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Houseparty’s Ben Rubin and Sima Sistani: “An epidemic of loneliness”

Danny In The Valley podcast.

August 11

The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Ben Rubin and Sima Sistani, founders of video chat app Houseparty, to talk about trying and failing multiple times (3:00), why live streaming didn’t work (5:50), telling investors that their company was a bust - three months after raising $14m (8:50), focussing on the 99% (10:45), how Sima and Ben teamed up (14:15), building an alternative to “performative” social media (17:35), Sima’s background in banking (21:00), countering the loneliness epidemic (22:40), launching Houseparty (26:00), reengineering the app after it took off (29:30), raising $50m from Sequoia Capital (32:10), on everyone copying everyone in Silicon Valley (33:10), how Houseparty works (37:30), how both being immigrants influenced how they built the product (39:05), on not having a plan to make money (46:10), and their worst days of work (47:30).

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Hello and welcome to Danny in the Valley. Your weekly dispatch from behind the scenes and inside the minds of top people in Tech. Before we get to today's show, I would like to issue an apology. As you may have noticed, this is showing up in your feet a bit later than normally does each week. But I do have very good reason. I have a new son. He's all of two days old on Dhe. He arrived a bit earlier than we were expecting. An in very dramatic fashion. He's actually born in our hallway. There was a bit there where I thought I was gonna have to to deliver him myself, so it all ended up fine. He's great. My wife is great. Everybody is doing well,

but it's He's kind of thrown my my best laid plans up in the air as kids Ted to dio. But I have managed to carve out a few hours to go through the tape and get this out to you. So I hope you do enjoy it and thank you for your understanding. Now let's get to today's show. Yeah, technology. What is it all

1:1
Who is being impacted by the "loneliness epidemic" that society is currently facing?

Gen Zs and millennials, in particular, are struggling with this. According to research, feelings of loneliness surpassing the 50% mark began to surface in 2012-2013.



about? What we're seeing is now. I don't think it's too crazy to call it a loneliness epidemic. I think everybody sort of feels it. But particularly Gen. Z and Millennials are afflicted by it. And if you look at charts, you can kind of track it back to around 2012 2013. And that's when I phoned Sort of surpassed the 50%

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mark in America this week on the program we have Ben Rubin and Seema Sistani, who are the co founders of House Party. The group video chat app, that is, I'm told, quite popular amongst the youngsters and is a fair few oldsters as well. Obviously, I didn't do the interview this week for reasons I just explained, but I did. D'oh swung by their office a few weeks back, which is in San Francisco, and it's inside a converted garage. Gary JJ for my UK listeners, which, of course, is all very start up on the way they've set it up. Is it supposed to feel like somebody's house,

you know, reflecting the company's name, of course. So if you walk up the stairs, there's all these photos of various employees, you know, kind of embarrassing family photos including one of Seema. Really? Madam mentioned this when she was a beauty teenage beauty queen in Alabama. It's true story anyhow. House parties interesting for lots of reasons, not least because it's managing to grow in the shadow of Facebook. Snapchat, loads of other social media giants, basically been doing a lot of what they aren't. So making it.

It's the app super easy to use, not flooding it with ads promoting the idea of kind of tight circles of friends rather than follow accounts and lights and all the other malarkey that has all turned us into a dopamine frazzled zombies. So we talked about that. We talk about what's working on. Perhaps more importantly, we talk about what didn't because they both did several companies and startups to one before House party one in particular, which Reuben created was called Meerkat, which, for a brief, fleeting moment just a few years ago was a very big deal until it wasn't. But I will let Ben and seem to tell that story as well as loads of other stuff, like how being from immigrant backgrounds has helped shape the company. They're kind of circuitous routes to Silicon Valley And of course, we also cover story about a flying stapler. So stick around. I do think you'll dig it and yeah,

I think I'll stop talking now. So without further ado, here are Ben and Seema, starting with the meerkat story. Enjoy. So, life on air, which is the company, makes house partying. The mission is to bring people together in the most human way possible. Physically a part that was the mission for the entire six years off, existent off this company never changed through that wooded, serious off mobile. First Lifestream in products that try to get into this answer the 4th 1 that we did was fourth. The 4th 1 was American. Where were the 1st 3?

Ah, Yivo Air Sun which would never release them. Then with all going roll, they were all live streaming in their core. But they had different trying to do different use cases, Right? Also me is is an architecture school dropout trying to, like learn about what's a good product. Yeah, building. And by the time we got to meerkat, we had enough inside into what makes live video work and doesn't work that we could have the specific ideas about what is the use cases that gonna work? The major problem would like broadcast team is the people need the viewers and there was no direct route from you to your viewers, and the other useless was Twitter is the interest graph where people have multiple followers, so you can kind of find a simple way to go directly into your audience. So that was the premise.

