Skyrocketing user numbers likely ranks last among startup woes, but it's a double-edged sword for Twitch. The live-streaming site, an offshoot of Justin.tv centered on video games, has seen such explosive growth that its main priority is setting up data centers around the world in order to support its 45 million viewers monthly, more than double its base a year ago.
"The question is not will we grow, but how fast and how steep that growth curve will be," Matthew DiPietro, vice president of marketing and communications, told Fast Company. Twitch announced Monday that it closed a $20 million series C round led by Thrive Capital, bringing the sum raised to $35 million. It intends to use that money to build out more infrastructure, increase its sales team, and (of course) hire more engineers.
The rising popularity of eSports, or competitive video gaming, is fueling much of Twitch's growth. The platform has more than 600,000 broadcasters, and viewers tune in for 100 minutes a day on average. As the streaming partner for most of the industry's conventions, eSports teams, and tournaments, going dark is not an option. DiPietro said he couldn't recall a time when Twitch went down and instead lauded the team for its all-hands-on-deck approach to support The International 3, a five-day Dota 2 tournament that took place in Seattle last month. With three events happening on the same day ("the perfect storm," he calls it), more than 4.5 million viewers came to Twitch that day. At its peak, the site was serving live video to more than 1 million viewers concurrently.
"We killed it," DiPietro said. "We learned a lot over the last two years, that it's not enough to build to match your audience at a given time. You need to build to match the peak audience you are going to have for a particular weekend or particular series of events."
Because infrastructure has been a top priority, the company had in the past let other projects languish. Its Android app, for example, launched last year devoid of certain features, such as search and chat, and was also prone to crashing. It was more than a year before its first major update arrived, and the company has been working since to increase its Google Play rating, currently at 3.1 stars.
Indeed, growth has always been Twitch's story. Justin.tv cofounder Emmett Shear, a StarCraft II fanatic himself, began paying attention to the community of gamers using the live-streaming platform. When it became apparent that gaming content was the fastest-growing part of the site, Justin.tv spun off Twitch in 2011. DiPietro said Twitch continues to be the "growth engine" of Justin.tv Inc.
"We have grown hundreds and hundreds of percent in the last two years, and solving that problem will be challenging," he said. "It's not a hyperbole to say we're solving problems that have never been dealt with online."