Emmett: Very similar to that. You watch poker.

Andrew: All right, I can see how it would be fun. You may not have thought
initially about the business side of things, but Justin, your co-founder
Justin Kan, when he did an interview here he laid out what the business
rationale was. He said, ‘You know what? We have all these guys, same
demographic basically, playing video games, and the product we would sell
to them is fairly natural. We sell them video games by linking out to video
games sites at first.’ And that essentially is what he said was the
business rationale for it. Does that make sense? Does that jive?

Emmett: Yes, I think that’s approximately correct. What I did after we
decided we wanted to go after this gaming thing, I wanted to validate that.
Let’s say we do this. Is there actually a market here worth addressing? At
that point we sort of dug in and asked if we could justify this decision in
business terms. And what we decided is, yes, there’s this, like you said,
huge very specific demographic, and for advertising, specific demographics
are really valuable. The 18 to 35 male demographic is a very valuable
demographic. It’s obviously gaming’s primary demographic. We thought, “How
many people actually want to consume contents about games?”

It was very clear there’s lots of large, profitable excellent businesses
built on the idea of helping people share their gaming experience or learn
more about gaming outside the games themselves – everything from IGN to
Game Spot, Machinima at the time on YouTube, and anywhere else online where
you can read about video games. That’s huge. We decided that, yes, it is
big enough. There’s a huge community of people interested in this kind of

Andrew: OK. So I understand the business rationale. I understand the
personal passion behind it, and I understand how you realized that it was a
big enough market to pursue. Let’s spend a little more time, if you would,
helping me understand what questions you ask to figure out people’s pain
points. And maybe we can just start out by understanding why pain? Why do
you want to know their pain specifically instead of where their passions
are, instead of whatever else you can ask?

Emmett: It’s important to understand where their passion is. Of the eight
questions I asked, I spend one of two of them trying to find out what’s
your passion, what’s your motivating factor here. That was really important
because one thing we found out that surprised me was actually many of these
guys were trying to make a living on it, making money, and it was really
hard to do that. That was the genesis of us creating a partner program in
ways to make money, broadcasting, sorts of things like that. But in the end
people are motivated by just a few things. They’re motivated by self-
expression, by fame, by money, by altruism. There’s not a long list of
fundamental motivations. The desire to get laid, I suppose. You get outside
of those and everyone’s sort of motivated by the same things whereas the
ways that services fail are many and unique.

There are infinite ways that your product can create pain for your users
and make it harder for them to achieve those goals. You spend a little bit
of time figuring out what goals people have, and then you spend a lot of
time figuring out what’s stopping them from achieving those goals. That’s
really what’s important about looking into people’s pain points, because
it’s sort of like the Tolstoy quote. Successful people are all successful;
people with pain points all have their own unique ones. So we would dig in
on exactly you’re not making money on this service. We know that’s your
goal. It’s hard for you to do this. What’s the problem? Oh, you can’t get
enough ad impressions or oh, your audience just isn’t big enough. That’s
using the driving fact of most people is you need to figure out how to grow
your audience more. How can we help you do that? Or little things like
there’s no way that people can discover your channel if they’re interested
in the game you’re playing because there’s no way to browse by what game
people are playing.

So, we would really dive in and we would ask them questions about not just
ourselves – what’s good and bad about our service and what’s good and bad
about specific features in our service, the archiving feature and things
like that – we’d ask them the same questions about our competing sites if
they’d used them. We’d ask them the imagine-yourself-as-the-CEO questions.
We’d ask them to imagine themselves and if they could only make one change
ever to the website. I tried to get them to prioritize for us and not just
what your pain points are. People would talk forever complaining about
things, but which of these are the most important to you as well.

Andrew: If I’m understanding you right, the general things, the big-picture
things that you’re looking for is what’s your motivation and what’s keeping
you from achieving that motivation and that’s the pain.

Emmett: Exactly.

Andrew: All right. If they tell you their motivation is to make money then
you want to know what’s keeping them from making money. If you hear over
and over what’s keeping them from making money, it’s they’re not getting
enough ad impressions, which means that they’re not getting enough people
to watch. Then you say, ah. We need to make discovery much easier, or we
need to make promotion much easier for them. I see.

What about this idea that I’ve been hearing in some of my interviews that
if you can find a big enough pain that your user or customer has, you don’t
have to come up with the ultimate product. You just have to come up with a
product that removes a little bit of pain, because it’s so severe for your
audience that any relief would be useful. In other words, someone who’s
playing a game and trying to broadcast it out and no one is watching him,
if you could get him even 50 people, he’d be enthused.

Emmett: Right.

Andrew: If you could get him 100 people, you made his day. Does that ring
true or am I misunderstanding?

Emmett: That’s definitely true. In the end, if we can grow your audience by
even just a small amount for most people, that’s a huge deal. The going
from zero to 20 is such a big deal. Then, even going from 1,000 to 1,500.
If we can grow your audience 50% or something, that’s a huge deal for
people. We don’t have to give everyone a million viewers. The way you get
there, one really important thing is that I don’t really believe it’s one
change, it’s one key insight. Right? At least for a service like Twitch TV
in my experience has been, it’s the constant effort of fixing one small
thing after another. It’s like, I think this is a Joel Spolsky analogy, our
users are running a hurdle race. We started with 50 hurdles, and there were
three people making it to the end.