Can we build a product that from the moment you down with it, there is one click and you go life to your audience? How can you do it? Eventually was took weeks because one click into signing with Twitter. But the 2nd 1 you could go live immediately to your audience. This is 2020 15 2015. So, besides, that first time that you need to do one extra click, we did everything in the background for you. So you anyone? If you're Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Fallon or Danny, you could do one click signing another clip. From now on, one click and you go live right,

which people find really appealing because the first time that they could, they could do something like that and immediately get the watchers, and you don't need to start building your graph again and right, But in your audience, because Twitter is Twitter, you can see how that had, like an avalanche off the right people seeing and and using it and finding value in it. Right, But also because we had that history of the tree products before, we kind of knew pretty fast. Three months after market was launched, we had, like, 10 million users, something like that. And we were able to know to see exactly that.

They use case oflife Sermon for the long tail for the for you. Me? C'mon, you know the people. It's not if you're not celebs, MediaNews. There's no real use case for the everyday, you said, or at least is not as interesting or are attentive. And we had to people because the celebs MediaNews would be owned by at that time. We knew Facebook is going to come, and Twitter is just launched. So we knew that they gonna have the solemnity in years. So if we are focused on the 99% or not, so let me Jen use right. They were defeated because they were going to focus on the people who are not celebs me down use We just get not gonna have enough retentive broadcasters.

So going back to your initial question, I meant see my sub by So So So did you actually launch Meerkat? It's out now. We launch like, two weeks. So you want to buy you into south by Southwest and all of a sudden, suddenly well, basically over Twitter just like calling us. And people were like offering places to stay and, like just one mere get to come there. So we were just having a moment. We're having a moment. We didn't plan to go there. And everyone from the team to the investor said, Ben, you have to go to sell by Every every person is using meerkat People are talking about America and south by So he said with the team and we decided to do this web for south by where you conceal the streets from south by right And was there one like poweruser initially or influencer?

That really kind of helped blow up It started from the tech community and then I start leaking and bleeding and slowly became, like this monster where, like you know. You see Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, and you're like, This is great. I've never seen anything like it. And so you saw this Seema from afar. Or how did you get in

8:7

touch? Well, um, I at the time wasn't when Ben and I met wasn't actually thinking about in terms of, like, joining the team. But what we were connecting over when we met at a party was this idea of, like, live video as a mechanism for connecting people and how important the medium could be to the future.

8:30

You were a tumbler at the time.

8:31

I was a tumbler at the time, and so we were bonding over that mission. And I was just enjoying, like, hearing his story and what he was about, which was not like, yes, celebrities and brands and meeting where they were all really embracing meerkat at that time. But when I was talking to Ben wanna one, it was more about, like, you know, we're trying to connect people, and that's what I really took away from it. And so later, when we were kind of connected more officially for me, you know,

I thought, Well, this could be very powerful because we're obviously very aligned on the mission of connecting people, and maybe it's not going to be meerkat. But I think that we bring different enough perspectives to it, that we could figure it out if it's not this thing,

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because it was already clear at that time that meerkat was not.

9:16

Yeah, it wasn't really. It wasn't retaining users and it wasn't delivering on the initial goal, which was making a daily habit for for all people, not just celebrity

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frost. It was very clear. And I know it's besides our board that was in the room when we did the presentation in October in August 2015. For us, it was very clear that live video is not going to leave as an independent product. August 2015 is when he made the presentation for House party. No, not for House buddy, for we need to people we need to pivot to something that is about the 99% or not so lives. So it was already clear that this wasn't gonna work, and you not only us, that any independent product that is doing my video is not gonna work, because by this point you would raise money, right? Not only raise money, it was. It was three months after we raised $14 million from great luck.

It was also after we did three other products and we knew that if you don't have the broadcaster attention, if you don't have the user generated content, if you don't have broadcaster attention, you're in the contents are and who create something that is appealing that everybody want to see. And then you're in the celebrity news. And then it's just a feature, A top of the platform. One of the biggest mistakes I think Twitter did is not launching Twitter life. That would have bean amazing for them. So you make this presentation. But it sounds like you just went and said, Um, yes, this isn't gonna work, but didn't offer an alternative that I imagine it must have been. We offer you the following framework.

We had an apart asses. If you build a super simple product, where if somebody can just click one button and go life and we remove all the hurdles, will that be enough to create a sustainable community that people could go live every day? We proved that I part asses was wrong because we had a simple product that does all these things. We had the entire community using it later, entire media, and we saw that their attention is not there. And we had enough time and enough enough skill to make that observation very early. And now there is two types of people. It's one you pivot out of courage. The other one, you people out of fear. Building out of courage is really fucking hard. Do you do it early? You know when you have money and you need to get everyone on the same boat and it's really hard to do.

