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The ROI of Online Safety with Reggie Yativ of Agora

Now is the time for platform leaders to rethink user safety. No longer just an insurance policy, a safe environment cultivates openness, fosters engagement, and positively impacts key growth metrics.

Listen as Reggie Yativ, CRO and COO of Agora, joins Brand Safety Exchange to explain how Agora manages a safe and secure real-time engagement platform that its partners and customers love, how user safety drives ROI, the latest live streaming trends, and much more.

Agora’s Real-Time Engagement Platform provides reliable worldwide coverage with ultra-low latency, scalability, and flexible interactive features. They provide APIs, SDKs, and partner relationships help customers embed voice, video, real-time messaging and recording solutions quickly and cost effectively.

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The following interview transcript has been edited to make it more concise.

Tiffany Xingyu Wang 

Hi everyone, I'm Tiffany Xingyu, I'm the GM and Co-founder of Oasis Consortium, a nonprofit that builds industry standards for brand and user safety. Welcome to Brand Safety Exchange where I interview experts and practitioners in the space. Today I have CRO and COO of Agora Labs, Inc. Reggie Yativ. Welcome, Reggie.

Reggie Yativ  00:36

Hi, I'm really happy to be here. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  00:39

So Reggie, tell us about yourself and Agora.

Reggie Yativ  00:42

Well, I joined Agora three years ago, it's been an exciting ride. And we can talk about that a little bit. But, maybe a few words about Agora. Agora is a provider of SDKs and APIs, and our main purpose is to enable real-time engagement, which means we give the developers all the tools, SDKs, and APIs to embed in their app. So no matter what your use case, or what you're trying to achieve, in what context, whether it's education or social, or enterprise collaboration, or whatever that use case is, you embed those SDKs in your app. And then you can go live on Agora's software-defined real-time network (SDRTN), which is a global network that consists of over 200 data centers globally. And that allows your video and your audio and your live interactive streaming to reach every corner in the universe, to every person on every device anytime, day or night. This is our main mission: to enable real-time engagement between people no matter what the context is. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  01:49

Thank you, Reggie. I was actually speaking at your RTE conference last year. I have to say, you don't only build the infrastructure for real-time engagement, but the whole ecosystem. What is hot right now in real-time engagement and live streaming? 

Reggie Yativ  02:07

Well, thank you, it was good to have you at that conference. That conference was amazing - a lot of smart people. We are saying that we are enabling that space, not so much building. Because developers and app owners and entrepreneurs of all types, sizes, and companies build the space, we are enabling them by providing them all the APIs and SDKs they need. Even before COVID-19, we've seen a huge development in the education space, we've seen a lot of hybrid use cases where it's offline and online, combined together makes the learning experience very powerful. But once COVID hit us and things became a little different, unfortunately, then that use case became even bigger. There's a lot more innovation in education. Some of it is very surprising; very, very creative people out there. We're seeing the same with social, whether it's large channels with a lot of people and multiple hosts hosting big live streaming events. And what's unique about it is the interactive piece - the audience and the hosts can interact with the content, which requires an ultra-low latency network and that's what we provide. But it also creates a new dynamic in streaming. The other thing we've seen is the same for audio. So you have small chat rooms and big chat rooms where people talk about different topics and in an open and nice way. And finally, specifically on use cases, next to education and social, we're also seeing quite a transformation in virtual events. Because of COVID, and even before that, this transformation started so we're seeing a lot of creativity with event producers and event apps. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  03:52

Yeah, I especially like what you mentioned about the "audio renaissance." We do see a lot of burgeoning platforms leveraging audio and beyond on live streaming recently. And another trend, as you mentioned, is that the lines between social, gaming, dating, even educational verticals are becoming so blurry these days, because of the technologies you're providing. So you are here on Brand Safety Exchange to talk about brand and user safety. Share your perspective and why brand and user safety is important to yourself and Agora. 