We always have to systematically go down there and remove hurdles one after
the other, and every time we remove one, some more people make it to the
end. As you start to remove all of the hurdles, you reach this tipping
point, where almost everyone can make it. It’s easy enough that it’s
something almost everyone can do. That’s how I think about improving the
product. You start with something that solves a specific problem, really
that people actually have. That’s sort of the idea of where you can
broadcast your game at all. Here is this thing that lets you do that, and
then it’s this just constant effort of removing hurdles on the way to
making that something truly great.

Andrew: OK. The first thing you were going to solve for people was, you
were going to say, “If you want to play a video game and let people watch
you in real time, we’re going to let you live broadcast it.”

Emmett: Exactly.

Andrew: From there, what are some of the hurdles that you uncovered?

Emmett: Yeah. The hurdles are everything from configuring and downloading
this broadcast offer is to hard. Then I can get it broadcasting, but my
stream is boring and no one wants to watch me because I don’t have my
microphone hooked up, to, OK. I’m broadcasting, my stream is interesting,
but now no one can find me because there’s no discovery that helps them
find me, to OK.

I’m broadcasting and people are finding me, but I’m not listed on this
community site because you don’t have an API for the community site to know
that I’m live. Then, it’s this whole chain where you go from actually
getting the video in, and then at the very top of it all, I can’t broadcast
as much as I want because I have to go to my day job still. I’d like to be
broadcasting more hours in the day, but I have an eight hour a day carpet
cleaning job. Then, we start thinking about, OK. Well, how do we help you
turn this into a career. It’s all the way from, configuring this offer is
too hard, to I can’t make money on this.

Andrew: When someone tells you that they’re boring on live broadcast, what
do you say? How do you make that go away?

Emmett: I think the central insight for that is that everyone is boring to
someone, but the flip side of that is that everyone is interesting to
someone too. The content on Facebook is boring to most people. If I saw
some random person’s Facebook profile, I probably wouldn’t be very
interested in it.

The same way, if I saw some random person’s Three Stream, I might be
interested depending on how good of a player they were, but if I was their
friend I would be guaranteed to be very interested. We see this huge number
of people who are broadcasting to five to 10 viewers, and what seems to be
going on there from the individuals we’ve talked to, is they’re
broadcasting for their friends. It’s that same experience that anyone who
grew up playing video games has, where you sit on the coach and you watch
your friend who’s really good play through a level. We’re sort of bringing
that experience online.

Andrew: I see. So, it’s not so much about finding ways to make him more
entertaining, it’s more about saying, “We’re going to help you broadcast it
to your friends, and help your friends discover that you’re there and make
sure that they have an easy time coming on. If we could get your friends in
there, then we know that it’s going to be interesting.” I see. How do you
come to that realization, because to me I would just say, “You know what?
Some people are just boring. This guy’s never going to make it. Maybe what
we’ll do instead is we’ll place some random cat videos or other people
playing video games while his video is going.” How do you come to the
realization that the way to make it fun is to broadcast about his friends?

Emmett: I had this vision sort of from the beginning of Twitch TV that
broadcasting is not just something (?) people. Obviously, the very big
streams are going to be the most entertaining, the most produced, the
widest, but I had so much fun on the interactive site. I had so much fun
sitting there and watching people who I knew broadcast that I always want
it to be a site for anyone who come and broadcast, where it was an
inclusive of people who wanted to play any game and even if they weren’t
really an expert because I knew that I enjoyed watching my friends and I
thought that would be something that could be a part of gaming culture.

That’s what really what we’ve seen is that one thing you do now as a gamer
in addition to playing the game and playing it online with your friends is
you record and share the best moments of that gaming experience with your
friends, with the people you care about. It’s not always your friends. A
lot of the time, if you’re broadcasting World of Warcraft, it’s not your
real life friends that are coming to come watch; it’s your guild mates in
World of Warcraft that are going to hang out at your channel and watch you.
It’s the guys you play with online who come and join in. I think that for
me the insight was really I enjoy watching my friends play and that means I
want to encourage more of my friends to do this because when they’re doing
it, I actually really enjoy hanging out in the channel.

Andrew: I see. All right, so it comes back to you. All right, let me go
back to the questions that you asked people. You spent half an hour
sometimes doing these interviews. You are a major guy in our business.
You’re running a high profile company. I shouldn’t understate the size of
this business. You were doing tens of millions of users, from 0 to 30
million users in two years is what Justin told me you guys did at, huge, and why then does it have to be you who’s making the phone
calls to your customers? Why can’t it be someone else who you hire?

Emmett: Because fundamentally, I had to understand what our users needed
because I want to be the coordination point, right? As a CEO of an
organization like that, you are the fulcrum. You are the thing where your
backend engineering reports up into you, your front end engineering reports
up into you, your business development people report up into you and you’re
the one transmitting information from one to another. If you don’t really
deeply understand what it is that you’re trying to build and you’re relying
on someone to sort of understand that for you, you’re going to garble those

I really see the CEO’s job primarily as setting vision, but communicating,
helping the organization communicate with itself. I spend a lot of my time
acting as the translator. I speak engineeringese [SP] to the broadcasters
and broadcasterese back to the engineers and sort of translate between
these two groups that don’t think or speak in the same way. The way you do
that is you have to speak all those languages and sort of this was my
inculcation as I’m speaking broadcasterese by speaking to a whole bunch of
them and spending a lot of time with them, going to broadcaster events,
meeting them in person.

