MATEO, Calif. ó Vadim Lavrusik tried to send a video
of his son celebrating his first birthday to family in
Minnesota, but the process didnít exactly go smoothly.
the video via text diminished the quality, and the file
size was too large to attach to an email. After working
as a product manager for Facebook Live, Lavrusik decided
to leave the company this year and launch Alively, an
app that allows people to share recorded or live video
privately with friends and family.
media users have harnessed the power of live video to
stream protests or the aftermath of police shootings,
but itís the more private moments that Alively is
going after. The three-person startup, which was also
co-founded by Ray Lee and Vincent Tuscano, has raised
just over $1 million in seed funding from Greylock
Partners, SV Angel and other venture capital firms.
itís so raw and unfiltered, a lot of the moments you
want to capture on live video would be mundane to most
of the world, but they would be really interesting to
people who care about you," he said.
30, sat down with The Mercury News to chat about the
rise of live video, private sharing and life after
Facebook. This interview has been edited for clarity and
How is Alively different from Facebook Live and Twitterís
Periscope? In Facebook, you can change the audience for
a live video in your settings by selecting friends, only
me or public.
You could technically go into the settings and select a
few people, but itís not easy, so people donít end
up using it. One of the things Iíve learned is peopleís
perception of how they share on Facebook has evolved
over the last three years. People over time have become
very fixated on how their content is performing, so they
wonít share things that have a low number of
"likes," for example. Thereís not a way to
"like" a video on Alively. The only feedback
you get on a video is you can see whether someone has
watched it and has commented on it. It was all
intentional. We donít want this to be about people
feeling like they have to perform or theyíre putting
on a show. Itís more about capturing everyday moments
and sharing them live.
Why do you think thereís been a movement away from
more public sharing to more private sharing on social
Some of it is a generational difference, honestly. These
platforms that enabled us to share publicly sort of grew
with millennials. It was this novel thing where youíre
sharing with lots of people at the same time. If you
look at all the messaging apps out there, theyíre the
most popular with teens. Snapchat, for example, started
with sharing with a few people and then expanded so you
can share with lots of people, but the product still
feels very intimate. The younger generation prefers not
only to communicate more privately but also through
Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have
this built-in user base, and if youíre starting a new
company you donít necessarily have that. How do you
plan to compete?
The plan is to not compete. What I mean by that is we
very intentionally designed the product so you canít
connect your other social platforms to be able to find
people. People already have a built-in network on their
phone, which is called their "contacts." Youíre
going to have your family, significant other or your
closest friends in your contacts. We also let you send
video to someone even if theyíre not on Alively. So it
gives you a tool to send high-quality video thatís
better than what you would get on SMS. Ö Itís really
challenging when you have companies like Facebook and
Twitter that already have huge scale, because they can
deliver an audience to those people who want to grow
their audience or broadcast to lots of people publicly.
We just need two of your friends who will share on the
Social media companies are grappling with some complex
issues, such as online harassment, nudity, terrorism and
copyright issues. How is your company approaching some
of the challenges, and do you envision facing many of
them given that youíre focused on more private
I think those challenges become much more prevalent when
itís a public platform. People might want to spread
propaganda, and thereís a little more anonymity. I was
watching a video with this sideline reporter on a
platform I wonít name, and some of the comments were
just awful ó from sexual innuendos to cussing. You
would think people would be more civilized. Itís not
to say that we wonít run into those kind of issues,
but we already have some mechanisms in place that let
you block or report people.
When live video first came out a lot of people were
asking if it was just going to be a fad. Do you think itís
clear now it isnít a fad?
Live video has been around for a long time, but itís
just become more accessible to people now. You could go
live on your computer four or five years ago, but it
hasnít been a great experience on your phone until the
last year. Ö Everything is evolving toward video. Not
just video consumption but communicating through video.
Imagine some of the innovation thatís coming down the
pike with virtual reality and 360-degree videos. Youíre
going to see live 360-degree videos. Youíre going to
see live VR. Itís going to be everything from premium
content to these personal moments.
So no regrets about leaving Facebook?
My only regret is I miss a lot of my colleagues there.
We had some of the best people working on live video.
Super-talented people who I felt like I was learning a
lot from the whole time I was there. If there was one
thing I missed, thatís probably the biggest thing,
aside from the free lunches.
always wanted to start my own company at some point. Iím
an immigrant and I came here when I was 8 years old.
When I was really little, my mom would just take any
job, and I remember in the midst of raising four kids
she started her own business. I think it inspired me to
want to try it at some point. Even when I was a
journalist or building products at Facebook, I liked the
idea of creating and building something. It just felt
like my mom had no excuses, (so) what are my excuses?
place: Ivatsevichy, Belarus
San Mateo, Calif.
jobs: Product manager, Facebook Live & Facebook
Mentions; head of media partnership programs, Facebook;
journalism program manager, Facebook; community manager
and social media strategist, Mashable; social media
specialist, New York Times
Masterís in journalism (digital media), Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism; bachelorís
in journalism, University of Minnesota
Wife Krista, and two sons, Luke and Beau, with a third
boy on the way.
facts about Vadim Lavrusik
He emigrated with his mom and three siblings from
Belarus to Minnesota when he was 8 years old. He speaks
Russian fluently and loves to cook Russian food,
borrowing recipes from his mom.
He was the first person in his family to graduate from a
university, graduating summa cum laude from the
University of Minnesota and then getting a masterís
from Columbia University, where he went on to teach as
an adjunct professor for three years.
Storytelling, both written and visual, has always been a
passion for him. He started writing poetry and short
stories at a young age and had his first writing
published when he was 11. He started his career as a
reporter and journalist. Today, heís most passionate
about enabling others to share stories and moments
He loves all kinds of water sports (wakeboarding,
surfing, wakesurfing), with skim-boarding being his
When he was 7, he "broke into" a local prison
in Ivatsevichy on a dare by climbing over a 25-foot
wall. One of his neighbors, who was a senior guard at
the prison, brought him home with a big rip down his
pants, which he snagged on barbed wire at the top of the