Wonderstream is a new livestreaming platform developed in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill, connecting an online audience with real-world events in a way that’s simple, cost effective, and data rich. Co-founded by Douglas Horn and J. Brad Wilke, Wonderstream automates the livestream set-up process, allowing users to create a customizable livestream event page in about three minutes.
Wonderstream offers artists, entrepreneurs, and small- to medium-sized organizations all the features of more expensive livestreaming tools, in addition to full viewer data and metrics that free platforms are unable to provide. The platform’s ease of use, low cost, and robust features make it an ideal livestreaming solution, with access controls including paywalls, geofencing, and invite-only lists. All features are included in the $89 flat-fee price for a two-hour event.
We had a chance to chat with Douglas, Brad and COO, Leroy Mack.
Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?
Douglas: I’ve lived in the Seattle area since elementary school with short stints in other areas along the way for college or work. I grew up in Issaquah when it was a sleepy little town with a parachute and glider airport next to the freeway. My wife and I have lived in North Bend for many years now–it still has the small town PNW vibe that I remember from childhood. It’s great to be in the mountains and still be half an hour from downtown Seattle with all the exciting things that are happening there in business and creatively. I’m an independent filmmaker. I’ve directed a few movies you can find on streaming services and I’ve written some others. But I mostly make my living by writing and directing corporate videos and commercials for the big Seattle area employers. I try to float between indie films and commercials striving for that elusive balance of creative fulfillment and food on the table.
Brad: I’m originally from Wisconsin, went to school in New York, and ended up in Seattle following graduation to serve a five-year commitment in the U.S. Army at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis McChord).
Leroy: Well, I’m an army brat. My father was an enlisted man. I grew up on army bases and moved around a lot. When you grow up like that you don’t know anything else. I just assumed people moved around every few years and their Dad’s had to “go to the field” all the time.
How does the Pacific Northwest lifestyle inspire you?
Douglas: Well I’m pretty much a native, so this is the place that just feels right to me. I’ve traveled a lot but I wouldn’t trade the Seattle area for anyplace. There’s a vibrant creative community and people seem to fuse tech and artistry in really appealing ways that are fun to be around and take part in. And then I can sit on my back patio and gaze at Mt. Si while elk and bears wander through my yard. Not bad!
Brad: The natural beauty of the mountains and the sound offer a refreshing break from the hours spent in front of my computer screen. Getting outside and enjoying it, though, is another matter. Maybe this Fall…
Leroy: I’ve spent most of the last 20 years living in or around Seattle. I’m always inspired by it’s inclusiveness. I’m a 39-year-old black geek and have never felt out of place here. In return I’ve always accepted people for who they are.
What made you decide to create Wonderstream?
Wonderstream evolved as a response to the dearth of simple, affordable live video streaming options available to the average marketer. Our ideal customer isn’t a multi-national conglomerate or worldwide brand (not yet, at least), but, rather, an early stage startup, established nonprofit, or any type of creative/artistic entrepreneur that wants to grow their audience without breaking the bank.
We really believe that livestreaming to your audience is an incredibly effective and immediate way to connect with them in a meaningful way. We don’t want that to only be available to big companies with big budgets when the people it could empower the most are authors, musicians, small businesses, or non-profits. We also think it’s a shame for people to have to hand over all their user data and connections to a platform like Facebook just to be able to do an affordable livestream. We thought that a platform that brought high quality livestreaming to everyone affordably in a way that “just works” would empower a lot of people to better reach their dreams. So we built it.
What services do you offer and what type of licenses do you have?
We offer a robust livestream platform with audience engagement features not seen in competitor’s offerings. And we make this easy to use so that they can be confident there won’t be any last minute snafus for presenters and also so that livestream viewers can watch just by going to a regular URL address, without having to download any special apps or sign up for some service.
We also offer customers who want them some advanced features like the option to install a paywall, geofence, and/or “guest list” into their streams, not to mention real-time Twitter engagement and a fully customizable user interface. These allow our clients the ability to modify their livestream experience in a way no other service can.
What makes you different from other live streaming services that are out there?
Douglas: Wonderstream is easy to use. To set up a livestream you just enter your information and then paste two codes into your livestreaming app. Now you’re streaming. For viewers, you just go to a normal URL instead of having to download another app or signing up for yet another service. We’re also crazy affordable compared to similar services. Our costs are 1/4 to 1/15th the price of our closest competitors. We are aiming to redefine the cost of professional livestreaming. And Wonderstream is not bare bones at all–we have great features.