And it's not be pulling out of fear is three months before you run out of money and you run into some stupid inspiration. Yes, this was one of those That is like, Hey, we're here for we're serious about our mission. This thing is not gonna work. And that was a time where everybody thought like Facebook live is going to make a periscope is gonna make here. It's not the case right now. When we were able to call it another one made a case to the board where we said we have two people and focus on the 99% cause. This is where the huge opportunity is, and we know that you cannot do it with the same modality that we used before because we were able to prove it. And it's hard to get your head out of your own ass and say, You know, it's not about that. It's about the work right there. But what is the world trying to do,

Try to connect people? And if you can't do that, it doesn't matter. If the hype is about live and Facebook live is going to dominate and they're doing paid people do to go live and taking over ads comm pending the entire thing. It doesn't matter if everybody is using periscope because you have the inside to say this is not gonna work in the longer what's funny as a news organization. For a while, we were told from on high that Okay, we gotta figure out how to use Facebook live. And there's all these incentives from Facebook to use it and all of that stuff. Where is it then? It died very quickly, and I think it's that premise that premise is coming from a genuine place in the hearts of the people and the audience and that they want to be close. They want to feel that human connection. They want to be present in a moment, what they want to what is actually being offered. These they too much of a gap.

It's It's not a surprise that Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon need a team of 40 people that working 24 7 to produce 40 minutes of content that is semi life like it's really hard to create engaging content. Now. You either fix it by creating a better content. I'm giving bed better tool, which is gonna be almost if you want to. If you want any person on the street to be as engaging in Jimmy Jimmy chemo like it's not, it's gonna be impossible to do. But you could go the other ride and focus on the proximity off the connection and say, Well, maybe Ben is doesn't want to watch Danny. We have no, you know, we just met, but it will want to talk to his brother. You will want to talkto like that's That's not boring for Ben.

Sorry, I'm not saying that you're born, but that's all right. That's all right. I don't take it personally, but you get what I'm saying. You just say our started. She's going to be to go to the other direction, right to focus on those 10 20 people that you would love to see every day. But you don't have the means to do it without making them feel uncomfortable. Like nobody's gonna create a Google calendar to his five best friends and say, Let's get shop today at 80 80 STV. Right? So how do you create a product like that? It makes it very light and cat makes it easy. And that was the peach to that today to the board.

But you didn't know what that exactly. We didn't know what that that came. Two months, two months after and said When did you join? Seem How long when? Where were you guys in this whole city? Did you know what you were getting into Because you had a job. But, Tumbler, I think you you had quite a good

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job. A tumbler? Yeah. No. Yeah. I mean, because I joined too. I I joined a month after South by so April 2015 and I joined with clear eyes, full hearts. Um, like we he been to his credit, like took out the analytics and showed me, You know, here's where we're at and here's what we're trying to solve I felt like there's enough runway here for for us to figure it out, and I believe in this mission. And and if it's not meerkat where you know we'll go to the mats and figure it out because you know, he had,

as he as you just described, done that before with Meerkat and and that was with the, you know, backs to the wall, running out of money. And so it was in a good place for us to do that. So, you know, when we took that presentation to the board in August, I was fully supportive and excited. And then we went. Two months later, toe Amsterdam with

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like the engineering team was around and the media community was was here, and during that brainstorm time, we did a couple of things. We did one a company retreat in Israel. So everybody floated to Israel kind of hunger for like a week together, trying to brainstorm about what's how. How we're taking, like, our new do you like team building things where you like, you know, jump fall backwards and make sure people can't remember it wouldn't do that with the end of that, Um, it actually felt like the team is built, you know, It was like buried like everybody was like, Okay, let's figure it out right after that.

I think every month we kind of met in Amsterdam because it's just one. There was no direct fights these around back then and absolutely is a cool place to meet. But if and we just, uh, flu, like the few managers from Israel and ask her, it's like five or six people every month to kind of brainstorm and right make tangible actions for the next month. I remember that fondly. I think it was like a cool, crazy, weird time. Right? And when you has made that presentation initially, how did the board react? Because I imagine if you were being kind of feet ID around like, you know,

this is meerkats. That's great thing. Jimmy Fallon's on it. It said around this, you guys have created something that really resonates Isn't it so great?

17:22

So the board definitely was. I would say at the time they were they were concerned and they started throwing around like, Well, you could focus on this part of it or you could monetize thes users. And but to their credit, let us go down. You know, this exploration. And when we came back two months later with the proof of concept which ended up being House party, they got it immediately because our conviction was stroke so strong in it, even even after a mere count had been in production. And I had to, like, force myself to go live to think of a reason There was so much pressure built into that. But with House party, not only was I using it constantly, but my was able to onboard my family into it immediately they understood it. They got it in a way that they never did with America. And we've all felt that right away. And I think that they could really sense our optimism.