Andrew: Why broadcasters again and not viewers? Why not say if we can get
enough viewers, then the broadcasters will come later? Why say we’re going
to learn how to serve the broadcasters well?

Emmett: That was something we always went back and forth on at
Anytime you have a two-sided market, you have to decide which side of this
market is most important. Is it the buyers or is it the sellers on eBay? Is
it the viewers or broadcasters at Twitch TV? We decided it was the
broadcasters because fundamentally, if I love watching some broadcaster, if
I love watching Day9 and Day9 is on Twitch TV, even if I would kind of
mildly prefer to be on another service, I’m going to come to Twitch TV to
watch him because I love that content.

Andrew: I see.

Emmett: Whereas, the reverse is not true because even if you have a lot of
viewers, if you fundamentally are missing something for that broadcast or
if they would prefer to be somewhere else, they will go somewhere else.
Yeah, one of those things is if they can’t get a large number of viewers in
your service, that’s a big problem so you need to make sure that it’s
possible for them to get a lot of viewers, but in the end, content is king
I guess was the insight. In our marketplace, the people with the non-
replaceable good are the broadcasters because if you have 10,000 viewers,
you might know 100 of them, but you’re not going to know 10,000 of them.

So to some degree, the viewers are a fungible commodity. You can replace
one viewer with another and the broadcasters don’t mind. But you can’t
replace one broadcaster with another without the viewers minding. The
viewers really mind if you replace the broadcasters. That was sort of the
central thought: We’re going to start with the people who are the anchors.

Andrew: One thing that I’m hearing often, and this goes back to the
interview that I did with Eric Stephens, the usability guy who worked at
Muholo (sp) and now is at Etsy, from three or four years ago, one of my
early interviews. I asked him the same thing I’m going to ask you. Why are
you only talking to seven or eight people of each type? Why not say, ‘We
need a statistically relevant number; we need to talk to at least 100
people’? Why are seven or eight enough people for a process like this?

Really, four or five are enough. For the most part, your users aren’t so
different from each other. They’re using your service because your service
attracted them and it tends to attract the same kind of people. You still
have outliers. You have people who are weird for some reason. They’re not
using your service for the same reason as everyone else, and so you need to
go up to seven or eight so you can tell, at least in my experience, those
two guys were the weird ones and these other six guys are all the same.
We’re going to say these six guys are representative.


If you get lucky, you can do it in four or five where they’re all telling
you the same thing, and you’re say, ‘Great. I’m done.’ Usually what happens
is, two of them tell you one thing and three of them tell you something
else and you have to kind of keep going to figure out who’s really an
outlier. Let’s make sure that one guy who had this completely different
attitude from everyone else that he’s actually an outlier and we’re not
going to get the same thing. Really, we did forty or fifty because we did
it for multiple verticals.

What are the different verticals that you talked to?

We talked to people who were VOD primary versus live primary.

Video on Demand versus live. OK.

We talked to people who did console games and people who did PC games.

I see.

And we talked to people who were sort of, I would call them professional,
people who were the IGNs or the Games Spots or the DSLs of the world, MLGs.
And then people who were definitely amateur. They were not doing it for the
money, they were doing it purely for the love. We wanted to make sure we
got that whole spectrum from big to small. We divided it up that way. What
we actually found was that there were a lot of commonalities between all of
the different groups. I was expecting they would be more different, but
actually it turned out that all forty of those people maybe divided into
two major groups of people – the profession. There really is a sort of
distinction between the people who are trying to make a living on it and
people who are using it as a means of self-expression. Those wound up being
our two major groups of broadcasters.

By the way, how does it feel to be running a company now that doesn’t have
your co-founders name on it? Do you feel like, ‘Hey, this is now Emmett: TV

I definitely remember when we were choosing the name for Justin TV and
starting the project thinking, ‘There is no way on earth I would ever name
this company Emmett: TV.’ Justin’s a special individual. There are not many
guys who would volunteer to put their entire life on the internet 24/7. I
certainly wouldn’t have volunteered. So I think it was right that he got
his name on the company, because that’s a ballsy move. I enjoyed working on
it. I enjoyed doing the tech side of it and helping run the business.
Justin basically spent all this time being an actor for nine months, but
it’s still like, ‘Whoa! That’s a ballsy move for those first nine months.
Holy cow!’ I’m not a particularly fame-seeking person. My motivation is
more self-expression than fame-seeking. I did not have any desire to have
it named Emmet TV. It’s fun with Twitch getting to run to something where
it really was my vision from day one on exactly how it was going to go, but
I think that one thing I’ve learned running start-ups is that you need to
have a clear leader. You need to have one person who is clearly the guy who
is going to make the final call if people can’t agree.

Do you have an example of a time when you had to do that and…?

—- 9 of 15 —-

Andrew: Do you have an example of a time that you had to do that and
because you had the final call, things were more clear and effective?

