John Ham, 30, and Brad Hunstable, 29, developed the idea for their video streaming company while far away from home in Iraq and Washington D.C. This week, the pair traveled to Minnesota to bring the Republican National Convention closer to home for millions of online viewers.
The pair of West Point graduates are 2/3 of the trio behind Ustream , the 18-month old Web company streaming live video from the convention floor to sites across the Web. The company won a contract to broadcast the Republican festivities on gopconvention2008.com and other sites across the Web.
On Sept. 4, their company announced it was also bringing the convention to the front page of Google News. “We understand social media and how things go viral,” says Hunstable. “And we were able to do a partnership with Google because our player can be embedded.”
Ham and Hunstable conceived of Ustream when serving in the U.S. Army. The pair wanted a way to video chat with multiple members of their family at the same time, gathered around different computers. “Soldiers have limited time online,” says Hunstable. “So for them to be able to talk to their mother, their grandmother, and their uncle all at the same time was important.”
After returning home, they teamed up with technology expert, Dr. Gyula Feher, a faculty member at Budapest Tech, who developed the site. After several months of what Hunstable describes as “late nights and cold pizza," Ustream was launched.
The company received $11.1 million in funding from DCM venture capital and Labrador Ventures in April. Prior to raising their series A funding, they were supported by angel investors including former Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Though Republican officials are paying Ustream for their services, Hunstable says the real payoff is the exposure from the event. In addition to streaming the convention live, Ustream has gotten behind-the-scenes interviews with many of the convention speakers as well as face time with key speakers on “radio row,” a hall filled with conservative radio station outposts in which Ustream has a booth.
“The numbers are through the roof for us,” said Hunstable, declining to give a final tally of video streams until after the convention ended. “This is by far the biggest event for us.”
The company had a presence at the DNC, albeit a much smaller one. They powered live video streams for the bloggers’ in the "Big Tent" and for liberal blog Daily Kos. Microsoft’s Silverlight was the DNC’s official provider of live video and other web content.
Hunstable hopes Ustream’s performance at the RNC convinces other businesses and individuals to use the service. Ustream licenses white label versions of its site to businesses and also sells advertising on its main Web destination UStream.com.