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And so I mean, when one of things this week I'm actually having to write yet another piece on Instagram because the founders have just left it sitting and talking to social scientists around Instagram and, more broadly, social media of, you know, the presentation of a world that is quite manicured and not riel. Just wondering was that part of your thinking is to designing House party because obviously this is it's almost like, you know, like a telephone conversation or, you know, something that is not I'm gonna put this filter on and think about what I'm gonna say, This caption. And here I am World, even though it's not really

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that intent was built into it. I don't think without us really understanding it, because what I would say is when we were looking at why Merrick Out wasn't working, it was clear we kept saying, It's a theater, It's performance. Yeah, And then what?

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We're not Everybody's not very few people are performers.

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Exactly. Exactly. And so House party, that was the metaphors like, Look, I know we're going to try to build a house party where people feel comfortable where you're around a table playing a game where you're in and out of rooms organically, mostly with the people that you know, but sometimes meeting a new person like how can we How can we build that? And that, by its nature, is a less manicured, less polished environment, right, if you're not building something for performance and so inevitably that was curated into the product, but not intentionally, except for when one we put it out, People started saying,

like, put filters on it and do this and do that And like, you know, Ban was very clear about the fact that, you know, he didn't He wanted people to come as they are and to be, you know, in the moment with whoever that there with what you know, I woke up this

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way. You agree? It wasn't it wasn't like a counter culture is just like that. That's me saying, like, I do wanna see my friends and family and it just like so cumbersome and emotionally taxing to, like, set it up, you know? So how do you create an environment where it's the rules of the game? That it's just like casual in light and fun? How did you end up here in Silicon Valley? Ah, very, very superficial decision. Which means I had a company and I thought that you Really Yeah, I had a company for live video.

And I thought that Oh, Silicon Valley is where you go when you have a company. And that worked, you know, But it was very was not to sophisticate. Wasn't like a sophisticated know. I grew up a lot since then, like, you know, but I'm happy because, you know, I met. I met my wife. I mean, Silicon Valley has its pros and cons. Yes.

How long have you been here? Six years. And you guys met? He said a party in south myself and Tara's party on Entourage party. Yeah. Yes, there was trying. They were trying them moving. Ah, right, right, right. I know we've covered this before, but if you could just give a brief potted history of your background and how you got to hear

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Yeah, sure. Well, I mean, it was a securitised route that started in finance. So I was at Goldman Sachs, and I found myself, though at the time, very much drawn to the media landscape. It was around the time that Wendy was imploding. Time one, Arroyo well was happening. And I mean, that's the space that I enjoyed the most. And I mean I was on the trading floor. But talking to the media analyst was what was getting me excited reading the Hollywood Reporter reading Variety was more interesting to me than reading the Wall Street Journal. So I figured I should go see what that world was about. And I ended up moving toe L A working at Creative Artists Agency

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because of the kind of agency

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right still is. I can't think, uh, and, uh, yeah, I know. And it was great. It was like basically getting a an MBA in in media and entertainment. But what I really came to sort of realize there was that what I was interested in was content. And I felt like the future of content consumption was gonna be defined by technologists and not Hollywood. I don't think I really understood what that meant, but that's where my path eventually led me to start ups and then Yahoo and Tumbler and then finally, back here. It's always been sort of with this idea of like, my educational background is in sociology, so I just I find the social constructs in which we communicate very interesting,

and it's now manifesting here and a really interesting time. What we're seeing is now. I don't think it's too crazy to call it a loneliness epidemic. I think everybody sort of feels it. But particularly Gen Z and millennials are afflicted by it. And if you look at charts, you can kind of track it back to around 2012 2013. And that's when I phoned. Sort of surpassed the 50% mark in America, and you see that kids started dating less, that they go out less, but that at the exact same time, they're more likely to agree with the sentiment that they feel lonely or anxious or left out. It's not that I'm saying technology or social media is to blame, but it is part of it. You know, people came to these platforms in these networks for the promise of connecting with people that care about, and they have since morphed and become other kinds of things which are also useful. But they're not delivering on that initial promise, and I still think that's why most people go to those platforms and if

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we certainly want to Facebook for I was living in London at the time and it was just like I could kind of be a void. You're on Cem, Cem, friends, lives and also some increasingly kind of more distant people or people actually don't really care about but befriended me. And I said, Okay, but it was just kind of a way to see what other people were doing, and then you, as you say, it's kind of it morphed into something very different your insecurities, because that's what will get you more hooked. Yeah, and then things that you admire. And that's how you build an addictive feed. You show people things that validate who they are and more things that they aspired to be. And that's it.