Emmett: Yeah. I mean, it happens maybe once a month or so or something like
that. Like I recently did it without new front page redesign, which still
isn’t done. We still have a long ways to go but I kind of had to make the
call. We’re cutting this off now. We’re not going to develop more features
from here or rework some of the ones we have from here. We’re just going to
build this because we need to get real feedback from user and, you know,
there was, some people wanted to agree with that, some people wanted to
keep editing because they had a vision for where to take it from there and
at some point you have to make the call because, you know, we’re done
thinking about it and iterating on design. We’re going to actually just
build this things and who knows if it was the right call, right? Like, I’ll
never, it’s counterfactual, right? I’ll never know if I actually made the
right call but what’s really important is if someone makes the call and
ends the argument because there’s nothing more wasteful then spending a
bunch of time arguing about a decision where really you don’t have enough
information and you’ll never have enough information to know the right
answer. And so, often times a decision is more important then the right

Andrew: Alright, let me go back and just make sure, before I continue, that
I understand at least the part, this was the critical part. You talking to
customers, if I understand you right, change the business. Took you from,
opened your eyes to a new part of the business and more importantly helps
you create a product that had the right product market fit, right?

Emmett: Yup, exactly.

Andrew: And you walked into it with the idea that you were going to
understand, you were going to pick verticals, [?] people into clear
categories, you were going to understand their motivation and what was
stopping them from achieving that, from getting to that motivation and
you’d ask questions that weren’t as direct as what are your pain points but
basically you’re looking for pain, what’s keeping you from doing that and
what’s so painful that you can’t do it. And then once you get this list,
you organized it and you say what’s common about these people, what’s and
outline and this guy’s probably crazy and unique and we can’t build for
him, you put that list together and you show it to your potential customer
and you say is this what you guys are looking for? And if it is help me
organize this. What should I work on first? And then they tell you.

Emmett: Yeah, I mean I think that’s pretty much correct. I’d say the only
identify I’d make is you want to be asking that priority question the whole
time. Every time someone tells you about a pain point you want to probe
more or less important than this other thing. You want to probe on, if you
could only do one thing, which of these things would you do? You want to
always be, from minute one your talking to someone about what to change
about the service, you need to be figuring it, because people throw out all
kinds of ideas that you’ll need to be helping them tell you which of these
are really important and which of these are nice to have’s for you and that
has to be going on. It’s a constant process and yet you want to do it at
the end but you also want to do it at the beginning.

Andrew: I see. So, for example, I want to be able to connect my console
directly to my computer. You say how important is that? And I go it’s
critical, I can’t do anything without that. OK, great. But I also want to
be able to put this out on Beebo and you go how important is that? Well, I
guess I haven’t been on Beebo in a while. I just thought it would be
interesting to be able to broadcast. OK, great. Can you give me an example
of, I mean you know this space. You’re in live broadcasting for a long
time. You we’re watching gamers for a long time and passionately engaged in
it. What did you learn by going through this process that you didn’t know

Emmett: I mean, what I really learned was what the broadcasters had in
running into at a micro level trying to do this. I knew that everyone
wanted to get a bigger audience, that’s obvious. You know that from minute
one. You don’t have to ask any questions. What I didn’t know was people
have a serious issue with not being able to make money on their streams. I
didn’t realize that was big problem, actually, before I started talking to
these people. I knew people liked making money. Obviously people like
making money. But I didn’t realized that for many of these people doing
this was their sole job and they were already making money poorly on it and
it was very important to their everyday life. What I didn’t realize was
that things like you really, really need some way to be listed on this
website. You need to be listed on Team Lipid forums. If you’re not listed
on Team Lipid forums no one’s going to find out about your stream and that

—- 10 of 15 —-

Emmett: Look at forums, no one’s going to find out about your stream and
that means we need to get in touch with Team Liquid, RPI and make sure that
our streams could show up live on the Team Liquid’s forums.

Andrew: What are Team Liquid forums?

Emmett: Team Liquid is a start craft two team and they have theses forum,
these sort of community forums, and they feature live video streams there
and it’s one of the major ways people who are just really into star craft
discover new streams. And so, we didn’t, if you couldn’t be listed there
when you were broadcasting on Twitch, that’s a big problem because the
people who are really into Star Craft aren’t going to find out about you
and those are the influencers in the community. And so, what they told us
is hey, you’re service is great. We love streaming online but when we do
were not featured here because we don’t have a API integration with Team
Liquid. And so we’re like, OK, we better get an API with this one specific
website which is strange. That’s not something that would have leapt to
mind when thinking of improving our website for broadcasters but it was
actually important to them. And so those kinds of pieces of information,
you never know what you’re going to find out, right? If you knew what it
was you’d be there already. You wouldn’t have to ask anybody. But it’s the
little things about the eco-system and about doing the work that you miss
even if you are a member of the community. I was a member of the community
but I always discovered through Justin TV, I guess kind of obviously, I
would go in and look at the directory and pick something out of there. I
didn’t use the Team Liquid forums as my primary discovery mechanism. And so
that kind of stuff is super important. Oh, another example, right? We
really, really, really needed to have individual channel statistics at a
pretty high resolution because they were selling sponsorships to people and
they need to be able to prove to those people, hey people actually saw me
when you sponsored me at this tournament. And so then you needed to be able
to get viewerships stats about their own channel and we had ok viewership
stats but now pretty formatted graphs that you could show to a sponsor and
so we added that because that turned out to be really important to the
broadcasters. Not just because everyone likes, you know, of course people
like stats about their channels but it turns out that this very important
for this specific reason and it really bumped up the priority.

Andrew: I’m sorry, go ahead.

