Offline, Brandon Martyn is an East Bay high school senior. But on mobile live-streaming service Kamcord, he’s MYSTLC7, a star “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale” game player who’s earned enough money to buy two Ford Mustangs.
Martyn streams at least twice a week to his 120,000 followers on Kamcord, which on Monday is announcing a $10 million financing round and plans to expand its scope beyond video games.
“It’s nice to be able to connect with my viewers,” said Martyn, 18. “They love it, and I have a lot of fun with it.”
San Francisco’s Twitch, with more than 100 million monthly viewers, built its audience by letting gamers stream live from their PCs and video game consoles. About 36 percent of Twitch viewers watch on mobile devices.
But in the past eight months, Kamcord has pushed to become the “Twitch for mobile” by letting users stream games directly from their smartphones and tablets. They no longer have to stream from a computer or game console.
While Twitch’s streamers follow more intense, hard-core games like “League of Legends” and “Dota 2,” Kamcord’s focus on mobile attracts fans of quicker, more casual games, said co-founder Aditya Rathnam.
That trend led the San Francisco company to open the door for users to broadcast activities from any mobile app, from Tinder to Instagram.
“For many people, your phone screen is arguably more interesting than the world around you,” Rathnam said. “That’s why people stare at their phones for four to six hours a day. And now you’ll be able to share what is happening on your phone with the whole world.”
Kamcord was created four years ago to develop technology for game makers that lets Apple iPhone and Google Android phone owners record and share their games. Then last year, Google built in video capturing and sharing into the Android operating system, which opened the door for gamers to stream directly from Android phones. (Streaming out also works on iPhones, but requires a computer.)
Kamcord began to court popular YouTube video gamers like Martyn, who has nearly 1 million subscribers, by making them partners in a revenue-sharing plan. Kamcord sells virtual “stars” to viewers that they can give to their favorite streamers, like monetary tips. The virtual stars start at 40 cents, but a “megastar” costs $80.
As the gamers stream, viewers send stars to gain on-screen acknowledgment, with the gamers giving them a verbal shout-out or posting their names.
Rathnam said some of the game streamers are considered big celebrities to Kamcord’s audience, mainly youth ages 13 to 20, so virtual stars are a way of feeling closer to them.
“It’s sort of like getting a backstage pass to a Taylor Swift concert because you’d have a chance of maybe getting a selfie with her and you’re willing to pay a lot of money to do that,” Rathnam said.
While games are the main point of discussion, the most popular streamers have developed good on-stream personalities, he said.
“You’ll have the guy talking about strategy for two or three minutes in the middle of a big battle in ‘Clash of Clans,’ and then they jump out and say, ‘Let me tell you about high school, let me tell you about the world around me, let me tell you about this girl I’m dating,’” Rathnam said.
Still, even Martyn first thought it “was pretty weird” that his audience would throw “random bits of money” at him.
But he tried using Twitch, and “just wasn’t feeling it,” saying he prefers Kamcord because of its design and ease of use. Martyn, who asked that his exact location not be published to avoid stalkers, also likes the live interaction with Kamcord, compared with the recorded video he posts on YouTube.
He said he’s made about six figures’ worth of Kamcord virtual stars. After he graduates, he plans to sell one Mustang, move to Los Angeles to continue streaming and work on an app development company he’s starting.
Another Kamcord streamer with the on-screen name JustinSmoke has amassed 12,300 followers and earns enough from streaming games like “Clash of Clans,” “Minecraft” and “Bloons Tower Defense” to supplement his income from a series of temporary jobs.
The 27-year-old Merced resident, who doesn’t reveal his real name publicly, was hooked five months ago after his first stream, a 16-hour marathon that drew viewers from around the world. He hates to end a stream, even when only 20 people are watching, because he knows his audience is depending on him for entertainment.
“I just try to be real,” he said. “ If they like it, they like it, if they don’t, they don’t.”
Services like Facebook, Twitter’s Periscope and Snapchat are also pushing live streaming to new levels, but Kamcord is banking on mobile games to become the glue that holds streamers and viewers together.
“To expect you and I to stare at a camera and say two hours of interesting things on the fly is not possible,” Rathnam said. “That’s where the games help, because you don’t have to think about what to say. You let the game do the talking. The game shines at certain moments, your personality shines at certain moments, and we think that makes the overall stream way more interesting.”
Kamcord also hopes the same premise holds for non-gaming apps. On Friday, Kamcord highlighted a three-hour stream called #CoffeeTalk featuring a “Clash Royale” player who shared news stories she was reading about topics ranging from Harriet Tubman and marijuana to South African baboons.
Rathnam said a woman who posts video of her first dates is joining Kamcord.
“Imagine her app-casting Tinder,” he said.
Benny Evangelista is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @ChronicleBenny
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