And when you when you do that, when part of my way, too, and reinforce the positive reward that you get every time you open the product would be to show you more thing between force, you is who you are, which sounds wonderful, but it leads to a silo defect. Your feed that Onley surrounds you with things that make you feel better and not showing you things that confront you or make you feel uncomfortable. If I have certain views about certain things and I am your user, you better show me things that kind of reinforce it, then, yeah, things that make me question those things because not everybody has either that economic laser to have a critical mind because some people work just a lot and just chill out in the end of the day. So there's an economic component off. Do you have enough time in the day to have critical thinking to start to just digest what's going on to open your mind to this? It's a deeper conversation about how middle classes collapsed in the Western world.

But because of that, people have less time in the day and they're worried about other things more so. They need a place to risk two year to decompress. And if that place that they re camp, Facebook is the place or any feeds is the place that they compress for them to continue to decompress, there needs to be some positive feedback loop, And that positive feedback loop, unfortunately, is based on showing you things that reassure what you already believe in and doesn't you know what you're thinking and so back to like it yet? Well, no, I don't believe this could be a whole other podcast. Yeah, but back to your house party. So you guys went away, came up with the initial app.

We came out with the P e O. C. And then a took another three months to get something that we can put out as a beta eso around February and the February March 2016. We had a bait out. And then that's where Seema Seema cannot turned her team Thio product marketing It Oration machine where every week they went to a different college show date oration off the product. We did some changes and then went to another, another school in another school. This we did it for six months. For six months between 2 to 3 times a month, we went to a different school somewhere around that seems like a very low tech approach in a way just like kind of going to school. And I think that the problem with with high tech or social network the wait was prescribed or portrayed in the social network movie is everybody things that they could be the genius in the ivory tower and just kind of prescribed whatever they want and just go with it through the users and think that you know things will just take off and they're gonna make billions in Shabbat Shalom and and that's not the truth. Because, yes, you need to have the right instincts, and it's really hard to find people with the right instincts. But you also need to be humble enough to let users and feedback into that process,

especially if you want to create something that is better and it's meets the thing. You have to have this dialogue with the people whose ultimate gonna use. I'm strong believer in this, that I think a lot of people because because ego is a very expensive thing. A lot of people rather keep, keep keep until they push it out, because the more they keep, they don't have that. They don't have the grade, you know off because it it is. So it's kind of a comfort zone. I have friends who are working on the start start up for 18 months. No, not start up script. Yep, screenplays,

et cetera. Oh, this and that's again. That's a really difficult process, because often yes, dull work on it for months or years and then release it and then it's by the time it's out in the world. There's so much blood, sweat and tears into it. Yes, really heart. Maybe it's not timely at that moment, right? Something's It's important to have the right timing and it's harder to change. It's hard to change and it's I just feel like as a creator of anything you need to identify. And what are the keys that what is the key statement we're saying here does the draft you have is saying it and then just every time, a little bit more people into that process agency is my statement is carried to you.

Do you see what I see? What do you see? Because if it depends, you know, it's like the art that you're describing is about the crowd and the audience. They're so it's important to bring in some Art is very self centric because it's dominated by mail, which is different problem. But, um um but because itself centric, it's it could be in somebody's warehouse for like, eight years and then come out in their big thing for reason May be that are not usually doesn't happen that way. Yeah, exactly. And so you guys Iterated, iterated kind of tweaked it. And then when did you actually officially release it? September 2016 End of September, 2016. So almost exactly two years ago? Yes,

30:16

at the same time. Also, What was happening was then we also decided to move our headquarters here in the midst of this process, which, by the way, like in May of that year, we went up to like number one in the in the APP store, and suddenly there was all this attention on

30:33

it, man, before you've been

30:35

launched before we even launched it. But so what? That revealed for us, though, was weak because it was still the proof of concept. We built it on very shaky foundation. Right? So we had to rehire an entire new team here and re architect the the entire AP will support our growth. Right? Wow. As we were coming out,

30:59

I meet a lot of companies, certainly who have kind of engineering teams overseas just because it for cost so much more efficient. But that obviously, Yeah, if you're doing a sax product that has a streamline, you know, streamline waterfall kind of process where actually the cells. People are the one who's the determining the success of the product or the own boarding off the clients. And then you get the feedback. And then you think you can afford having a team out in product creation, especially consumer consumer product like you have to be able to sit together and have this conversation. And hopefully you hard you hired creative people who can show you all the blinds points that

31:44

right? Actually, we just came from what we call recess, which is our work retreat. And it's amazing to see, like, how many of the engineers are ops, people, the market, they all they all are invested in and curious about the product and its mission and like that was a big part of the feedback was, we want to be even more involved. These air. These are all people who are multi, multi talented and who were coming thio a start up because they want to have, you know, an impact on the on the end product, not be just part of a cog in the wheel.

