DreamIt Ventures' Steve Welch: Meerkat wasn't an overnight success - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 27, 2015 10:53 am

DreamIt Ventures’ Steve Welch: Meerkat wasn’t an overnight success

DreamIt Ventures was an early investor in the company that eventually launched Meerkat, the new livestreaming app that's got the tech world buzzing. We talked to DreamIt cofounder Steve Welch about what you can learn from the app's recent success.

Left to right: Jodie Sweitzer, Karen Griffith Gryga and Steve Welch of DreamIt Ventures in the accelerator's University City HQ.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Everyone’s talking about Meerkat, the new livestreaming app that went viral during SXSW.*

But Steve Welch has been using a livestreaming app — an earlier iteration of Meerkat called Yevvo — for years. When the DreamIt Ventures cofounder would travel for work, his wife would use Yevvo to livestream his daughter’s soccer games. One time, Welch was tuning in to a game during a conference (he declined to name the conference in question) and was surprised when parent after parent approached him afterward.

“Every parent was like, ‘That is incredible,'” he said. “They all wanted to see the product and use the product. You could see [Yevvo] was on to something.”

Yevvo was part of the first DreamIt Ventures Austin class in 2013, making Philly-based DreamIt one of the earliest investors in what’s become the mobile app du jour. (However, the Twitter-backed Periscope, which rolled out yesterday, is aiming to steal Meerkat’s thunder. More on that in a bit.)

DreamIt takes 6 percent equity in exchange for a $25,000 investment and mentoring. The firm also participated in Meerkat’s recent $12 million Series B. Also: Might the Meerkat buzz help DreamIt as it fundraises for a fund to invest in its portfolio companies? DreamIt’s Karen Griffith Gryga declined to answer or comment on the fundraising, citing SEC rules.

Watch Yevvo’s DreamIt Austin demo below:

Amid all the chatter, here’s what’s important to understand, Welch said: Meerkat wasn’t an overnight success.

“It’s been a long slog and they figured it out,” he said during a interview that he livestreamed on Meerkat Wednesday morning at DreamIt’s University City headquarters. (Welch used a little tripod to prop his phone up. At its peak, the livestream had 28 followers.)

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The company, which hailed from Israel, launched Yevvo in 2013 and though it had users — about 400,000, Welch said — it couldn’t get enough traction. They iterated and launched a similar app called Air six months ago. That didn’t take off, either. But Meerkat did.

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(Screenshot)

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(Screenshot)

One big difference between Yevvo and Meerkat, Welch said, was the technical power. Meerkat is “rock solid, with no interruptions,” he said.

That’s one major takeaway from Meerkat’s success: iterate, iterate, iterate. That was the company’s strong suit, Welch said. Get a product to market, get feedback, adjust.

The other big news surrounding Meerkat is Twitter’s purchase of competitor Periscope, which orchestrated a buzzy launch on ProductHunt yesterday.

As an investor, is Welch worried?

He said he’s not. Competition in a big market, like livestreaming, is natural and expected, he said. Plus, in this story, he sees Meerkat as the David to Twitter’s Goliath.

“History has shown that the little guy does very well even when the big guys decide they’re going to get in the market,” he said.

*It was DreamIt Ventures’ biggest year yet at South by Southwest, Welch said. Aside from Meerkat’s explosion, DreamIt Health’s BioBots won Most Innovative at the SXSW Accelerator and NarrativeDx was a finalist in a pediatric health competition judged by Mark Cuban and others.

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