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Data Sheet—Why Twitch Pivoted to Video Games, and Why It Worked

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Emmett Shear, the quirky and focused and highly successful CEO of Amazon-owned streaming phenom Twitch, knows the exact moment he went from being a failing entrepreneur to the leader of a high-growth business.

Justin.tv, Twitch’s predecessor company, was a well-before-its-time 24-hour reality TV webcaster. It wasn’t working. Shear and his partners decided to focus on just one kind of streaming product, on the conviction that simplicity would give the startup a fighting chance. The company could have gone in multiple directions, including sports. But Shear, a bonkers online gamer, knew how he was spending his own time on the service, and so Twitch was reborn with an emphasis on gaming.

By 2014, Amazon bought Twitch for nearly $1 billion. Shear continues to run the company, safe inside Amazon but independent in its operations.

The great thing about this story, which Shear told at a Brainstorm Tech warm-up event in San Francisco Tuesday night, is how he came to the right decision. He didn’t follow the advice of consultants. He didn’t follow a fad he’d read about in a business book. He didn’t throw proverbial spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick.

He went with what he knew–with the knowledge that it might not work, but the confidence that he wanted to buy the product he planned to sell. It’s a good lesson for entrepreneurs on up to managers of giant businesses.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Upgraded. Remember that meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and the Pentagon? It seems it turned into more of an Oval Office affair, as President Trump tweeted about talking with the tech exec, too. Pichai “stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military,” Trump wrote. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBTQ group, withdrew its positive corporate rating of Google over an app in Google’s Play store promoting conversion therapy.

Third class. After three generations of failure, Apple is finally apologizing for its terrible butterfly keyboard design–sort of. Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern mocked the design in a piece titled “Appl Still Hasn’t Fixd Its MacBook Kyboad Problm,” prompting the company to issue a statement saying the problem was limited to a small number of users “and for that we are sorry.” Hopefully, the laptop maker comes up with a new design soon instead of an apology. (I am also not a fan, as you may have read.)

Caught in the act. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Thursday it is charging Facebook with violating housing discrimination laws over the company’s advertising targeting features. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. No immediate response from the company, which has already moved to end the practice.

Challenging times. Four former IBM employees filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the company on Wednesday. All four were age 55 or older when IBM let them go in 2016. The suit also attacked IBM’s requirement that departing employees waive their right to collective legal action in order to obtain severance. “We are confident that our arbitration clauses are legal and appropriate,” the company told the San Jose Mercury News.

Nailed. Federal regulators uncovered one of those bogus tech support scams that relied on phony alerts generated by supposed PC cybersecurity apps. The bad guy? Retail chain Office Depot, which agreed to pay $25 million to settle the charges.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

As the costs of the Air Force’s F-35 project have steadily crept upwards and are now closing in on one-half of $1 trillion, criticism has mounted. But now that the super high-tech fighter has actually flown some combat missions, pilots are weighing in. Linda Shiner at Air & Space Magazine has the first-hand accounts of what it’s like to fly a stealthy, modern plane at speeds exceeding 1,200 miles per hour. Test pilot Art Tomassetti explains to Shiner the advance in automation:

One of the marvels of this airplane is the digital flight control technology. You are telling the airplane to go up or down, speed up or slow down, go left or right. And the computers figure out what’s the best way to do that, and they’re going to move the flight controls to do it. And the interesting thing is, they may not do it the same way twice. So let’s say the airplane gets damaged, and one of the flight controls is no longer available. A legacy airplane would still try to use that surface because it doesn’t know any better. The F-35 digital flight control systems will say, “That surface isn’t doing much for me anymore, so I’m going to have to compensate by using some other things. Maybe I’ll have to move them a little bit more to get the same effect because the pilot still wants to turn left.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

After Sen. Mike Lee Uses Star Wars to Mock Green New Deal, Mark Hamill Strikes Back By Brian Raftery

No Joke: Microsoft Bans April Fools’ Day Pranks By Alyssa Newcomb

Wells Fargo and Mastercard CEOs Still Skeptical About Blockchain’s Impact By Don Reisinger

U.S. Government Declares Grindr a National Security Risk By Chris Morris

Federal Trade Commission Fines Robocallers Millions of Dollars By Erin Corbett

5 Things to Know About Facebook’s New Ban on White Nationalism By Danielle Abril

Census Bureau Enlists Help of Tech Giants to Fight Disinformation By Natasha Bach

BEFORE YOU GO

Ever suffer from road rage? Or just get stressed out from all that traffic? Ford has the answer. The 2020 Ford Explorer will have a dashboard display mode called “Calm Screen” that will offer only a few key pieces of info over an otherwise blank, relaxing blue background. The company says the display means the SUV “can serve as a sanctuary from chaos and distraction.” That would be a pretty cool trick.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.