Emmett: I wouldn’t say, in fact, that talking to people gave us that many
new ideas, there were a few of the Team Liquid ones [?] example as a new
idea but most ideas were things we already thought of that could be good
but what it really told us was what’s important. We have 100 ways we can
improve this but we can only do three this month or we can only do seven
this month depending on how big they are. What three? How do we know? How
do we know which ones to build? That’s the most important things because
it’s easy to come up with lots of ideas to improve your service. There’s
always lot of ways to make it better but which way better is the really
important question. That’s why focusing on prioritization is so important
when you ask people questions.

Andrew: You know, when we do courses with Mixer G Premium, one of the
things I ask the course leaders to do is come up with an example of a
failure that happens, that happened to them when they didn’t do what
they’re about to teach because people will then pay attention and they’ll
start to identify that mistake or they’ll start to identify with that
cautionary tale. What happened to you that made you say, I’ve got to pick
up the phone and put myself out there and talk to strangers and ask them
for feedback and maybe get yelled at or maybe just come across looking, I
don’t know. You get all kinds of nerves and negative self-talk and you
overcame it do this. What happened that made you say, I’ve got to do this?
Where was the pain for you that made you take this action?

Emmett: Yeah. I think, so we have this cautionary tale at Investment TV.
It’s called challenges. We build this feature called challenges. It took
almost a month. It was almost a complete site redesign around JustIn TV.
The idea was people would create video challenges and they vote on which
ones they wanted to see and then as a broadcaster you could fulfill a video
challenge. You could say I’m going to record a response to this dare,
effectively, right? And we thought this was brilliant. This was the best
idea we ever had. The entire month we were building it we never once
actually went and talked to the people we thought would be fulfilling that
thing about whether they’d use or if they wouldn’t use is, what’s important
to them about it, never once. And we released to a grand total of, I think,
something like 67 videos created for challenges ever. I ended up rolling
back the feature and just destroying and that sort of turned into this
internal cautionary tale of like, you cannot build features in isolation.
No matter how brilliant you think

—- 11 of 15 —-

Emmett: Features in isolation, no matter how brilliant you think the idea
is you must talk to people and when I was starting this project I just
thought about, I’m about to put a bunch of effort into building all these
gaming features. I will hate myself if at the end of the day I get 67 new
gaming videos, 67 people using this new feature like that’s sad right? For
a website with millions of users to get, you know, that small amount of
engagement and so, I think that was probably our biggest sinkhole failure,
it’s like a month of almost the whole company working on this feature
right? So that’s, you know, a year of man effort or something like that and
it was bad.

Andrew: [laughs] I can see it actually in your face. You know as I was
asking I saw something in your face that looked pained and I thought, oh
he’s pained because I’m not explaining what I’m looking for right, I’ll add
to the explanation until I see a smile of recognition, no that was a pain
of, ooh Andrew we just hit something.

Emmett: [laughs] I mean I’ve relearned it right? This is a lesson you don’t
learn once and then you’re like perfect at it. Thankfully nothing [??]
invested of a month worth of effort but, you know, we built thankfully
small features on twitchtv that we were very proud of, we thought were
going to be really excellent. I’m trying to think of the best example here.

Andrew: I love these

Emmett: We built a . . . I don’t know. I don’t know, it’s the little
features that I’m trying to think of one that will make sense out of

Andrew: Uh-huh.

Emmett: And all of them take five minutes to set up the context but we
built little features constantly without validating that this actually
going to solve the problem. Like we’re doing the first step, thankfully,
still where we find out where is your problem but if you don’t go back and
say like hey we’re going to build this. Is this going to solve your issue?
We’ve three or four times now been burned by building something we think is
going fix the problem and actually just doesn’t. Because we didn’t take the
solution back to them, they tend to be little things for broadcasters but
yeah it’s a lesson you learn over and over again and every time you ignore
it it’s at your peril. And sometimes you get lucky but I don’t really want
to run the business on hoping.

Andrew: [laughs] Did you talk to competitor’s users to see what they were
excited about and what they wanted you to build.

Emmett: Yep

Andrew: Or did you focus on yours? You did.

Emmett: I mean talking to competitor’s users is really important and not
just competitors, I don’t think YouTube is really that much of a competitor
to us, they’re primarily the OD, we’re primarily live. You want to be in
touch with anyone who’s even in the space, users of other people who are
tangential or who have users who might be your users because the people who
use your website obviously think it’s good enough that, you know, it’s
better than the alternatives for them. People who aren’t using your
website, they’re the most important people because they’re the people who
haven’t yet decided to use you. Who for whatever reason prefer to be on
something else or just don’t even do the behavior you want them to do yet,
right? In the case of the YouTube users, they’re not even broadcasting live
yet and so understanding their pain points, they’re running into something
that’s way more of a problem then people on your website are.

Andrew: What did you hear from them that made you say oh there’s a severe
pain that we can solve, even if we solve it a little bit people will come
to us.

Emmett: Mm-hmm. So the big one there was discovery by game. All of our
competitors when we started were, like Justin TV, generic video sites.
There are video sites where you’d go and when you’d browse, you’re browsing
by gaming videos, well it turns out of course gaming videos is way too
broad, you need to drill down much more finely if you actually care about
gaming video. And so we went and got people to tag all the video with what
game they were playing and then you can discover by game.

Andrew: Ahh.

