Kenneth Yancy has been live streaming since the early 2000s — a time when not many were interested in the technology, he said. But 20 years later, a virtual-hybrid work model featuring video conferencing is the norm.
“In 2001, I was working for Cisco as an engineer. My team and I built the first live streaming Victoria’s Secret runway show. Then in 2003, urban Black churches began hiring me to stream their church services until around 2006 when they could stream on their own through Facebook,” said Yancy, the founder and CEO of NoW — a video conferencing platform.
“At the time, there weren’t many individuals or businesses who wanted streaming services,” he continued. “That drastically changed with the [COVID-19] pandemic. … I named my video conferencing platform NoW, because video conferencing is essential now.”
Click here to check out NoW.
Yancy was hospitalized for COVID-19 in early 2021. As he was recovering, he spent his free time studying Zoom’s software — realizing that the technology was nearly 11 years old. He immediately knew he should build upgraded software, he shared.
“Does anyone have an 11-year-old phone or computer? A majority of people would say no,” Yancy said. “Technology has advanced so much, so NoW is naturally going to have more capabilities. … We have music for users who are in a waiting room. We send out a text message to meeting attendees before the meeting starts, as well as a text message to hosts when someone enters the waiting room.”
Time to upgrade
NoW, which officially launched in October 2021, is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) — a secured cloud computing platform that offers an array of cloud services. Unlike Zoom and other video conferencing applications, NoW is a website.
“What that means is that NoW will never ask you to install or upgrade,” Yancy explained. “My intent was to make video conferencing and streaming easier, with no bugs.”
NoW’s business model is subscription based, offering various plans based on company size and intended use. The platform features: video and audio recording, breakout rooms, unlimited meeting time, language translation for meetings with multiple languages and more, Yancy said — noting that there are no additional costs to monthly subscriptions.
Along with desktop to desktop communication, NoW can stream up to one million viewers for live concerts, seminars, plays and town hall meetings, Yancy continued.
“Once again, the idea to better stream events came from the pandemic,” he said. “I was watching Facebook as they were streaming these different artists, from different parts of the country, battling against one another. And I knew Facebook was not built to do that. I watched as it hit 78,000 viewers, then 97,000. As soon as they hit about 150,000, it crashed. NoW is built specifically for mass media, so it won’t have those problems.”
Since launching less than a year ago, NoW has been utilized by government officials, school boards, businesses and nonprofits, Yancy said.
“Terri English Yancy, my wife, is founder and CEO of the nonprofit Essential Families: they will use NoW to do mental telehealth services,” he shared. “She’s going to be doing virtual home visiting services, so she can teach people how to be parents; she’s been doing it in person for over 20 years, but now we’re doing it virtually. And then we will have six free sessions with a licensed therapist. … One of our big goals is to help people utilize our technology to make their life better.”
Yancy’s technology secured him a spot as a Comeback KC Ventures fellow — a fellowship program for founders and innovators who are creating disruptive solutions for the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Comeback KC has been very resourceful and helpful in getting us connected with the right people,” Yancy said. “And they do vet you. If you’re part of this program, you really have to have something that’s going to impact the community.”
Click here for the full list of the Comeback KC Ventures fellows.
Ultimately, Yancy wants to make his platform accessible to people across the world, he shared. But first, he’s going to need the support of the Kansas City community.
“My goal is to allow people to communicate easily and securely; I want underserved communities to have access to this technology,” Yancy said. “… Kansas City has someone who built an outstanding platform, and I would like to see Kansas City really get behind us to show the world what Kansas City can do.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.