Ian Morris

Ian Morris

CEO | Likewise

Industry
Technology

Location
Bellevue, Washington

Ian Morris: His Likewise Start-up Was Perfect for the Pandemic, as People Stream, Listen, and Read More While Staying Home. Now Comes a New Product Release.

Ian Morris: His Likewise Start-up Was Perfect for the Pandemic, as People Stream, Listen, and Read More While Staying Home. Now Comes a New Product Release.

Ian Morris is co-founder and CEO of Likewise, an startup that helps users easily find the best personalized recommendations for TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, and more.

Ian, we first spoke with you during late summer 2020. At the time, we asked you a bunch of questions, such as: What were your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? How was it impacting your business, specifically, and what were your concerns in the bigger picture of the economy? What had been working for your company during this time and what hadn’t? How had the pandemic/quarantine helped your business? Here’s how you answered at the time:

Our main concern is keeping everyone safe and healthy. The world has changed dramatically in the last few months and everyone has had to make adjustments both professionally and personally. I have been very proud of the great work our team has done during these tumultuous times, and we are doing absolutely everything we can to be there for them.

And their great work is more important now than ever. The Likewise app helps users make the most of their recreational time by helping them find TV shows, movies, books, and podcasts.

Likewise lets people connect over the app to recommend movies, books and other media. Photo courtesy Likewise

As people have looked to escape, we’ve seen tremendous growth and engagement. In just the last four months we have tripled the number of users on our platform. We have had more than 1M people sign up for Likewise and those users have enriched our community with more than 25M recommendations for TV shows, movies, books, and podcasts. In return, they are receiving new personalized picks every day, based on recommendations they have made, those provided by their friends and people they trust, and those provided by our editors who make sure that all of our users are aware of new content they may like based on their past interests.

Late last summer, we also asked you what was your then-current business strategy for dealing with the situation. And how had that strategy changed from early March 2020, when the pandemic hit the U.S. Here’s how you replied:

Being able to adapt on the fly has been a strong suit for our team. With people suddenly finding themselves at home, we adapted quickly to provide new recommendations to our users. For instance, our editors created dozens of lists of the best content available in areas such as children’s education, fitness, and cooking. Those are all on Likewise in addition to hundreds of other lists focused on more traditional TV shows, movies, books, and podcasts. There is a wealth of content in the world and our job is to serve it up for our users based on what they will most likely be interested in. For some people that meant light comedies, for others it was diving into reality shows. One thing that was quite surprising was how many users sought movies related to pandemics so we made sure to point people to the best of those as well. At Likewise, we can share countless content options in real time that can attract any type of user, and we help minimize the time scrolling and jumping from streaming services while figuring out what to watch next.

So, now that we are in spring 2021, more than a year removed from the earliest days of the pandemic, what updates do you have to share with our readers? It looks like your two answers above still hold up. And we understand from your team that Likewise has a new product about to launch. Is this a product born from a pandemic pivot, or something you had planned all along?

I continue to be incredibly impressed with how our team has performed. We are blessed to be in the tech space, where going virtual is an option, and our team hasn’t missed a beat. We have made major product enhancements throughout the past year that have been very well received by our users. In fact, during the fourth quarter of 2020, Likewise was the most downloaded entertainment-guide app, a testament to the terrific work the team is doing in listening to our customers. Our latest release is focused on communities, and it is something that we have planned for a while now.

Likewise has always been about helping users discover, collect, and share great recommendations with people they care about, but I don’t think we fully anticipated the way that people look to like-minded individuals, even those they don’t know, to discover great ideas and share their own. That’s what this latest update is all about—facilitating better discovery and sharing great content by helping like-minded people connect with and communicate with each other. We’ve also added the ability for users to participate in live audio chat events around the topics that matter to them. Whether their interest is in new psychological thrillers coming to TV or books on business leadership, we are enabling them to share their ideas in a positive and welcoming space. This will extend the value we provide to our users and the important role we play in their lives.

