Why we're doing Livecamp

by Peter Rojas

Last week we opened up applications for Livecamp, our next themed pre-seed program. For each of these Camp programs we pick a specific emerging area that we're really excited about and want to go deep on, and the focus for Livecamp, which kicks off in September in New York City, will be on startups building live interactive experiences. 

What do we mean exactly by "Live"? While previous Camps have focused on more clearly delineated categories like voice-based computing (Voicecamp), AR and computer vision (Visioncamp), and conversational software and messaging (Botcamp), this will be the first Camp where what we are looking for is tougher to define; for example, it's pretty easy to decide what does and doesn't count as an augmented reality product. We picked "Live" as the theme of our next program because we believe something big is happening at the intersection of television and gaming that is reshaping media and culture. The boundary between those two once distinct categories is becoming increasingly blurry as TV becomes more like gaming and gaming becomes more like TV. For Livecamp we want to work with startups that are exploring these boundaries and working to define the future of live by creating new kinds of synchronous multiplayer experiences that borrow from both gaming and television.

After 25 years of false promises, a lot of the crazy stuff around "interactive TV" we've been waiting for is finally becoming a reality. Apps like HQ Trivia are proving you can build a massive audience by re-inventing the game show as something everyone can play, not just watch. Streaming platforms like Twitch and Mixer and esports titles like League of Legends and Overwatch have turned gaming into a spectator sport, showing that it can be just as much fun to watch someone play video game as it is to play it yourself. There is an inexorable trend of audiences moving beyond being just passive consumers of content and towards becoming active participants in their own right.

Why now? Some of it is simply cultural: we've had entire generations grow up for whom gaming and its dynamics are now second nature and they expect participatory experiences by default. It also helps that we’ve reached a point where a lot of the core infrastructure that’s needed to build these kinds of live interactive experiences is in place and is increasingly cheap and easy to use. That means startups can focus more on crafting amazing experiences and less on trying to keep servers from crashing (though of course that does still happen from time to time). That moment when startups need to differentiate through creativity and not just sheer engineering talent is exactly what we get excited about here at betaworks, because that’s when the real experimentation around product starts to happen. That is why we’re doing Livecamp: We're convinced something is going on here and we're looking for fresh approaches to what it means to build live interactive experiences. 

If you’re working on anything in this space we’d love to hear from you and see how we may be able to help. You can learn more about Livecamp here. If you're ready to apply you can start the application process here. Any questions? You can contact me here.