Houseparty, the new app from the Meerkat team, is going through some growing pains


The company recently closed its Tel Aviv office and laid off a small group of employees.

Remember Meerkat? The livestreaming video app that had everyone talking, and broadcasting, 18 months back at SXSW?

The company behind the app, Life on Air, went through a startup rite of passage back in March when it “pivoted” away from live broadcasts to a FaceTime-style group video chat app called Houseparty.

Now it’s having its next startup moment: Cost cutting.

Life on Air has shut down its Tel Aviv office, a move that resulted in roughly five layoffs, according to multiple sources. The entire company employs about 20 people.

Life on Air will operate primarily out its San Francisco headquarters, with just a small team of video tech employees left in Israel, where CEO Ben Rubin is from.

That doesn’t mean Life on Air is in total savings mode. The company has made a few new hires in San Francisco, including bringing on Kyle Maxwell, a former senior Twitter engineer, as its new head of engineering.

“Life on Air is thrilled to be moving the bulk of our technical operations to San Francisco, where we already had our product and growth teams collaborating successfully,” a company spokesperson told Recode. “The team is incredibly excited to all be under one roof.”

Sources say the Houseparty app, which lets users jump between group video chats, is still growing, despite a rough start. The app hit the top of the App Store in early May, but infrastructure problems dogged Houseparty, and the app didn’t always work (which explains the new engineering lead). The app spent most of August ranked outside of the top 1,500 iPhone apps, according to App Annie.


App Annie
Houseparty’s U.S. App Store rankings since launch.

Still, it experienced a small resurgence last week after being featured in the App Store, and the company hopes downloads will pick up again with college students returning to class this fall.

That resurgence will be key, of course, given the company changed directions only about six months after taking a $14 million funding round to build a livestreaming product.

The good news for Rubin is that lots of other companies, including Facebook and Google and Snapchat, think live chat is an interesting idea. But that’s a problem, too.

Sounds familiar.

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