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I'm so jealous because as a correspondent, I'm out here and I just kind of toil away by myself. But, I mean, all these companies have great retreats.

32:28

No. Yeah, we did have a great

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retreat. So you guys were like, Calistoga right into a peace next year on what is retreat. You can do a deep thing. You could teach a deep take to that, but it was really very streets and go to, like, five core retreats and talk about it. So I just have a calm, you know, the meditation app? Yep. I saw you at a podcast. Yeah, they just did a retreat in Hawaii. Boom. You see,

I'm sure they would sponsor, like, facilitate you. I'm there for them. I like that idea. So you guys launched in September, and then when did you raise the big round from Sequoia will launch? Basically, I used her launch it for us because it just started growing after, As you know, babies just started growing. And then, um, the velocity became stronger. We had a 1,000,000 users by the end of that year and and secure I invested in December of that year. Got you so little bit less than two years ago,

right? And I read that you guys have no had more than 20 million downloads. Is that the latest? That was the latest number that is public, he says with a sneaky smile. Its users. So that was what I was gonna ask is you know, the famous line about Snapchat is that basically it's Mark Zuckerberg's outsourced RND arm. How do you create? How do you create something when you have, you know, these huge platforms that just when they see an idea, Well, I like that. I'm just going to do exactly the same thing and then put it out there with my 1,000,000,000 or two billion users and then they, you know,

crushed the little guy I think you have. You have to deal with that fact. You have to deal with that because, honestly, if we're big enough and somebody's doing something called Presence, I'm going to try to learn out of it. I'm gonna be as long as they put it out there. It's long. Is it not an information I'm getting unethically. They put it out there in the world. There's nothing wrong with being inspired by it. There's nothing wrong with taking a key element out of it and incorporated into the product. I think that there is a way to do it with dignity and like playing fair. And there's Wade not playing fair. We're all inspired by anything you read something that's style of writing or somebody else or an angle perspective you get inspired by like Instagram, for example,

just did just copied effectively the exact same thing of stamps. I think that there's some things that happen when you are the winning horse in the mind. Share off the people that puts your ego kinda in the front seat. And what you don't see is why it's working here. I think that then you created as a utility or you just slap a video chat on top of it. What's interesting is that we never when messenger launched group video chat, which was when and order a dozen 16. In my opinion, yeah, when Snapchat launch group video chant which was this year, this best year six months ago, when WhatsApp or Instagram launch, we don't see even a slight dip in your sage, and I really think we will see and we believe that we will see we're bracing for Brace yourself and I think that the court thing is what we're saying, people are not going to initiate a call to six people doesn't matter if it's on Instagram or if it's in blue bottle coffee. It doesn't matter.

They're not going to do it. That's the whole reason we invented House party because it's much light. The concept of presence in house buddy who is there, you know, you don't need to initiate any clinical. Nobody's getting a phone call. Nobody is being like you need to be here right now. You don't deal with the Miss Cole. I need to go back all of this thing. The entire product foundation is built around this concept That is a light, weight, casual way to catch up with your friends. And it's not about somebody who's putting himself out there and say like, please answer to me right now, all six of you, right? And I think that this is where those nuances disappear When somebody said like, Oh, this is working, just slapping here

36:47

Yeah, and I just to add to that is that going back to the social norms and the implications from a societal standpoint, like the reason our app can allow for this is people on average only, friend. About 21 people. Right? So when you open the app you are fine to be present right in that moment and let any of those people hop in with you because it's people like you would allow to have a key. Oh, yeah, You can't do that on on the other networks. And that's fine because you have a different use case for those other networks. But when you were, when you have that predefined group of people that you trust to open the app first thing in the morning when you still are, you know, have that funny morning voice hooker You know, at night before you go to bed and you know you've got your zit cream on or whatever like those are the people you that you trust and you're willing to be present with. And that's that's a key differentiator of our product.

That and the other one, which is like you could just join a conversation. I keep seeing this on social media and people talking about House party, and they're like, Oh, you know, well, I can't join a facetime and House party if you and I are talking Danny and Ben is not our friend, but he's friends with me and he sees us talking. He could just join us.

