Marketing

Behind the Scenes at Blab with CEO Shaan Puri

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Last month, our team was excited to launch our newest community connection spot online – our monthly Blab series. For us, connecting with the Piktochart community both on and off-line is all about building trust and relationships. We strive to deliver amazing content by partnering with educators, designers, marketers, startup founders, and other thought leaders.

This month, we were grateful to connect with the team at Blab. We ended up snagging Blab CEO Shaan Puri as our guest! Our team was excited to hear what Shaan had to say about building this growing new video platform.

This time around, we peaked at 259 live viewers during the 45 minutes we were live. This represented an 80 percent increase from our live viewers last month! On top of that, the replay count since we’ve gone offline has been steadily climbing, too.

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Blab Recap

Below are the questions Shaan answered live on the Blab. Last month, we used Upvoter to generate our list of questions for the guest, but this time, we used Blab’s built-in, real-time question feature.

You can also watch the recording of our AMA Blab with Shaan Puri.

What are your pitch tips for startup founders? What makes a good pitch?

Shaan says he has spent countless hours watching successful entrepreneurs – including Steve Jobs and Simon Sinek – pitch their products. He explained that he never worked with a speaking coach because he just watched the best presenters and deconstructed what made their presentations great.

For Shaan, a great pitch does the following:

  • Grabs an audience’s attention and keeps it
  • Takes the audience on a journey
  • Takes them to a place where they not only understand what you do, but actually want to be part of the mission

“The first 30 seconds are fire,” explains Shaan. “In the first 30 seconds, the crowd will decide if you are someone of value, if this will be what they have already heard, or if this will be different. Tell them this is not what they expected. Tell them something different is about to happen and they should pay attention.”

Then, he says, tell the audience a story about how the world is now and how it will be different with what you are building. Build to a climax where you explain how you solve the problem.

Shaan also notes that humor throughout is key.

“If you can’t make an audience like you, they won’t care about what you say,” he says. “If you can’t make them intrigued by you, they won’t listen at all. Most of the game of pitching is capturing and keeping attention.”

[tweetthis]”The first 30 seconds are fire. … Tell them this is not what they expected.” – Blab CEO @ShaanVP[/tweetthis]

What is the most surprising Blab you have seen?

Shaan points to Bathtime Blab as the most surprising Blab he has seen so far.

“Four people are in a bathtub,” he says. “You can’t see anything. They are in the bathtub with a glass of wine or a beer. They are basically having a bubble bath and Blabbing. That’s something I did not predict or anticipate, but I thought it was pretty cool!”

When reflecting on the most interesting Blab he’s been a guest on, he talked about a Blab called “The Hot Seat.”

“One person from the community would hop on the Blab,” he explained. “And then they’d be asked 20 questions. These were not the typical 20 questions – they were personal or would go beneath the surface. You really get to know someone by watching.”

After a community member was in the hot seat, they became the host the next time and were able to ask 20 questions to the next community member.

Are GIFs in comments on Blab no longer allowed?

The team took away GIFs and photos from the chat because they had a minor bug, Shaan said. “We needed to fix the bug before they come back. That’s all,” he said.

Blab is well designed. Tell us a bit about your design team. What has that process been like?

Although Blab doesn’t hire for specific positions, Shaan says there are two designers who currently work on the team – Victor and Derek.

“They are kind of like unicorns,” he said. “They not only do the the visual and graphic design, but can do animation, interaction design, they can write front-end code, and they write iOS code. They are people who are multi-talented. They have good design sense and good taste.”

Shaan says that during the design process, the team will go back and forth on certain features. “Sometimes it gets too cluttered, and you’ll see we pull things away,” he said.

“Sometimes you sacrifice something being visually clear for it to feel interactive, alive, and fun. For example, the videos could have been in HD, but we wouldn’t have been able to show how many people were in the room or their faces.”

Shaan points to the map feature in Blab as something the team went back and forth on, but in the end, Shaan felt like it was necessary for the product’s mission.

“The map was a controversial thing,” he shared. “I thought it was cool because I wanted to push a button and see our message is reaching the people in the UK, Australia, and Spain. That’s amazing to me that I can push a button and reach people all around the world.”

Everything the Blab team does with the product is essentially based on one premise – how do you make the host and audience feel like they are being heard.

“The host has to feel loved and heard by the audience and the audience has to feel like they have direct access to the host,” said Shaan.