These two different interviews are like having a time machine. Again, back late last summer, we asked you for some predictions. Let’s see how you thought things would look in your industry by summer 2021:

The streaming industry is booming with new services entering our households all the time. Given that trend, our team wanted to better understand a consumer’s perception of this constant growth, so we conducted a streaming-service data survey a few months ago that confirmed that Americans are becoming overwhelmed when trying to decide what to watch and where to watch it.

Streaming services provide recommendations to their viewers, but it’s only for movies and television shows found on that platform. This leaves individuals frustrated with the process of jumping around.

Likewise aims to solve this problem and help with the efficiency of your life. That’s why we’ve expanded from our mobile application to Likewise TV for Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV. This feature helps people discover, save, and watch their favorite movies and shows across streaming platforms. Users can easily discover new content on their service and use one watch list to track what they want to watch now and in the future. The launch of these additional features eliminates the need to skip from service to service and allows you to launch movies and shows directly from the Likewise TV app. Our offering essentially becomes your personal TV guide. No one is doing anything like this today. As the streaming industry continues to expand, it’s important to stay on top of these trends and better understand user traits. How can we help get ahead of this and provide solutions for consumers? That’s an important facet of being successful and staying relevant.

Circling back to today, is this the question Likewise still asks itself: “How can we help get ahead of this and provide solutions for consumers?” Is that question what led to this new product launch?

We are focused on being an indispensable media and entertainment companion for all our users, and the only one they ever need. That means helping them find something that will make their lives better every time they are thinking about finding their next favorite TV show, movie, book, or podcast. This continues to be our vision, and everything we do is focused on achieving it. Enabling our users to engage in interest-based communities is just the latest way we are doing this, but more major enhancements will certainly follow in the months ahead.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past, and how are you applying that to what’s happening now? What mistakes are you looking to avoid making?

In times of distress or rapid change people look for leadership. As business leaders we can be steadying influences in their lives and that’s never been more important than it is today. Our team is working hard and doing great work, and we will do whatever we can to help them through this time.

Life has been disrupted at the social level with various restrictions seen throughout the country, so having a recommendation app that can keep people engaged with their family, friends, and other users while at home has been helpful.

Photo courtesy Likewise.

Through this, our team has been able to broaden our content and has quickly been able to provide new recommendations to our users. With students home due to school closures, we’ve created dozens of lists of the best content available to them in areas such as children’s education, fitness, and cooking. In addition to hundreds of other lists focused on traditional movies, television shows, books, and podcasts, Likewise provides a wealth of information about the wealth of content in the world. It’s our job to make sure we can provide users with this information based on what they will most likely be interested in.

Safe–and entertained–at home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime

Morning routine: How are you starting your day now that you’re working from home and have a different schedule?
I try to get a workout in every day, ideally outside and most ideally, tennis. It’s my favorite way to start each day.

Currently binging: What are the shows you’re catching up on? Just hearing about?
I am rewatching 30 Rock with the whole family. It’s the best show that many people have never seen and I recommend it to just about anyone. My kids are huge fans of the show as well!

Currently reading: What books, digital content, magazines, etc. (non-news related) are entertaining you right now?
I enjoy podcasts quite a bit and am still exploring. Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History is my personal favorite. I also like to read and listen to audiobooks. There aren’t many things better than loving an audiobook so much that you run the extra few miles just to keep listening.

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
The one silver lining of all this is spending time with my family. I am busier than I would like to be right now, but I am setting a goal to spend more time with my family in the remaining weeks of the summer, before they all go back to school.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Tennis is my go-to for both.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal: hotels, resorts, restaurants, general destinations?
We really want to take a trip to Europe as a family and can’t wait for that option to become available again.

 

Ian Morris is co-founder and CEO of Likewise, an startup that helps users easily find the best personalized recommendations for TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, and more.

Want more pandemic insight from business leaders? Read our full coverage here.

 


New call-to-action