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YouTube founder Steve Chen talks his newly launched live video site Nom

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By Minda Smiley, Reporter

March 14, 2016 | 5 min read

YouTube’s co-founder Steve Chen is betting big on live video streaming with his recently-launched app for food enthusiasts, called Nom.

Nom launched last week and is being billed as a “community for food lovers to create, share and watch their favorite stories in real-time".

Speaking at SXSW, Chen joined Nom’s chief executive and former YouTube engineer Vijay Karunamurthy to discuss how Nom came to be, what makes it different from other streaming platforms, and how they plan to monetize the site.

The roots of Nom

A few years after Google acquired YouTube, both Karunamurthy and Chen left their posts at the video site to dream up a new idea. The duo partnered with YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley to create Avos Systems, a Google Ventures-backed incubator that both Karunamurthy and Chen ended up leaving in 2014 after Hurley decided to focus the business on mobile video app MixBit.

Karunamurthy said that during this time, he and Chen would often have conversations about tech and start-up ideas over meals in places like Google’s “amazing” cafeterias. After a while, the two began to notice that their conversations often revolved around the topics of food, cooking and meal-planning.

“We’d be sitting down having these meals, trying to talk about ideas for start-ups and tech ideas that were really inspiring to us, but we realized that a lot of times we were talking as much about the food we were eating or trying to cook as we were the tech ideas,” Karunamurthy said.

With BuzzFeed’s ‘Tasty’ videos growing in popularity and social media giants like Facebook and Twitter betting big on live video with their own live-streaming offerings, Karunamurthy and Chen are trying to merge the excitement around both food and live video with Nom.

Overall, the two hope that foodies will embrace Nom as a way to share anything from a taco they’ve discovered at a food truck to a meal they’re cooking in their own kitchen.

Still early days

Since live-streaming itself is still in its infancy, Chen said that Nom is open to suggestions from its users when it comes to changes and additions that people would like to see on the site.

“Until you actually see people use it, we don’t know whether or not we should be promoting or demoting things [on the site],” he said.

In the future, Nom hopes to add polling abilities to the site since some users are already high-jacking the reaction buttons – which include a thumbs-up, heart, and LOL – to conduct food polls. For example, Karunamurthy said one user posed the question, “What do you think avocadoes represented in ancient Aztec culture?”

“The heart meant fertility and I think the thumbs-up meant act of war or something,” he said. “You start to see people use these features to do their own little polling systems.”

Although Nom plans to build out the site and its capabilities, it already allows users to interact with each other via videos, photos and GIFs within live-stream channels, which is something Chen and Karunamurthy said helps foster a relationship between the host of the live-stream and those who are tuning in.

Being able to interact with the people on the other side of the camera is half of the fun, according to Chen. He used a recent example of himself where he said he ended up watching someone make spaghetti for more than an hour just because he was having fun interacting with everyone in the channel.

“There’s no way if this was just a spaghetti video that I would actually be watching, but the engagement where you would be typing in something, asking them questions, or just joking along with them, and that immediate feedback, there’s an experience there that is just unequaled elsewhere,” he said.

Bringing home the bacon

Even though YouTube’s advertising strategy has largely been built upon its pre-roll ads, Chen said they want to stay away from that at Nom when it comes to monetizing the platform.

“The worst experience is when you’re interested in watching a piece of content and you’re forced to watch a thirty seconds of pre-roll that’s completely unrelated to what you’re watching,” he said.

Instead of taking the pre-roll route, Chen said that they will likely work brands that people using Nom would already be interested in, like companies that make kitchen or grilling appliances.

“If we’re going to do any form of advertising, it’s going to be related to hopefully something that is inside the video. And in our case, it’s pretty easy because usually when you’re cooking, you’re using something that you can sell,” Chen said.

He also said that Nom would potentially share revenue with people creating content on the site, sort of like Nom influencers.

“It seems natural that we’re going to find ways to connect people with things they’re excited about,” said Karunamurthy.

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