38:10

I think maybe that's a good time to explain how House Party works. Sure go for you. I just saw all this conversation make falls into so hospital. He basically, when you opening, your friends get a silent push Notification that says Ben is in the house and, uh, decide the product works like everybody is okay with that fact. And that's why people have small number of friends. Now it's permissive. That means that the moment we're friends, I ask you for friendship. You agreed to it, and you get Ben is in the house. You swipe in and you see me as join a ball and you can click joint and join me. In that moment, our mutual friends will get an updated notification that says,

Ben and Danny are in the house and they can swipe in and income. And when the moment they open, they see who is online, who's talking to who and they can just join unless somebody explicitly locked the room, which is not the default. The default is that the rooms are always hoping, right? Yes. So that's basically the mechanics of how house parties working and why it's different than initiating a call a group, right?

39:15

And then you can have upto eight people in a room. But you can have infinite number of rooms going, which is important because when I open the app for shore without a doubt, my mom joins all the time. But it's fine because she'll join in a different room and see that I'm already there talking Thio, Kirsten or Catherine. And then it's created its own norms right where she now will hold and wait and see if I wave her into the room or not, or at night, you know, if I'm in a room with you know, my kids are talking to grand parents. Often, somebody from work will crash, crash the party,

39:52

one of things that that just occurred to me as you guys were talking. So he's from Israel, your first generation immigrant from Iran. Do your backgrounds have anything to do with the way you guys have conceived this? Because we talked about earlier? Just there's, ah, a lot of backlash and a lot of thought around Well, all of these products are just being released by these companies that are mostly white dudes. And they do this without really thinking about how this is gonna be used out in the wider world. First of all, I think that everyone's background effects what they create, regardless. So, obviously, without a doubt, even if I think or not,

there's there's an inherent effect. I, uh, went to architecture school, and I spent great like I really enjoyed for three years before I dropped out to do the work on this mission. The reason I joined because I thought that there is something or I started our collections. There's something really unique of beaded spaces for people to encounter each other and new opportunities for people to meet or or seeds or enjoy a space together. And a lot of my work is a student. It was focused on the movement exes and how people see each other, and where do they encounter? And And I thought the moment I had this, like epiphany that with technology, I might be able to do it in a larger scale. I just went for it because it just felt very right for me and like this, not architecture doing not of cool buildings. But how can you really do change in a large scale?

In this sense, house Pretty is one of the biggest buildings in the world. Right? People go there and meet each other and talk to each other. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands, concurrent, you know, which is a lot for building. But But it's like so I think that's more on the conscious side of my background in ah, the non conscious side of my background. I think there was moments in my childhood where I felt very alone. That probably also pushed me to try to do that with architecture and then try that, you know? Yeah. And as for the immigrant,

I enjoy being profiled. There's a white man and I look like a white man, so I mean, I enjoy it, but it is also I get to counter culture and understand. I think there's something very warm, the sense of community in Israel. It has a lot of other weird stuff that we're not going to go into this. But one of the prose is that it's very warm, and it's very about doing things together and bring and mutual vouch like you vouch for each other, just like immediately. And And maybe that's something that that does for person, you know? Also me the least,

42:42

right. I think that that's very true, that there is something that's very built into Middle Eastern culture and community and that also, as a first generation, I think I also saw how important that community waas as in sort of the outsider, particularly growing up in Alabama. But I would also say, as a woman and as a mother, you know, there have been times that that perspective definitely colored what we were doing from a product perspective, you know, like we from the from the outset prioritized trust in safety, even at the expense of growth were small team. We could only make certain, you know, we could only do certain features at certain times, and we we would consciously make decisions to do things around trust and safety, to build in policies around that, to prioritize the community. I think that that is uniquely, I would contribute that thio my background and thinking about it in terms of my kids using

43:39

the planet right, because also. I mean, all nine. Bowling is obviously a big issue, but I imagine maybe it's less so because you're not anonymous on House party. You're not supposed to be anonymous and house, but we don't have product features. That there makes it okay for you to be anonymous were full name. We have your birthday. We ask your culture in America sometimes. And capitalism, modern companies in general is could be very much about Where are you going? Back to what you're talking about the feed, right? And see me. Just where are you In the timeline of your career of your life?

Where you going to be those questions? Because where you gonna be in five years, where you're gonna be in two years? The first question. I want to be here after your names. I want to be busy. Yeah, I want to be present. Yeah, I hate this question. Somebody if you want to be on, if you want me to spend his little much energy on you when I meet you for the first time, don't ask me. What do I do That immediate tells me that there's some angle here, but there's something about What do you do? Where you're gonna be in five years?