Brad: In addition to our standard feature offerings, we differentiate ourselves by offering customers real data on their viewers. Unlike free platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope, Wonderstream customers know who is watching (thanks to our verified email access point), where they’re watching from, and how long, on average, they watched. If you consider the cost of acquiring a new email for your mailing list (approx. $7-12/per), Wonderstream pays for itself the first time out. Before the likes of Wonderstream was established, people could check out, and buy, the email lists from somewhere like Lead Lists that could help them to connect with people who already have an interest in what you do, making it more likely to turn them into paying customers. As far as we’ve heard, they both work as well as each other, so it’s a win-win. In this instance, you just need to make the best decision for you or your business.
Leroy: With Wonderstream, your stream is YOUR stream. From something as big as sponsor logo with links to something as small as changing the color scheme to match your own. With other livestream services, you have to adhere to an established platform. Wonderstream is modifiable to meet your needs.
What are your favorite places or events to provide services?
Brad: We’ve recently done a number of events featuring African-American entrepreneurs and hip hop artists, and we’ve found success with livestreams of workshops and seminars, as well.
Leroy: I really enjoy informative events. We streamed a mayoral debate at the Seattle Art Museum a few weeks back as part of a Power Summit to build black wealth. To get paid to both learn and help inform people on important issues is a great feeling.
Douglas: I’m excited any time I see Wonderstream making a difference for someone. We had an author/consultant recently do a livestream where he only had about a dozen people watching online. I felt kind of bad that he didn’t reach more, but he was really excited because he told us he followed up on the viewer emails and three signed up for his consulting seminar based on seeing him on Wonderstream. That makes a real difference to a small business or a professional who is just starting out and is in need of that exposure and funds, which a venture debt financing service can offer to businesses who require that financial help. Being more visible can help these businesses get the assistance they need to thrive.
What are some past examples of your work?
At Wonderstream we have spent the last eighteen months focusing on making livestreaming easy and reliable.
Some of the highlights have included the 2017 Power Summit to Build Black Wealth at Seattle Art Museum, a showcase of African-American entrepreneurs artists sharing their knowledge and experience when it comes to the business world. We’ve also livestreamed workshops and panels for the Seattle International Film Festival and it’s virtual reality sidebar, SIFFx, the Portland Film Festival, and various business networking workshops held by TownSquared, not to mention concerts, interviews, and more.
Walk us through how you work with a client from event conception to completion?
Once we know what the event is, we go through all the services we provide:
Branding: The page the stream will be on can be adjusted to any color scheme the client wants as well as feature their own logo.
Sponsorship: Any sponsors they want can be input right beneath their streams along with embedded links.
Twitter: We input any hashtag our clients want so that it shows up right next to their event stream.
Metrics: Clients will be able to see who watched their stream, from where and for how long.
More specialized services like paywalls (so people have to pay to watch the stream) and Geofencing (only people from certain regions can watch the stream). After the event is done the stream will live on our site for thirty days or longer if the client wishes. They also own the video and can download it and do what they want with it.
But the real power of Wonderstream is how easy it is to use. Most of our clients may never need to contact us directly because it’s really easy and straightforward to purchase a livestream from the site, set it up to stream, and then download viewer stats and email addresses when the event is done. Most people don’t need a lot of hand-holding because the system is designed to work intuitively.
Where do you see Wonderstream in the future?
Brad: In the next year or so, we’d like to position Wonderstream as the go-to live video option for small and mid-size business, nonprofits, and startups, with additional attention paid to youth sports, weddings, and more traditional content that used to appear on your television. Thanks to our automation and UI, the use scenarios are potentially limitless.
Leroy: Livestreaming is here to stay. I believe that people will come to expect livestreaming from businesses the same way we expect websites and email addresses. And because of that, there will be an expectation, a need for an easy-to-use, professional alternative. I feel Wonderstream will be that alternative.
Douglas: Livestreaming can be a little messy: there are “ums” and “ahs” and uncomfortable pauses that you don’t see in slick polished videos, and because of that it is more human, real, and relatable. It’s an antidote to quick cuts and overproduced commercials. It’s a chance to show your audience who you really are and it builds trust and identification with the audience in a way that video has sort of lost until now because we’ve all grown so inured to the emotional manipulation of commercial videos. (Trust me, I made my living making those videos!) I think in the future with our growing video overload people are going to grow to appreciate this difference and increasingly seek out livestreamed events for their warts-and-all honesty and humanity. I’d like to see everyone be able to take advantage of this new communication tool that’s suddenly so easy and affordable.