Meerkat exploded onto the scene a few weeks ago, allowing users to broadcast live video using only a mobile phone and a Twitter account.

Within two weeks of launch, the app had grown past 100,000 users and was instantly being used by brands like Red Bull, publishers like American Idol, the Secretary of Commerce and Oscar-winner Jared Leto.

Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin was having a very "big moment." SXSW was just days away, his app was already igniting the social graph and he was a bonafide new media darling.

"It's humbling and we are a bit scared to be honest," Ben said when I caught up with him last week before SXSW, "We have a good thing going!"

Ben was right to be a little scared. Meerkat's rapid adoption woke a sleeping giant when Twitter usage spiked dramatically. Within 24 hours of our conversation,Is Meerkat a Potential Next Big Thing? Ask Twitter Twitter cut Meerkat's access. A devastating blow with SXSW moments away.

Ben is no stranger to the emotional roller coaster of entrepreneurship. He dropped out of architecture school to launch his first venture, a marketplace for art students in Israel. In 2012 he later launched Yevvo, Meerkat's predicesor, which didn't quite succeed at driving strong user engagement or sustained growth.

"People were using the product out of boredom not necessity," Ben said. "You have to call bull shit on yourself when something isn't working. Be honest about it and correct it."

This meant laying off team members then quickly working to experiment and validate new ideas. His team shrunk from 15 down to 11 and they set out to launch a new product every two weeks. Meerkat was one of six "experiments" they tested as a potential pivot for the company.

Steve Welch and David Bookspan are no strangers to "the pivot." They are the founding partners of venture accelerator DreamIt and have helped launch almost 200 companies (Adaptly, LevelUp, Biomeme, SeatGeek, Elevate to name only a few) including Yevvo, now Meerkat.

"The team knew instantly it was a winner. The numbers where extraordinary," said Welch. "Three days after launch, 20 percent of users were watching more than 2 hours a day. The consumer spoke and spoke loudly."

Twitter heard it too. Only a few days after reportedly dropping between $50 million and $100 million for live streaming app Periscope the social giant sent word that access to their graph would be off limits.

"They knew Twitter would likely pull the plug eventually. It was just a matter of when," said Bookspan. "But the train already left the station. Even after Twitter's decision, Meerkats user growth rate is still well into double digits."

TechCrunch called Meerkat "the livestreaming app Twitter should have built."

"Twitter sees the future, and they don't buy crap," said Ben. "They are an incredible platform, they have been very helpful, and we have nothing but respect for them."

Regardless of Twitters next move, Meerkats future seems bright and its adoption rate has solidified their place as the hottest, newest, coolest platform on the block. The simplicity and power of the application is undeniable, and its utility may have professional broadcasters thinking twice about their future.

"These guys have created a paradigm shift," said Welch. "Everyone attending the Super Bowl is now a potential broadcaster of the game. Anyone attending a political rally can now report live from the scene. Just imagine the impact on breaking news alone."

Ben and his small team at Meerkat still have a long way to go and likely many more battles to fight. But until then, they will keep trying to change the world, one Meerkater at a time.

"It's not what you build now. You have to focus on the long term vision." Ben told me when asked about his path forward. "VR and live streaming will be the future, and we want to help shape that."

Published on: Mar 18, 2015
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