I recently read an interesting interview with Wowza founder and CEO Dave Stubenvoll. What struck me about the article is the fact that the guy had no experience or even interest in video streaming when he started the company. Now I know that many businesses start with a pivot in one way or another, but usually the founders have some sort of goal or aim towards a higher purpose other than simply making money. Not in this case. Dave clearly stated that his only goal was to generate a profit, and he didn’t care what the business was, or as he put it "to start a business arbitrarily". Full disclaimer: Wowza is our primary competitor, so my views on this will obviously be biased.
After reading this interview, Wowza makes a whole lot more sense to me. I had always wondered why Wowza’s team wasn't able to figure out how to properly scale their solution, or why they only kept feature parity with Adobe Media Server, or copied Red5 open source code/bug fixes directly with every release, and why they continue to produce half baked mobile SDKs, and most recently launch a WebRTC preview which can’t scale or interoperate with RTMP. Simply put, their software isn’t innovative, and has a lot of shortcomings.
But you may ask, why did they succeed? How did they build a $20 million dollar a year business in spite of these shortcomings? That’s because Dave is an MBA trained business man, a lawyer, and a venture capitalist. Those skills matter, and it’s these aspects our team has lacked for years. Wowza is very good at marketing and sales. They know they don’t need to build a better product, they just need to appear to be better and sell it better. For instance they just need to announce that they “support WebRTC”, even though their implementation is not actually useful for any production level software. “WebRTC support" in this case becomes a checkbox for enterprise decision makers, so they can point to it on a feature list and say it’s supported.
To be clear, as a developer first and foremost, it’s taken me a while to appreciate that these things matter, and it is not all about the code or how innovative your product is. I have deep respect for what Dave and his team at Wowza have produced. This is why we are smartening up over here on the Red5 team. We have raised venture capital and are bringing in experienced business people which enables us to continue delivering a better product to you, the developer. This is why we can no longer release every bit of code as open source, and why we most recently had to raise our prices. We are building the fastest, lowest latency live streaming platform ever made, based on modern protocols and deep technical experience, but this time we will make sure that the business end takes center stage. This way we can do even more innovative things, produce better documentation, and ultimately serve you better, the software developer.
Here’s to a bright future and to the success of live streaming apps everywhere!
Co-founder and CEO, Red5, Chris Allen