Where are you compared to every Ivy league? Like all of those not being able to be happy with what you do, where you're now, the people that surround you right now enjoy that moment. Enjoy your creation like try to understand how you progress, but not in other people's kind of structure, but in your own. What is your progression means to you? And there's something that in cultures like Japanese culture, Middle Eastern culture, some depends where the area in India. But in Sama, in Danish culture, you know, we talk about Netherland. That is more about be proud about what you're doing and do that to the to the best of your ability,

whatever It may be happy with that. I think that when you when you act like this, when you say I'm gonna dish, do what I think is best for what I believe I want to do not how other people view me. Then you could make decisions like, you know what? Live video is a hot thing that you guys gonna think is going to explode. But that's not gonna work. And for the mission of what I want to do. We need to people it, you know, And you can only do that when you remove yourself a little bit from the hype and from that ladder than other people put you, which is quite difficult here. It's very difficult here, and you need to argue and put everyone you know, it's very difficult here because people are just like was about America America dead.

You know, I have a long list of investors that never like, fucking write me off, you know, three months after and that's fine, like you don't take it personally, but I wonder how many people do take it personally and like, didn't do what they wanted to do because they were afraid to be looked at, to be looked not progressing. Yeah, at whatever virtual we have a timeline of everybody else. Yes, and I think that mindset also what's pushes Facebook and Twitter to be where they are when it's about your user growth user road. You have to let people know every three months how much you're growing. Yeah, which we're not.

Yeah, so And on this last question, then which is Germaine to the point you just made. How do you guys plan to make money from this? I don't have any good answers. And I'm We were very No, I don't, uh, but I'm very I'm very. We're very lucky to raise enough money that we don't even need to think about it for the next year. This is this. Basically, we don't know. We don't know how to make money here. This is not a real business. Is a narc project.

No, but honestly, I I don't know. It's something I tell to my board of my investors. It's like we have a few more things to get to get ahead before we get to this. So you know, there's a few of the things you want to achieve or get to enough that's in terms of user numbers, or it's not about so We don't measure exactly news, and I'm like, Obviously it's important that they're not losing users, and obviously it's important that you're like things are growing. We don't force yourself into, like, what pace exactly. But it's important for me to know that people not only having a good time on house buddy, but it's becoming a meaningful habit of theirs on more than once a week basis.

And I think we're not quite there yet, right. And I think that once once we get there, it's It's easier to start thinking about other things that are Jason, right? But I asked, Seem to this last time and I said it was my last question, but was your worst day of work? Uh, there's multiple of them. Can I get you the one? I mean, I fuck up a lot and this is my worst days. Um, seems was great. And we can go over that if you want or we can not if you don't want to.

But I think that there is something I don't I don't know. I don't have a specific worst day because I try to take things like, you know, we're not curing cancer here, So what we do is really for you after you fixed like education food which we didn't but education, food, and, like people have the ability to have free time and have enough money for smartphone and beyond. After you have that which is maybe 20% of the world, and they have water and other things, which then you start thinking about, OK, what do we do with our free time and how do we make it meaningful? So we're like, really the creme de la creme, so I don't take it super.

You know, some people say, like, I don't sleep enough. I sleep great. You know, I don't think it's super serious because we are. I'm serious about the mission, but I don't take that. The work is it's about what happened to the fortunate when you look at the at the world as a whole. So I don't have many words day, but I think the when they are it's mainly about how I treat people in the company and retreat my partner like sometimes we also have arguments, and sometimes I can be very mean. And I think that when I think about what is a bad days, where I make somebody feel something that I didn't mean that they will write, You've never had a Dodger staple. Sorry.

50:2

Well, I told him about getting a stapler throwing up my head at C. A. A.

50:9

That's

50:10

good. I never seen him throw anything, although I thought about that question more and I realized that my worst day at work was September 11th.

50:19

Because that was were you a gold was in Chicago

50:23

in the Sears Tower, right? Yeah, I'm we cause it was a trading floor. You could hear everything happening in New York cause it's broadcast out loud.

50:31

Oh, God. Well, we're still making, like, bids. No. Yeah,

50:41

but it comes back to something that, you know, It's like we spend We spent ah last two days a retreat, talking about our vulnerabilities and humanity and bringing and being present with each other and the people that we work with. And so that's why, you know, a bad days as Ben just said and as I just said, had something to do with when you were experiencing something for found as it has to do with other humans, right? Yeah. Yeah. For better

51:12

or for worse. This is a small stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you, Danny. And and that is all the time. We have only think Ben and Seema for taking the time to chat. I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did. It was just found their perspective, especially kind of coming from not from these shores or their families, not from these shores are just They're kind of approach to do it to. It is a bit different. I think it's really interesting and perhaps one of the reasons why they're having the success that they are. Hope you dug it.

And if you did take a moment Good Apple podcast, give a rating in review. I know I say this every week, but it really does help helps other people find the show. So please take a second to do that. I will not be writing this week or next some on paternity, but I will be back after that. And don't worry, there'll be another show coming next week because that's what I do for you guys. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments, whatever. You can email me at Danny dot forts in at Sunday hyphen times that co dot UK or find me on Twitter at Danny Forts in until next week.

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