I’ve been catching up on Silicon Valley recently (the HBO show that isn't Game of Thrones, if you werewondering) and it’s given me an incredible insight into the workings of a startup.
It's often cited as one of the most well-researched TV shows on screen. So researched in fact, that a former Twitter chief executive is an advisor on the show to help the writers scope out the intricacies of being in a startup bubble. Why is this relevant? Well...
Bebo has had a rough ride of recent years with us all our having our own #BeboMemories in 2014 when a new feature killed the site. But it seems like the mission statement to create ‘social apps’ is experiencing its second coming.
The company has had its ups and downs; a buyout by AOL called “one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era” to a callous purchase that came with it a damning tweet. (“We just bought Bebo back for $1m. Can we actually re-invent it? Who knows, but it will be fun trying”). This feels like it could be soundtracked by a laughter track but it’s real.
Bebo has been through public and private hell so it’s resurgence today comes as a surprise.
So what has it returned as? A multi-feature, multi-channel Twitch moderation bot.
I bet that like me, you’re trying furiously now to figure out what that term actually means. I initially thought that the new Bebo was going to be a competitor to Twitch and Mixer – the Microsoft owned streaming platform – but it isn’t. Bebo works as a live-streaming and vision mixer that is about to take on a video games market that is already dominated, according to Jake Tucker from eSports Pro.
"Bebo wearing the skin of a fallen social media network is confusing, but not as confusing as its entry to a space that's already colonised and carved up between the giants of OBS and Xsplit.”
For the uninitiated, imagine OBS as Facebook, Xsplit as Twitter and Bebo as...well I guess Bebo. I’m all for underdogs (Dodgeball is one of my favourite films) but muscling in on the influence owned by these two companies is going to be difficult as Tucker explained.
"To succeed, Bebo is going to have to prove it's got something they don't, and whether that is better tech, a stronger community or something else remains to be seen."
So should Bebo even bother going down this new path, a path that is starting with an alpha aimed primarily at Window’s users. Well according to Callum Leslie of Dotesports, Twitter's founders Michael and Xochi Birch might actually have a chance to disrupt the status quo.
“Right now the industry leaders in desktop streaming, xSplit and OBS, are by no means perfect. You'd be hard pressed to find a streamer who hadn't had problems with the software, or had their alerts break, or some other issue with how they run their stream.
"Some kind of integrated experience that brings all of these things together could really find an audience — as long as everything works. It's a pretty big departure from the Bebo brand as it was before, but the current generation of streamers were the Bebo generation. That name recognition alone is probably enough to convince a decent number to give it a shot.”
So should Bebo even bother? Well, they would not be the first company to refocus their whole strategy on video games. There’s still a few people I meet who didn’t know that Twitch was originally Justin.TV before it swivelled to capitalise on the early adopters of home video game streaming. Twitch now goes from strength to strength with anime marathons and even wrestling so instead of going against it, maybe providing a strong supporting structure could see Bebo succeeding.
Although Bebo is not competing with Twitch and Mixer, it still has to convince a lot of streamers to transfer from OBS and Xsplit. Is this possible?
The brand will have to throw off the shackles of the past as Leslie said, but maybe keeping its original name is enough to tempt the current generation to be its first users. Who knows, this could be the Bebo product that appears in the opening credits of the next season of Silicon Valley.
Adam Libonatti-Roche is a freelance social media strategist