How do you decide which Blab shows you’ll be on?

Shaan says he has one philosophy – that he’s not busy.

“Everyone says they are busy and feel like they have a shortage of time,” he said. “I don’t feel that way. I make time for anything I think I might enjoy. In Piktochart’s case, I watched the previous Blab in January, and I thought it was interesting. I was happy to come on. There are other people that have a boring show, aren’t good at it, or don’t take the time to promote it.”

Shaan adds that the Blab host doesn’t need to be a big name for him to appear on their show. If the hosts put their talent and energy into it, he’s happy to show up.

Where do you see Blab in two years time?

“I want Blab to be the place where the most interesting conversations in the world are happening,” Shaan says. That means getting more interesting people on, more often. He hopes to see the conversations getting bigger, better, and more dynamic as time passes. Although he thinks the product will get more polished and they will build new features, the real growth will be around recruiting and bringing on the most interesting people in the world as content creators.

“Most of the world’s population doesn’t even know about Blab,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool thing. Only a small percentage of our future user base has it right now. We don’t know how people will use.”

[tweetthis]“I want Blab to be the place where the most interesting conversations in the world are happening.” – @ShaanVP[/tweetthis]

Shaan says in the future, users should be mindblown to have access to conversations happening on Blab. These conversations will be with people the users would have otherwise never met talking about something they are interested in.

“When something happens in the world, I see the conversation about it happening on Blab,” he said. “We will be the world’s biggest opinion platform and discussion platform. We will get there.”

“Currently, there are too many people talking about marketing or about nothing,” commented Anello Grande in the chat. “I think as more people come on and Blab about what they themselves like, we will see more diverse content.”

 

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Do you see Blab having a big influence on education?

“Some teachers are already using Blab,” explained Shaan. “Teachers will do a study session the day before the class and the students can tune in from home. The teacher will pop on to answer any questions they have.”

But, he says, there is a big difference between education and school. Education is when you actually learn something.

“If you are looking to learn something, you can find it on platforms like Udemy, YouTube, or Blab,” he said. “Content creators are not calling it ‘Marketing 101’ but you’ll learn something. Using these platforms, people will learn but it won’t feel like school.”

“Blab is like the Target of my internet destinations,” commented Mary Kramme in the chat. “I can come here for a specific reason/show and leave with a hundred things I didn’t know I wanted!”

Are there any plans to allow content creators to monetize their Blabs?

Shaan said that there are no plans for monetization for content creators, meaning they aren’t building that feature right now, but he says he is very intrigued by that model.

“I think fan-funding is a very powerful concept. If someone is entertaining you day after day, week after week, I think people would be willing to pay to support that content creator.”

He say he hopes this is the future, but there is no direct plan to do that right away.

Will the viewer max be lifted?

Shaan stated there is not a viewer max right now on Blab. As they are scaling, the goal is to be able to have tens of thousands of people engaging on a Blab.

“Why not get a million people watching something live?”, he says.

The goal is to scale so that the platform works well no matter how many people are in the room.

Will Blab’s reputation be ruined by allowing certain people to create content on the platform?

Shaan says the team had this discussion early on when building the platform. They discussed if they wanted to be like a newspaper, where they decide what gets published, what’s up front, who gets to say what, who gets to speak, and who doesn’t.

“We want to be a platform. If someone has something to say that I disagree with, it’s not my place to take it off the platform. I err on the side of free speech.”

“It’s like blaming the pencil for what someone writes,” he said.

That said, the team at Blab has put in place community guidelines to make the platform a place where users want to come. Blab will always be a place where different points and views and opinions can be heard.

“Blab definitely has the community component down!” commented one user in the chat. “My favorite aspect currently.”

[tweetthis]“It’s like blaming the pencil for what someone writes.” – Blab CEO @ShaanVP on free speech[/tweetthis]

When diverting from Bebo, what was the first brainstorming session for the new product like? What were some features you considered building or ideas you had initially that didn’t come to fruition?

Before Blab, the team was working on the relaunch of Bebo, which had been sold to AOL for $850M in 2008 and was bought back by the team for $1M in July of 2014. Unsatisfied with 500k downloads, the Blab team kicked themselves out of the office and came up with the idea for Blab at a barside brainstorm session.

Shaan said that one of his rules as a leader is to see it how it is in order to ever make something better than it is. Improvement comes from seeing things as they are.

