Twitch CEO Dan Clancy sees slow and steady growth beating the ‘rocketship’ approach despite parent Amazon slashing staff

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Twitch CEO Dan Clancy has a clear vision for the Amazon-owned platform’s future: sustainable growth over flashy, rapid expansion.

Amazon acquired Twitch in August 2014 for roughly $1 billion, allowing the Jeff Bezos-founded tech giant to expand its presence in the live streaming and gaming sectors.

Twitch has since benefited from Amazon’s resources, infrastructure, and Prime membership integration, but according to reports, it remains unprofitable and was forced to lay off more than 500 employees in January this year, which is about 35% of its headcount.

Clancy, however, who has held the top job at Twitch since March 2023 having previously worked at Nextdoor and Google, remains undaunted by the pressures—and mapped out what he believes will be the company’s path to success.

“I think we always get infatuated with ‘accelerated growth’,” he said in a conversation with Fortune at the Cannes Lions festival, where Twitch was aiming to woo advertisers along with other tech titans at the industry equivalent of the Oscars.

“And those things that grow fast can also shrink fast.”

Clancy emphasized the stability of Twitch’s model, highlighting the platform’s focus on building lasting connections.

“In today’s social media world on some platforms, you might get discovered quickly and suddenly be a star. But tomorrow, someone else might be the star and you may be forgotten,” he said.

“When you build a community on Twitch, there’s a lot of longevity there.”

Rather than chasing rapid growth, Clancy’s strategy is about “sustained growth and sustained building of the community,” which he believes is the best approach for Twitch.

Twitch considers Prime and Netflix as main rivals, not YouTube or TikTok

Addressing Twitch’s competitors, Clancy dismissed the notion that all live streaming is the same. “People don’t confuse a novel with a newspaper article just because they both use text as a medium for communication. They’re just different.”

Pointing out the differences between Twitch and other platforms like YouTube and TikTok, he said: “There’s live streaming on YouTube and TikTok. But because it’s integrated with short-form content, you’re sort of programmed to swipe on to the next thing. So people will watch live streaming, but you don’t have the same community experience.”

Clancy believes Twitch’s community-centric approach sets it apart. “The Twitch streamers, some had gone over to YouTube because they had deals and many are now either back already or coming back, and every single one of them tells you ‘Oh, it’s not the same.’”

Interestingly, Clancy sees platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix as bigger competitors.

“People sit and watch Twitch for an hour or two hours. I think, in some ways, we are a social, long-form, UGC [user-generated content] platform. So we are right between the streaming TV services and the social-media companies.”

AI doomers ‘wildly underestimate human intelligence

Clancy, who holds a PhD in artificial intelligence and has an extensive background in the field, having headed up NASA’s AI and Robotics team, also offered his insights on the doomerism around AI.

“I know a fair amount about AGI. Are people nervous? Well, the people who work at Twitch are like the general population. They’re all over the spectrum.”

While acknowledging the challenges that come with new technology, he pushed back against doomsday predictions from the likes of Geoffrey Hinton, widely considered as the “Godfather of AI.”

“I think all the doomsday stuff wildly underestimates human intelligence,” Clancy said.

“I just think they mistakenly think that because AI has advanced at this pace, it keeps doing that.”

Clancy argued human intelligence is far more complex than what AI currently mimics. “The reason we have our big brain isn’t to do math. It’s to understand people, to reason about connections, to reason about relationships. AI doesn’t do any of that.”

For Clancy, human intelligence’s distinctive and unique aspects, particularly in leadership and relationship-building, are irreplaceable. “It’s not the smartest people that run the companies. It’s the people that can lead, that can motivate, that can build all those things.”

While AI will undoubtedly continue to evolve, Clancy believes the human touch will always be essential. “Thinking computers can play chess better than us. They can come up with facts better than us. That’s okay. We can do all sorts of things. In fact, the biggest thing is that we think about reason, about relating with other people. And that’s what runs these companies.”

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