Emmett: And it sounds like this little thing but it made such a huge
difference to our broadcasters and that was something where the users on
our service were demanding it as the users off our service were demanding
it. The other thing was, other websites had, on the monetary side, people
who wanted to make money on their streams weren’t using us, you couldn’t
make money on Justin TV at all. There was no way to do it so people who
wanted to make money and had that attitude were primarily not on us and so
it was really helpful. You wouldn’t have even known about those users if we
were talking to only our own users because that-

Andrew: Is that an easy thing to add by the way?

Emmett: Adding money?

Andrew: To let people run their own sponsorship on twitch.

Emmett: No, it was a lot of work

Andrew: OK.

Emmett: That was probably the single biggest thing we did.

—- 12 of 15 —-

Emmett: Shear

…it’s probably the single biggest thing we did. We called it the partner
program. We set ads. We came up with an entirely new ad type that was
optimized for gaming because we thought that, you know, traditional
advertising methods weren’t good. We set up a whole system for tracking how
many ads had been run per channel, which had never existed before and just
generally put a lot of effort into making that work right. And that was
probably our month worth of effort. That was at least a month worth’s of
work to get a way to make money functioning in the website.

Andrew Warner

And so you know that you’re going to invest that much time into a new
product, do you show it to people even more than you would otherwise? Do
you run it by them in a different way?

Emmett: Shear

Yeah. I think the bigger it is, the more people you talk to. You should run
even the smallest things by people because there’s no sense in building
something that’s not solve the problem. But if you’re building a feature
that takes someone one day to build, you can just ping the guy who you know
happens to be in Skpe and say ‘Hey, we’re thinking about this, what’s your,
you know, that seems good to you?’

If you’re going to spend a month of eight people in the company to put
together a whole new program, you need to talk to more than one person. You
need to talk to a couple dozen. You need to invest proportionally more
effort into that validation.

Andrew Warner

Let me knock over what you just said a moment ago because I’ve seen other
entrepreneurs do it to. If it’s something small, they would just ping
friends on Skype or people on Skype who are their top users and say ‘Hey,
am I thinking right ‘. Get quick feedback and then go and do it.

I’ve done this with an entrepreneur where I was just brainstorming what he
should do next and he started pinging people on Skype and I just couldn’t
believe it. And since then, I’ve noticed that others do it too.

Jason Tuggman, you know him? He’s got…

Emmett: Shear

I don’t.

Andrew Warner

You do?

Emmett: Shear

No, no.

Andrew Warner

Oh. He’s got baseball cards essentially for video gamers. You guys helped
establish him. I don’t know if it was you or someone else.

Emmett: Shear

Oh, yeah, yeah. I know the product. I just don’t know the…

Andrew Warner

Right. He was showing us, he came out to grub with us at a dinner that I
did for Mixergy and he started showing these cards off and saying how much
money people are making as gamers. Started showing, telling us about how
much attention they were getting and it was just faschinating.

What I wanted to ask you you and I started talking about this before the
interview started, gaming is now huge. What is going on here? What are the
rest of us who aren’t this deep into it missing out here that’s allowing
you to build your business on it, that’s allowing him to build his business
on it, that’s allowing the people who are on these cards and on twitch to
build careers off of playing video games?

What’s going on here?

Emmett: Shear

There’s three things that go into making a new sport. You got to have an
audience. And the audience for gaming has [??] for a while. Everyone who’s
ever played a video game or plays video games. And that’s almost everybody
now. It’s huge. But you look at poker, there’s a huge audience for poker
forever, too. Lots of poker. And you didn’t see poker on TV until about

And so what happened, what happened was the invention of the whole cam.
What happened was they invented something you could actually watch it in a
meaningful way. You could actually understand what was going on. And what
we’ve had is we’ve had our whole cam moment for video games.

Video game companies are putting in spectator modes, which enable you to
broadcast a video game in a way that makes visual sense to a viewer, not
just to a player. And that’s been this huge see change in the ability to
really produce great videogame content.

And the other thing that’s just happened is broadband. The ability to watch
[??] video from your living room is more and more common and didn’t exist
before. And video games are, you really want to watch them in the highest
resolution you can because there’s lots of little details you want to

And so, adding that broadband with sort of our whole cam mode to gather has
really been the see change that’s enabled gaming to start watching video
games to be something that goes mainstream the same way that playing them
has been.

Andrew Warner

So where’s the opportunity here for someone who’s listening to you? What
should they be paying attention to as they’re thinking about what’s going
on here and how to build businesses around this?

Emmett: Shear

Right. I would say the lessons I’ve taken away from TwitchTV and from
contrasting it to how we ran JustinTV, if I as an entrepreneur and a way
has changed my mind is you want to pick a very specific group of people who
are your users, preferably people you know how to call on the phone. And
when you pick those people, you should do it as a concious, deliverate
choice …

—- 13 of 15 —-

Emmett: Shear

…people you should do it in a concious, deliverate choice. Not like
accidentally. You should think about do I want these people to be my user
and if I do pick these people as my users, what are the consequences of

And then you should talk to them all the time. I was at E3, I go to MLG
events. I talk to these people on Skype. You need to soak yourself in that
culture with those people and really understand, not just their pain
points. That’s obviously the number one thing, but their hopes and their
dreams and what’s going on in their lives and those trends that they’re
seeing and the dynamics of their relationships with the rest of the
ecosystem and you need to really understand that world. Even if you aren’t
a direct participant in it.

