Live streams look nearly identical. A headset-clad video game player appears in the corner and gameplay dominates the rest of the screen. David Sturgeon and Constantine Tsang think the setup is ripe for disruption.
“Content creators on Twitch, Facebook and YouTube can often look like public access television. You’re literally looking at the same thing, and it’s low-quality production,” said Sturgeon.
With their startup Pivan Interactive, Tsang and Sturgeon use artificial intelligence to elevate the production quality of any live stream, turning streamers into pro broadcasters. Pivan’s software Uncanny.gg analyzes the gameplay and automatically adds instant replays, visual effects, and graphic overlays — and the live streamer doesn’t need to take any action. It’s analogous to sports broadcasts that add instant replays, score boxes, and graphics, features that viewers take for granted today.
In the first eight weeks of Pivan’s private, invite-only beta, the company grew its user base 700%, with continued exponential growth thereafter. It has launched and grown a thriving Discord community in the thousands, and supports streamers of all size from those just starting out to those with hundreds of concurrent viewers.
The potential audience for Pivan is massive. The global audience for gaming live streams is expected to surpass 700 million by the end of 2021.
“We have traffic that is not only exciting but exponentially exciting,” said Tsang. “This is the future of entertainment and we provide core infrastructure.”
Streamers long for better production value, but are already too busy playing video games, reading chat comments, and interacting with audiences.
“Asking a streamer to add effects is like asking Steph Curry to stop at midcourt and put an overlay on the TV broadcast before taking a shot,” said Sturgeon. “All streamers want a higher production level. They just don’t have the bandwidth to do it.”
Pivan doesn’t require any behavior change for the streamer.
“It’s kindergarten simple,” said Sturgeon. “They go to the website, decide which look they want for their stream, then copy and paste a URL into their broadcast software. Then, it just works.”
A Timely Pivot
It’s quite a pivot for Pivan. Previously, the company helped professional esports players train using artificial intelligence. Pivan analyzed gameplay in real time and delivered actionable advice for gamers. While participating in the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator powered by Techstars, the founders made connections with executives and players in the esports industry. While Pivan’s technology was incredibly helpful to players and teams, there was more upside potential in targeting live streamers instead.
“Our experience in LIFT Labs gave us the opportunity to meet with stakeholders in esports and gaming that we would never have had access to,” said Tsang. “That resulted in us identifying the opportunity we have now with the technology we had already developed.”
LIFT Labs also provided mentorship from executives and successful startup founders. They helped prepare the founders for the long startup journey ahead.
“I’m a huge advocate of mentorship and coaches inside startups. The best decision a startup founder can make is to find a great mentor,” said Sturgeon. “Techstars and LIFT Labs are the gold standard for mentorship. Our ability to access that network was really powerful.”
From Nice-to-Have to Core Infrastructure
Sturgeon and Tsang continue to expand their network and get their technology integrated with as many live streams as possible. In short order, they hope to become the standard core infrastructure.
“The instant replays and graphic elements we provide will become table stakes,” said Sturgeon. “It’s like when sports started displaying the score in the corner of the screen. There will be a time when people will expect to see higher production value on every live stream — and we’ll power it.”
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