“Bebo’s growth through word of mouth, clever marketing, and social sharing – which was half a million signups in two months – didn’t matter to us if the product wasn’t sticky,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter if people like it but don’t love it. We wanted to be one of a handful of names that everyone knows. I’d rather have a 1,000 people who love us than 500,000 who like us. We decided it was worth killing Bebo and looking at what we’d do differently.”

After some discussion, Shaan and Blab’s CTO were noticing they were dominating the conversation and stifling good ideas the group had.

“We kicked out the most creative people on the team and told them to spend three weeks out of the office building something,” he recalled. “I told them to build something they believe in and something they can stand behind. The only rule is that they couldn’t ask me for approval, or even talk to me for three weeks. We did the same, and ended up with two teams with two ideas.”

When the team came back with the idea for Blab, everyone knew this was the product they would build.

At the beginning, the Blab product was made to only broadcast on mobile, which is a different approach than that desktop version users utilize today. After looking at how mobile-only played out for content creators, they saw it was hard for users to hold their phone steady and avoid background noise.

“You can’t just jump on the trend for mobile because it may not be what fits for a product like this. Don’t just blindly say, ‘Mobile first, the world is mobile.’ Think about what actually makes sense.”

Then there were some controversial things. At first, there was no recording, and Shaan felt strongly that for the content to be lasting, users needed the ability to record.

What are the plans for making the platform easier to use and speeding things up?

In January, Shaan said everything the team had been working on has been around improving performance, not developing new features. Internally, they are exploring things they can do to optimize the platform to reduce lagging video and handle more live viewers.

In the near future, one thing users will see when they call into the Blab is a kind of virtual green room. Before it even shows the host you are calling it, this new feature allows the user to do technical adjustments and ensure they are connected properly before going live.

“Little touches like that end up making a big difference,” said Shaan. “The system just runs more smoothly. We have lots of little feature like that which will be coming out soon.”

What are Blab’s plans for education? Will you incorporate the Bebo Whiteboard in Blab’s future?

Bebo’s well-known Whiteboard feature was like an MS Paint feature on a user’s profile that allowed people to leave drawings. Shaan shared that there are plans to build tools that will support better hosting, inspire more creativity, and to help with presenting to an audience.

“We could build it ourselves or open up the platform so developers can develop those tools and put them into Blab. There are different ways we could go about getting that goal accomplished.”

Will Blab ever allow for more than four presenter seats?

“I can’t imagine so,” said Shaan bluntly. “There’s a lot of things we aren’t religious about. That’s probably one of the features we are most religious about.”

Even with only four seats, Shaan says the team finds that people are waiting for their turn to speak and the result is not a natural conversation flow.

“We want people to access something real,” he said. “Let’s put it this way – we are more likely to go to three seats than to move to eight seats.”

How were you able to get content creators on the platform early on?

Shaan says Blab’s growth has all been word of mouth. They aren’t striking business partnerships one-on-one with content creators at this stage. Influential content creators are hearing about it from their audience, their community, or from other content creators. Oftentimes, a viewer turns into a host.

”That’s the ultimate sustainable model,” says Shaan.

But, for larger partners, Shaan says the team does do some outreach at times. One example is ESPN.

“That’s the content I like to watch, so I went and recruited them,” he said.

However, Adobe, IBM, UFC, and other large companies came from word of mouth.

Are there any tutorials for Blab? I’m having a hard time participating and searching for content.

This is one area that Shaan says the team hasn’t invested enough into. He points to a user-created guide that he says has been helpful for other users. We also posted our recent Piktochart blog post in the chat. It has thoughts about how to get started with Blab.

For content discovery, the best way to find Blabs you’d be interested in is to search by topic.

“That said, search as we currently have it is pretty terrible,” admits Shaan. “But I will say that what you’ll see coming out in the next month will dramatically improve that. When search actually works, you will find new things. It’s on us. We need to make it easy to find conversations you are interested in. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but we will solve it.”

Do you plan to open up the platform for developers to make apps for Blab?

Shaan says the team has a handful of developers already developing on Blab, and the user community will see that work soon.

“It’s more fun when you build together and allow people to be creative,” he said. “The best products are ultimately platforms. We will be a platform for not only content, but for developers to build tools to allow people to make better content.”

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The team at Piktochart had a blast during our Blab with Blab CEO Shaan Puri! If you are interested in attending our next Blab, come follow us. We’ll be talking about a different subject with a power user each month and we’d love to have you join us!

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