And then really just not take your eye of that ball. Once you pick those
people, don’t decide you want to also do these other people. It’s tempting.
TwitchTV, its technology, there’s something about it is really specific to
gaming inherently. You can imagine a TwitchTV for comedy that’s a great
place to watch live comedy online and I don’t know. That might be a great
idea for a business but you can’t let yourself add that.

It’s tempting and I see many businesses do this. Say we could be so much
bigger than this. No. Until you actually are a multihundred million dollar
business and you’re making this huge amount of money and you tapped out the
industry growing to all of the gamers in the world. The’re watching on
TwitchTV, OK, maybe then.

But even then you’d probably be too busy. You really have to keep your
focus on that group of users. Pick one group of users. Talk to them all the
time and don’t take your eye off the ball.

Andrew Warner

How do you know that all these works? This was a lot of work to put into
this discovering this group of people to service. It’s a lot of work to
make sure that you’re building all the right things for them, a lot of work
actually to do the building of it. I don’t want to go over that either.

How do you know that all this paid off? That you were right to have done
this? Is there a metric that makes you say ‘Hey, we’re now…’

What is it?

Emmett: Shear

There’s really two metrics. One is uniques. We cracked 17 million uniques
last month. This is unique viewers watching video on TwitchTV, which is up
from 2 when we started. And that’s huge. You’re just reaching so many more

And when we reached, I think for me the one thing I look at that makes me
know we’re doing something right is that when we reach those people, we
reach them in a very deep and engaging way. They’re not coming by and
watching a two minute clip and leaving. They’re coming by and average more
than 70 minutes a day.

When someone comes to the website, they do about three views and those
three views last over an hour, like seventy-some minutes. And that to me
says OK, we’re producing something that is almost like TV in the level of
entertainment it provides. It’s something you turn on and you leave it on
and you really engage with it for long periods of time. And I think that’s,
for me that’s the concurrent stat, the amount of video watched as sort of
primary thing.

And we’re at about three billion minutes now a month and that’s really cool
to me because you start doing the math and then you realize this is
something that’s a cultural phenomenon the way TV is. It’s something that
people spend hours and hours and really get into.

And so I think that’s the number that I keep my eyes on. How much are
people actually watching?

Andrew Warner

17 million people a month on average are watching seventy minutes a day.

I don’t watch seventy minutes of everything a day. Huluu and Netflix and
nothing. That’s impressive.

I wonder what HBO, not HBO, I wonder what CNN’s minutes really are?

Emmett: Shear

I don’t know.

Andrew Warner

I got to believe you’ve blown past that.

Emmett: Shear

People watch four hours of TV a day on average, which is truly absurd.

I think a lot of it’s passive viewing but still. And so I feel like when
we’re doing this, we’re sort of starting to, we’re part of the core cutting
phenomenon, where we’re starting to take a piece of Huluu or Netflix. You
were watching this…

—- 14 of 15 —-

Emmett: . . . You were watching this, some out of television, and now
you’re using this Internet services thing. I think that’s a big thing
that’s going on.

Andrew: And the business launched 2011, right?

Emmett: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: Okay.

Emmett: Our birthday is E3 every year. We launched in June last year,
almost exactly a year ago.

Andrew: Wow, so almost exactly a year ago, get to 17 million users, 17
million a month and we should also say that you did have some users coming
in from You didn’t start from scratch.

Emmett: We did, we did. We had about two-and-a-half when we launched.

Andrew: You did what, sorry?

Emmett: Two-and-a-half million users coming in when we launched.

Andrew: Two-and-a-half, wow.

Emmett: But it’s still been quite a huge trip. Having those two-and-a-half
million was great. Getting those first few million people showing up is
really hard because in the beginning you don’t have any content. That meant
when we were starting, we already had the engine turning to some degree. We
didn’t have to build that starter motor, which is one of the hardest things
about starting a new company.

Andrew: You built out with Justin. didn’t start with millions of
users. You guys built it each one, one at a time, got them to come to the
site. Let me say this and then I want to ask you a closing question. First
of all, guys, if you’re watching this and you’re saying, “Hey, I learned a
lot about how to ask questions here with my audience and I wanna know even
more. I really want to put this into action,” if you’re a Mixergy Premium
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It’s all right there for you and one of our courses, we do dozens of
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things that you need as an entrepreneur. This is just one of many courses,
the one where we teach you how to ask the right questions and how to really
figure out who do you even ask when you’re doing this process with. You
just go to If you’re already a member, all of those
courses are part of your membership. If you’re not a member, I promise that
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you a refund. Go to and find out why thousands of
members are happy to be members and I’m looking forward to having you in
there, too. You know what? Before I ask you the final question, who else
should I be interviewing? You are now at the top of our industry. Who do
you admire and know well that you say, “I think he should do an interview.
I think Andrew should have him on.”?

Emmett: That’s a good question. Have you interviewed Steve Hoffman?

Andrew: Yes, from. . .

Emmett: Okay. He definitely comes to mind as someone who has a lot to say
about start-ups I really respect. Who else would I pick? You know who I
would bring on actually that you probably haven’t had on is Jamie Quint.

Andrew: Jamie Quint? Who’s that?

Emmett: He did a YFC company a while ago and I think he’s starting another
company now. He’s in the middle of that. I just had dinner with him last
night and he’s worked at Swipely. He’s worked at a number of other sort of
start-ups and in each place he’s been doing a lot of user acquisition work.
When I have a question about, you know, how do I make this email campaign
more effective or how often should I send a retention campaign, any
question about activating, retaining, reaching out to users, doing that
kind of stuff, how should I think about running my SCM campaign, I go to
him. I think you should talk to (?).

