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Justin Kan is a serial entrepreneur and investor who famously cofounded Justin.tv and Twitch.tv, the latter of which he sold to Amazon for a sum close to a $1B. He is also a partner at Y Combinator. In this interview, I tried to pick his brain and learn more about him.
Hey Justin, it’s an honor to have you on FutureSharks. Let’s talk about the beginning, what experiences growing up shaped you into the entrepreneur that you are today?
I grew up with my mother being an entrepreneur. My brothers and I used to go help her and my father do projects. I learned the value of hard work at a young age.
Who were your biggest influences?
My parents growing up and Paul Graham when it comes to startups. Always surround yourself with people that are more intelligent that you.
What lessons did you learn at Twitch.TV that you see most entrepreneurs struggle with?
We didn’t talk to our users. We didn’t understand why they wanted to broadcast live video or what their goals were. Talk to your users. Are you making something that people want?
Whale is a Q&A community that connects you with influencers, experts, and celebrities.
What was the spark of Whale?
I started using Snapchat as a way to pass the time while doing cardio on my exercise bike. Soliciting questions from the audience was (and remains) an easy way to come up with content ideas. By recording answers to viewers questions on building product, starting companies, and life advice, I felt like I was giving back — all while getting a good workout. Snapchat content has a tendency to be disposable. They are low pressure (because they disappear) and almost like a video status update. They are constrained to ten seconds. It’s difficult to give a detailed answer to a question in 10 seconds. I would repeatedly get asked the same questions. I decided to build an app to hold a library of own answers that people can refer to, like an index of knowledge.
What makes Whale an interesting and unique platform?
Whale provides a platform distinct from that of Quora or Snapchat. It allows users to have a direct connection to an influencer or expert to receive detailed answers.
Who are your (potential) customers? How do you find them?
Initially, they came from Snapchat and our friends as well. We used that as a foundation of initial content and grew into different industries.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Just get started, today. If a crazy idea like Justin.TV can work, you have no excuse.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
Snapchat and Whale, does that count?
What should an entrepreneur do?
Talk to your users.
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
We want to expand to different categories of content and focus on retention.
What is the end goal?
To see growth in whatever project I’m working on. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Will you ever retire?
I tried to do nothing for about six weeks; it didn’t work out very well. There are only so many video games you can play before you go crazy. I enjoy applying my knowledge as an investor and with startups to pursue new ideas and build companies.