Q&A: Periscope CEO Dishes on What Brands Can Expect With Livestreaming in 2016

Is a Periscope camera coming soon?

When Periscope launched to much buzz last March, the Twitter-owned app cemented 2015 as the year of livestreaming for digital marketers. Now boasting more than 10 million users watching 40 years' worth of video every day, and faced with growing competition from Facebook, YouTube and Meerkat, Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour is ready to turn his company into a bigger media and marketing platform in 2016. He spoke with Adweek about new features for marketers, how livestreaming will plug into new gadgets and technology, and Periscope's unique influence on this year's presidential election.

Adweek: Have you been surprised by Periscope's quick growth?
Kavyon Beykpour: Obviously, we hoped Periscope would resonate with people. At the end of the day, you kind of have blinders on because you're using this thing yourself with a bunch of other people that are emotionally invested in you because they're friends or family. That gives you some sense of whether you built something useful. But we needed to know whether someone halfway around the world would get value out of using this—and that we didn't know. In that sense, we were blown away by how quickly it grew and how many people used it.

What role do you foresee playing in this year's presidential race?
Historically, we've all interacted with political candidates in a very similar way. We see them on TV, we read about them in the papers, we get these very crafted experiences that have been used for decades. What's unique [about Periscope] is that you can engage with these folks in some real way on the car ride to their next event, or behind the scenes at their office as their staff is furiously preparing for the next debate. It's one thing to see Donald Trump live on TV—it's different to see him getting ready in the morning.

At CES, everyone's going to be talking about hardware and gadgets. Where do you see Periscope playing in those devices?
We're interested in what it would be like to leverage other Internet sources, whether that's a connection to a camera or [another device]. The flip side of that is you have to be super selective. There's a ton of devices out there to integrate with. We're not dogmatic about Periscope to be just on your iPhone and Android.

What would Periscope look like in another device?
If you're talking about cameras, you could get the camera input from those other gadgets and feed them into a Periscope experience. That's where the rubber meets the road. You look at other devices that have cameras and you're like, "All right. How could we possibly marry this to Periscope? How would it be useful?" That's the process that if you were working at Periscope, we'd go down and talk about all the different gadgets and figure out what would actually make for a compelling experience.

What are your growth expectations for Periscope in 2016?
We're still at a point where we care about building a tool and a product that people love to use. What additional functionality do we think would create a satisfying experience for broadcasters [or] viewers? How do they want to discover any content on Periscope? How do they want to explore the world? How do they want to comment with their friends versus strangers? We think that as long as we do [all] that well, the product will grow because people want to communicate, people want to be entertained. If we're doing our jobs well, they can do all of that on Periscope and will want to share all of that with their friends and the rest of the world.

What new advertising opportunities will brands have this year?
We've seen plenty of brands put a lot of creative effort and money into producing compelling content in Periscope that for them may serve as advertising. For example, BMW literally launched a car on Periscope. They had this beautifully well-lit studio where they had this new car that one of the product managers walked around and gave a tour of. That's work that BMW put into producing that content themselves, and it wasn't sponsored in any way on Periscope. That's our focus right now: creating a compelling product that people love to use. What we're not going to do anytime soon is add any sort of formal advertising or monetization within the platform. We haven't even had our first birthday yet.

But do you work with brands like BMW to help create content?
This is one of the fortunate things about being part of Twitter. The brand itself has spread far enough that a lot of folks hear about Periscope themselves and they want to naturally experiment. In some cases, we do have relationships with these companies. Twitter does a lot of work with some of them and so that gives us a natural outlet to share best practices that we've seen work really well for brands.

How would you describe the Twitter-Periscope relationship so far?
It's like a match made in heaven in the sense that we really get to operate like our own startup. If you were to walk into our office today, you're walking into the Periscope office, not the Twitter office. It's a small, rowdy office with dogs running around. We all sit together and eat lunch and dinner at the same table—it feels like a startup. We [have about] 28 people. It's a small, motley crew. But you combine that with the power and the support of a larger organization like Twitter and it's perfect for us because our visions are aligned. There's a lot that we're trying to do on our road map that comes down to really sophisticated technology that we otherwise would need to spend many months or years learning, acquiring, building, hiring for that Twitter just has.

What features do you plan to launch this year?
Discovery is really important for us. There's a lot that we can do to let you explore the world in real time easier. For example, one of the really exciting things that we launched is the map. You open up the app and you can zoom into a city and see what's live in that city. When the tragic events in Paris happened, the first thing I did was just zoom into Paris, and you saw hundreds if not thousands of broadcasts from all around the city. The other thing that we're really excited about is more strategic integration with Twitter.

Livestreaming took off in 2015, and now you're seeing big companies like Facebook make a bigger push into the space. How is Periscope going to differentiate itself?
We tend to not get distracted by other people entering the space because we know that it's going to happen. The best thing we can do is stay true to our vision and build an experience that we think moves the needle forward.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 4 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.