How Livestream Hopes to Make Bushwick a New Technology Hub in Brooklyn

Livestream HQ. Credit: Rafael Fuchs

In April, after a long search for a hew headquarters, Livestream co-founder and CEO Max Haot had a realization. He was at brunch with his wife at Fitzcarraldo in Bushwick, not far from where he’d recently moved. Fitzcarraldo sits on the first floor of an 80,000 square foot warehouse on Morgan Avenue, which it used to share with 3rd Ward, the educational, art and design work space. But 3rd Ward had abruptly closed, and the rest of the building was vacant. Why not, Haot thought, move Livestream here?

It was a novel idea. Despite the huge wave of residents crossing the East River and settling along the L line, North Brooklyn has not become a technology hub. More common is the path Livestream was on: cramming swelling workforces into smaller spaces in Chelsea and Union Square, the more established tech zones of New York.

There are signs that this is changing: recently, Kickstarter, purchased and gut-renovated the former pencil factory in Greenpoint, and ever-larger online and tech companies are calling Dumbo home. For large, growing companies, it makes perfect sense: the infrastructure is there, and rent is far cheaper, which allows rapidly-growing start-ups the ability to scale up in the same space. For mid-sized and less-monied companies, the Brooklyn commercial real estate market is still tough to navigate—just ask 3rd Ward. But as more warehouses are converted and new buildings open, it should loosen up.

Haot had been looking in Brooklyn for Livestream’s future headquarters, as well. For a couple years, the company rented space in the Google building on 8th Avenue. But the company was rapidly outgrowing the space—in their first year in Chelsea, Livestream’s workforce quadrupled, and last year the company made $25 million in revenue. In January, Haot moved to a loft above Roberta’s, and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. “I have real interest and love for Bushwick,” he says. “The creative community, the energy, the makers, artists, and entrepreneurs are all around.” When he realized the old 3rd Ward building was on the market, Haot pounced. “I was shocked that the space remained available for so long.”

Livestream moved in at the end of May. “We’re the first tech company of our size in the neighborhood, it appears,” Haot says, although he envisions Bushwick becoming a hotbed of startups and tech companies in the near future. “One reason for that is the concept of work where you live—many of our employees already live in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bushwick, and they can bike to work. If you can avoid a 40-minute commute each morning, that makes a big difference. Since the move we’ve seen an unprecedented number of resumes.”

Livestream rented 30,000 square feet from the building. They built their offices in 10,000 square feet of space on the second floor, but decided to utilize the former 3rd Ward space on the first floor for events and educational purposes. For years, 3rd Ward had been a hub for artists and other creatives to impart their skills to eager learners. Haot and Livestream were attracted to Brooklyn for this very entrepreneurial, creative spirit—why not keep it going? “Not only do we have a space, but we have a community of teachers and a community of students who are interested in all sorts of classes,” Haot says.

Haot and his collaborators brainstormed and came up with Livestream Public. In a blog post on the company’s website, Haot outlined the idea: “We’re going to use the event and education space on the first floor of our building to host classes on how to Livestream events—from learning single camera production and the basics of the Livestream service to multi-camera production using Livestream Studio,” the company’s live-production switcher hardware.

Haot tells me that Livestream plans to host classes taught by former 3rd Ward teachers, as well as hold conferences, meet-ups and other events. “We can really use the classroom, equipped with live streaming cameras and capability, as an educational lab,” he says. The classes will be streamed online but not passively—Livestream wants to engage streamers via chat, so “they feel they are in Bushwick with us learning about the given topic,” Haot explains. “That will not only make the product better but will be a way to give back to the community.”

One idea Haot’s considering is charging a small fee for anyone streaming a lesson, and making it free for in-person attendees on a first-come, first-serve basis (there’s space for about 200 people). “It’s an experiment,” Haot adds. “The plan is to do a couple of classes in July, and we’ll see how it goes from there. We’re committed to try it, because there’s big potential here.”

This article is part of a special series on jobs and education brought to you by Shillington School.



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