Hearo.Live, The Startup That Is Turning Solitary Media Watching Into A Live, Social Experience

We had the opportunity to interview Edward Lerner, CEO of Hearo.Live. The company that lets you talk with friends and fans side by side as you watch videos.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Hearo.Live? 
A: I have been making games forever. I wrote the game that Electronic Arts (EA) based their IPO on - Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer. I started by playing games, then, in college, making games, then making game companies, and now making new media platforms. From 2003-2017 I worked at Sony (SNE) PlayStation, where my team did a lot of hard work on the PS4. After the PS4 took off, I wanted a new challenge and I left to found Hearo.Live. In 2020, Hearo is the world's only scalable live venue for sports, shows and events, turning solitary watching into a thrilling, front row experience.

Q: How did you get the idea for Hearo.Live?
A: In 1997, Multitude (my previous startup) invented the first talk and play game, FireTeam. It was a bit like LoL, 10 year before them, and then FireTalk, a lot like Skype, 3 years before them. Since FireTeam, gamers have been putting on headsets to talk and play together. But even our 2 billion gamers watch more than we play. What if we could connect with our friends when we’re watching like we do when we’re playing? That’s what inspired Hearo.Live.


Q: Was it always your goal to have your own company?
A: Like any venture funded started, it’s not just mine. The investors and other founders own it with me. My goal is to do something that is dazzling, fun, popular and profitable -- and that makes the world a bit nicer. I can’t do that solo!

I’m at my best when steering the ship in uncharted waters. I’ve had a lot of practice, starting with EA’s first hit 3D game, Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer, then F22 Interceptor, one of the first successful 3D console games, the first game with texture mapping, Car & Driver, the first all texture mapping game, Ultima Underworld, the first MOBA and first Talk+Play game, FireTeam, the first million user voice conferencing service, FireTalk, then CTO on the Sims, Director of Engineering on the PS4, and now the first Talk+Watch platform, Hearo. It’s been an amazing journey, growing up with the game industry, from the first simple 3D games to the spectacle of 12 Million people! watching the rapper, Travis Scott in Fortnite. Amazing! 

Q: Where do you see the company in 5 years and how do you plan to get there?
A: In 5 years we want 10% of watching to be watching together, with family, friends and fans, and in 10 years we want 50% of watching to be social. This shift, from solo to social, has already happened in games. Hearo is making the the same shift possible for the rest of media. Watching, after sleeping and work/school is what people do most, many hours a day for billions of people. Global Media & Entertainment is a $2 trillion industry. 

Getting there will take a ton of hard work, great partners and smart investors. If there is a shortcut it’s that watching with friends is fun and viral. If you like it, you invite your friend, who invites their friend, … That’s why we’re adding support of Netflix (NFLX), Amazon Prime (AMZN), and extending our TV support past ESPN (DIS) and TNT (T).  

Q: Are you looking for additional funding or have a crowdfunding campaign? If so, what are you looking for in a potential investor, and how can interested readers get in touch/learn more?
A: We are doing an equity crowdfunding campaign on Republic. Republic.co/hearo-live has all the details. One reason we choose Republic is that we want 1000+ boosters, people who know Hearo, use Hearo, believe in Hearo and help Hearo become a success. We can’t change the world by ourselves!


Q: What makes your company different from others in your space?
A: Hearo is a unique front row experience. We’re a live venue. After using Hearo, live streaming and big Zooms feel dead. Why? Talking is 1000x more engaging being muted. Users are going through hoops to talk + watch together, using low quality screen sharing or multiple apps which dislike working together. In 2020, Hearo is the world's only scalable live venue for sports, shows and events. 

Q: How has creating Hearo.Live changed your life?
A: My favorite way to play games and watch TV or movies is side by side with my family and friends. Before all these screens that was what everyone did. Then everyone got their own screens and we almost always watch apart. :(

Our first 3 years seemed like an impossible quest, but now the pieces are coming together. Working hard on (another) crazy startup isn’t something new to me, but this one is unlike anything else. It’s so huge. Watching is so much a part of our lives. It’s hard to imagine a new and happier way to do it. Not many people have had a chance to make the world a more connected, friendlier place, to let billions of people spend more time having fun (or learning) together. The change is just starting. :)

Q: What was one of your biggest fears/worries when launching the company? How did you overcome that?
A: If I was a worrier I couldn’t be an entrepreneur! I know, first hand, that launching companies is hard. But this isn’t our first rodeo. We started with a disruptive idea, brought on smart investors and a world class team, and are building a revolution. But even that’s not enough. Everyone needs a bit of luck too. Until this strange year no one wanted to bet that phones and computers could really connect people. Who would have guessed that the whole world’s physical venues would be shut down?


