Interview with Hideki Kishioka and Aaron Novak, Stickam

Our interview today is with Hideki Kishioka and Aaron Novak, of the Web 2.0, social networking web site Stickam ( Hideki is CEO of AVC, the company that operates StickAm, and Aaron is the production manager there and one of the major creative forces behind the site. Despite a huge number of startups in the social networking and video sharing space--not to mention MySpace and YouTube--we thought it would be interesting to talk to the firm both because it is focusing in on live webcams, and also because it is funded by a Japanese firm in the corporate video conferencing space. Ben Kuo spoke with Hideki and Aaron about the site.

What is Stickam, and how does it fit into the world of social networking?

Aaron Novak: We're sort of a combination of MySpace and YouTube. We provide social networking on a Flash-based media site. What sets us apart from them, and other sites, is that we emphasize live content--people live on their webcams. It's like a YouTube for webcams or MySpace for webcams.

Why get into the area of Web 2.0, social networking--this seems to be a really crowded space?

Hideki Kishioka: It happened to become Web 2.0. We didn't intend for it to become a Web 2.0 / social network. What the company is focused on is live video feeds. Along with creating this, we came up with a web widget that could play on a social networking site, blog, or home page. So you could set up your own live feed from home, or from the office, or from outside. The need for the site came from our users. They wanted to talk to other users, even if they didn't have a blog or a MySpace account. That's how we ended up in social networking.

Where'd the idea come from?

Aaron Novak: More and more now, people have webcams. Everyone is doing social networking and video, and there are lots of social networking/video sites popping up. What we're trying to do is to find the next thing, and are hoping that it will be live content and webcams. If you look at webcams, it is sort of a trendsetter in technology. More and more companies are including webcams in their systems, and it's more of a daily thing. Right now, people aren't quite used to the idea, but we think people will start getting use to that in 2007. We're a site to give you something to do with your webcam--sort of like instant messaging.

Tell us a little bit more about the relationship of AVC and the Stickam service?

Aaron Novak: Stickam launched in February of 2005. The parent company is Advanced Video Communications, a Japanese company. Stickam has been privately funded by the owner.

That's an interesting background for a Web 2.0 company, can you tell us a little bit about the Japanese connection and what Advanced Video Communications provides in Japan?

Hideki Kishioka: Most of our clients are from Japan, and what we provide is infrastructure --like video conferencing and chat--to Japanese companies. That's how we started, and that's how we make money. We decided that since we have this technology, and are unknown in the United States, a consumer-to-consumer site is a way of making ourselves known and famous in the United States.

How big is AVC?

Aaron Novak: We have 35 employees.

Tell me more about how you went from corporate video conferencing to social networking?

Aaron Novak: In the past, what we've done at AVC was business to business teleconferences in Japan. Because of the time difference, and because we had extra bandwidth and technology for this sort of thing, we decided to try to do a social networking site. We launched just as MySpace and YouTube started getting lots of attention. We wanted to do something different, and we are ahead in terms of the technology--no one else is doing this yet, including other chat sites and webcam sites. We're the only webcam site that offers the features we have without need to download a client, since we're Flash-based.

Who is the target market for Stickam?

Hideki Kishioka: Our target has been young teens -- early adopters, teenagers, and those in their early 20's. The second target is entertainers, musicians, and other creators.

With all of the sites in this space, how are you getting above the noise?

Aaron Novak: We're definitely gaining traction--we've seen recently that the top creators of content on YouTube, the top 100, are coming to our site, in addition to YouTube--to add a live component. They want to talk to their fans live.

If you don't mind me asking, how many users do you have?

Aaron Novak: I just got the latest numbers, currently we have about 263,000 users on the site.

Are you monetizing the site yet?

Aaron Novak: Right now we're just trying to gain members, and don't have advertising on the site. Plans haven't been made yet. Since we're within our first year--we're just about a year into it--we want to get members before monetizing. Also, because we're privately owned, we don't need to worry about investors and things like that, and aren't in any rush to monetize the site.

Thanks for the interview!


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