Even if you don’t travel in gaming circles, you may recall Amazon’s high-profile acquisition of video game live streaming service Twitch.tv for nearly a billion dollars back in 2014. What you probably don’t know is that the company’s audience has continued to grow since then, and now has over 155 million monthly viewers spending an average of over 12 hours watching user-generated video game streams every week.
YouTube has also jumped on the bandwagon with its YouTube Gaming service, along with smaller players like Hitbox and Azubu.
But the barrier of entry for the gamers who operate streams on Twitch and competing services can be high. For one, setting up a professional-looking stream can entail a lot of sophisticated configuration of third-party software. Moreover, since many newer games already take a serious toll on your computer’s resources, simultaneously running additional video streaming software may necessitate expensive hardware upgrades.
Lightstream— a Techstars Chicago 2015 graduate and one of our startups to watch — is looking to change that with its easy-to-use, cloud-powered broadcasting studio. In closed beta since last year, the company recently raised $1.8 million and will be opening up its beta to the public next month.
In addition to scaling up and improving their existing platform, the Infiniscene team is also working on applications that would allow users to stream from Xbox One and Playstation 4 without having to buy additional hardware. Once live — possibly as soon as at the end of this year — these applications will make sophisticated streams available for huge new segments of the gamer population.
By basing its service in the cloud, Infiniscene also gives gamers easy access to advanced features like multi-person streams and an option to control streams from a mobile device. Earlier this month at the D.I.C.E. Summit — an annual who’s who in the video game industry — founder Stu Grubbs demonstrated his company’s multiplayer stream feature to Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime.
“His eyes lit up, so it was pretty exciting,” said Grubbs. “A big moment for me.”
Infiniscene got started back in 2014, when one of Grubbs’ co-founders, Aaron Hassell, called him with the idea for a web-based application for controlling broadcast software. After spending some time hashing out ways to make existing software more user-friendly, they came to the conclusion that current software solutions were so broken that it’d be better to just start from scratch. They decided to build a new, browser-based broadcasting studio.
“One of my other co-founders, Dan, said ‘Great! I’ll have the first minimum viable product ready in three months,’” said Grubbs. “So nine months later, he called me and let me know it was working.”
While waiting for the prototype to come together, Grubbs, who at the time was Infiniscene’s only full-time employee, ran out of money and couldn’t pay his rent. Fortunately, Grubbs’ landlord, a video production house owner in Chicago, let him live rent-free for two months while the team finished up the MVP.
Almost immediately after getting its product together, Infiniscene was accepted into Techstars Chicago.
“I can’t say enough about the program and what they did for us,” said Grubbs. “It’s been a crazy year. In 12 months, we went from almost losing the house to 11 employees, and these are some of the smartest people I’ve worked with from around the industry.”
Grubbs attributes much of the company’s success to its Midwestern work ethic, and the team’s passion for what they do. At Techstars, he said they got a reputation for coming in first and leaving last every day — including weekends.
Infiniscene’s investors include MK Capital, MATH Ventures, Pritzker Group, video game industry veteran Sundance DiGiovanni, Mike Gamson and other notable angel investors from around the Midwest.