Q: How has the pandemic and the “new normal” affected your company and your plan? 
A: While it has turned our personal lives upside down, it has opened a lot of doors for our company. Before COVID, our quest to give friends a virtual couch, media makers a virtual theater, or sports/esports teams a virtual stadium had a lot of skeptics. Now, every day we are getting requests from old friends, to big leagues, to large investors, who are all looking to watch together and share these experiences. 

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Dave R. Johnson 3 years ago Member's comment

Pretty neat.

Flat Broke 3 years ago Member's comment

Thanks @[Edward Lerner](user:138550). I plan to invest

Texan Hunter 3 years ago Member's comment

I think this is a great idea. But is COVID-19 actually helping you? Aren't major companies incorporating this same idea on their own now, out of necessity? E.g. I often watch movies on Netflix and Plex, and I saw both recently introduced an option to watch it with a friend. Something I likely would never have done before, but now I think is a great idea. But if huge companies like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and more offer this, why will people need Hearo.Live? Or am I misunderstanding what you do?

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

If you want to learn more I recommend going to https://republic.co/hearo-live

Why doesn't Netflix build YouTube, or Disney build Facebook? Media companies build media companies, not social media companies. Once watching together becomes as vital as playing together I expect we'll get some really nice acquisition offers. That's how the big guys muscle into new areas. Startups get big because it's too hard to build a disruptive startup inside a big company.

Barry Glassman 3 years ago Member's comment

Thanks @[Edward Lerner](user:138550), interesting idea. But how does your company make money? I like the idea of watching a movie with a friend, but I wouldn't pay for it. I could just video chat the person while we both watch.

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

If you want to learn more I recommend going to https://republic.co/hearo-live

In short we're a partner with the broadcasters. They need a platform to fully leverage their direct connection to you, a connect TV doesn't have, and YouTube keeps for Google, but not the broadcaster.

Moon Kil Woong 3 years ago Contributor's comment

This is not a particularly good time for this, save maybe video games, however, this is best done on multiple screens. The last thing I want to hear is useless banter while watching sports, the commentators are annoying enough. Maybe I'm the minority in this field. That said you need sports to drive this and most sports are on a break and the few that are should be taking a break. What we need is investment in Covid solutions since there is not a coherent national response.

Michele Grant 3 years ago Member's comment

I agree Moon. How would this even work? How does one watch a movie, and pay attention to their friends and their conversations at the same time? I think it would be distracting, no?

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

It works exactly like inviting your friends over your house to watch on your couch. If you're interested give it a try. You might be surprised how nice it feels.

Harry Goldstein 3 years ago Member's comment

I agree. This doesn't make much sense to me. Why would I want to watch a movie with someone who isn't with me? And if I did, why can't I just call a friend on the phone while watching?

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

I recommend you try it. If you use your phone you'll get echo and feedback from the show. If you use Hearo you won't. It's fun to watch movies or sports with family and friends. That's why most people have couches in front of their TVs.

Harry Goldstein 3 years ago Member's comment

Thanks, out of curiosity, what doe the name of your company mean?

Bruce Powers 3 years ago Member's comment

Perhaps this is not for your generation, but these are changing times. Do you know how many millions of people logged on to watch a virtual concert on Fortnite (an insanely popular video game)?

Ayelet Wolf 3 years ago Member's comment

@[Harry Goldstein](user:15520), You might enjoy this as a way to connect with your grand kids. It is a good way to connect any time, even before covid if you aren't located near them. But even more so now when many elderly are stuck home alone.

I think @[Edward Lerner](user:138550) has hit on a really good idea, long before others. Unfortunately, I think the pandemic will cause many competitors will now see the value as well and try to copy him. His first mover's advantage might pay off.

Cynthia Decker 3 years ago Member's comment

I agree with your assessment Ayelet. Great idea but not sure why a major company like Netflix can't do it better. Or what if Microsoft created this and gave it away free bundled into Skype or Windows (a common tactic for the tech giant). @[Edward Lerner](user:138550), what really differentiates your product from what others have and what's to stop another company from replicating it?

Bill Myers 3 years ago Member's comment

It's funny you mention this, Moon Kil Woong. I just had an argument with my wife over this exact issue. She loves sitting in silence while watching. I love cracking a few jokes, or moans, having some commentary, etc. What you might call banter. But for me that's part of the movie experience. I have many friends that feel the same way. But my wife doesn't exactly enjoy watching movies with me :)

Adam Reynolds 3 years ago Member's comment

Really interesting @[Edward Lerner](user:138550), and remarkably timely with the pandemic. Your startup couldn't have started at a better time!

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

We started in stealth in 2017, but you're right, now is the time!

Edward Lerner 3 years ago Member's comment

If you are interested in investing in Hearo.Live we are raising a Seed 2 round on https://republic.co/hearo-live

Seed 2 will close either when it's full or this fall.

Barry Hochhauser 3 years ago Member's comment

Love this idea.