Andrew: Can I hit you up for an intro?

Emmett: Yeah, no problem.

Andrew: All right and by the way, Adam from Hipmunk will be on tomorrow.
I’m going to be recording an interview with him. What should I be asking
him? Steve’s co-founder, right?

Emmett: I would ask Adam about how do you negotiate. More than how do you
negotiate, how do you work with a big company to create agreements that are
beneficial for both of you because that is one of the hardest things in the
start-up space when you try to do business development is doing business
development with big companies and Adam is really good at it.

Andrew: All right.

Emmett: That’s what I would say to ask him.

Andrew: My final question is this. What one piece of advice, out of all
this, some of this feels a little overwhelming, for someone who’s listening
who’s saying, “I really buy into (?)world view, but I need an easy way to
get started,” where do you recommend that they get started?

Emmett: It sort of depends on where your start-up business is and what
you’re doing. What I would say is just try it for one feature, right? Don’t
try and do it for your whole company at once. It’s too big, it’s too
complicated and it’s. . .

—- 15 of 15 —-

Emmet: It’s really hard, it’s a lot of work. The first few times I
tried it, I failed. We tried to call people and it hadn’t worked. I would
say, you know, pick one improvement you want to make to the website and
then back out of that. Which users on our website do we think this is
actually going to help? You’ll call them on the phone and talk to them.
Get them on Skype and talk to them about what they . . . Ask them about the
problem, don’t tell them about the feature by the way. Ask them about the
problem you think that feature is going to solve. More generally, what
problems do you have? Do you have this problem? If you could make one
change to the website, what would it be? Ask them those questions and see
if that lines up with the feature you’re going to build . . .

Andrew: Fix out their problems and see if it connects . . .

Emmett: Don’t try and run this huge, big process. Talk to five people
and validate. Do a validation first. Validate some feature that you’re
about to build, is what you should actually build.

Andrew: I’m sorry Emmett:, I’ve got to ask one other question. You
said you’ve failed at this before? What did you do that you failed? I
want to learn from that.

Emmett: [Laughs] So, when we tried to, we tried to do this for a couple of times. With social broadcasters, for example. We
tried to it with people who are, we call them social broadcasters. People
who would show up and broadcast with their webcams, their friends. We
didn’t ask the right questions and we didn’t talk to the right people. I
think the fundamental problem was that we spent a lot of time walking them
through mock-ups and user testing and validating that our train of thought,
that our flows worked. We did a great job of that. Our flows were
excellent, we had very little drop-off, people could get to the webcam
broadcast and stuff. No problem. But, we spent zero time trying to figure
out if that was actually in [??]. Right? If the issue was it’s too hard
to broadcast with a webcam. If the issue wasn’t I don’t even want to
broadcast with a webcam or when I do no one comes and watches me. We
didn’t even talk to them, I don’t know what their problems were. I’m
making things up right now that could be their
problem . . .

Andrew: That makes so much sense. You’re saying, “Look, we said we’re
going to start talking to our customers, because we hear that that works
well. We know that it is important and so, what we are going to do is say,
“Hey, this is what we’re going to build. Is this right? Does this make
sense? Does it flow properly? When you press this button, do you
understand what this button does?” They said, “Yeah, yeah, we do.” What
you didn’t ask them was do you even have the problem we think this is the
solution to? Do you have a pain that we’re solving here? I see, alright.

Emmett: It’s really easy when you’re doing user development, to prompt
them with, we’re building this. How do you feel about it? You don’t go
into people with features or with what you’re doing, until you have already
talked to them like twice. Until you’ve already gone through all the
preliminary work on the problem. The preliminary work is more important.
It’s good to go back, the first part is the important part, not getting the
user testing for flows. Once you know, once you have a product that is
working great, there is infinite work to be done on the final analysis and
optimization on those finals. Zenga is a company that is amazing at that,
for example. Before you get to that, you have to actually have a product
that is working. That you know people actually have a page or something.

Andrew: This is one of the best interviews that I have ever done. I
love the process here. So much of this feels like magic when you’re
watching this from the outside. You think Emmett: just understands people,
he know the video game space. He can predict what people want and now I
understand how you predict what people want. It’s not easy, you really
have to live in their world, talk to them, really get in their heads,
understand, care, connect with them. Have people pop in on Skype in the
middle of the day with you, it’s work. It means you have to stop
everything else, but I can see the payoff here. I thank you for walking me
through all this.

Emmett: It was a pleasure.

Andrew: Cool. Alright, thank you all for watching, bye.

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  • Tim Troppoli


  • Shaan Rafiq

    Man it would be so valuable if I could get a course cheat sheet or something with his 8 questions. I’m sure as hell they’d apply to market research for many businesses!

  • Anonymous

     I’m guilty of adding to their views stats haha. Great takeaways here about testing. Thanks Emmett, thanks Andrew!

  • Eric Ingram

    This is one of my favorite interviews. I couldn’t agree more with Emmett’s views on the CEO’s role in the product and customer development. I had the chance to sit down with Emmett for a YC office hours meeting and thought his feedback was spot on, and the founders listened.

  • Matt Medeiros

    One of the best interviews yet.

    A true insight to organic growth through asking users and solving their problems. On my second listen through now, might even do a 3rd through my run!