Reggie Yativ  04:28

Yeah, well, first of all, it's great to be here talking about that important topic. I do believe that, as you mentioned, things transformed online. COVID or not, things have been transforming the last four or five years. People use a lot more video and they are depending on it in many cases to conduct their business or social life. You mentioned dating, but even the gaming experience is not the same today. People that play games together want to interact with each other over video and over audio, so all of that interaction calls for safety. I feel it is our job as people that operate in that ecosystem to enable a safe experience for people that want to use those avenues to communicate, connect, and engage with each other. If a platform is not safe, people will think twice before they engage. At Agora, we look at safety in a more holistic way. So we consider, for example, making sure that developers have all the security tools like encryption and access management tools; we consider that part of safety. Also moderation services from Spectrum Labs, one of our partners who works with us on moderation making sure the content is clean as possible. And also compliance; people need to feel safe, that their information is private and Agora is investing a tremendous amount of resources and efforts to make sure that we comply with all local and global standards like GDPR, HIPAA, ISO, and all kinds of standards that are ensuring that the experience is safe. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  06:07

Here at Oasis Consortium, we talk about those principles quite a lot: Safety by design, privacy by design, and DEI by design. I'm so glad that you touched upon all of those aspects by the effort you're making at Agora. So you're the CRO and COO of Agora Labs. So I have to ask - what do you think about ROI on safety in the future? Because in the past, safety has been almost an insurance policy or thought of as compliance obligations. But as you alluded, safety is more and more tied to engagement and retention in the ecosystem. So what is your perspective on the ROI of safety in the next ten years? 

Reggie Yativ  06:50

Yeah, I think this is a great question because it touches the way that leaders look at safety. Many leaders consider a safe environment to be needed; as in we don't have a choice, we have to do it. But I think it's a big miss because safety and safe environments cultivate openness. And when they cultivate openness, they create this environment where people are happy to participate in conversations, and they feel safe. So once you create that safe environment, people will go back to the app and do more, or people will go back to the game and play more, and people will go back to that social forum they like so much and instead of just listening and hide, they will openly talk and participate. And now as a developer of apps, for example -- we talk to a lot of them every day -- what they want is traction on their app. They want noise, they want to be recognized, right? So when the environment is safe, you are going to get that effect. And all of this, if I may talk about metrics here, all of it translates to DAU, MAU, net expansion; all of those metrics that people like to talk about are a manifestation of how safe and how nice the environment you provide to users is. That's the essence of safety in my opinion.

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  08:26

Do you know what I'm excited about? As you're talking about it, we should totally do a case study to prove the ROI on safety. And you're so well placed in this space. I'm super excited that you and Agora are on-board with Oasis Consortium. 

Reggie Yativ  08:42

Yeah, well, me too. You know, I've looked at some of your previous interviews with some of our customers and partners, someone as brilliant and smart as Geoff Cook, the CEO of the Meet Group. Those kinds of people are leaders in the space, and Geoff understands that more than a lot of people. And they can help drive this. I'm sure that a lot of those leaders will be happy to share some of the metrics that closely correlate to providing that safe experience. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  09:09

Yeah, it's really fortunate for us to have you visionary leaders to guide us, to design standards that a whole industry can adopt. Ultimately, as you said, it is easier when you can prove the ROI on safety for the standards to be adopted. So really great to have you. And Geoff gets a shout-out here for sure! It is not an easy task. That's why it takes so long and so much investment to make a platform safe. What are the key challenges and difficulties you have encountered when you try to build a safer ecosystem for your partners and customers?

Reggie Yativ  09:45

There are two elements to building a safer ecosystem. One is the technology element and the other one is the people element. If you're talking about technology, Agora has been investing a lot in different types of technologies that exist behind the scenes like encryption and a lot of investment in process and compliance. Beyond that you have technologies that are emerging like machine learning and AI technologies, all of them put together are a fundamental part of how we are trying to achieve better results in terms of being able to monitor content. We provide some of those tools to our developers, and they use them the way they understand and the way they see fit. So it's an investment in technology, which sometimes can take time and effort and trials and error, and iteration and creativity. On the other hand, every safe environment also has a human side to it, so even people that have a very strong moderation technology will tell you that there's some human element involved in safely managing a community and safely managing user registration. Also supervising the technology itself and how it works and connecting the dots to make sure the experience is really working. So and then, of course, there's the internal part, which is training people and adopting processes. And by the way, your point earlier about Oasis Consortium, I believe that many leaders that handle those things every day will benefit from the standards. Standardization for brand and user safety will play a significant role in helping executives achieve their goals. Otherwise, you're always working towards a moving target, which is much harder. 

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  11:32

You are so spot on. Not until we can define what is good and what the benchmarks are, will leaders have standards to guide investments and give those companies something to work toward. Also, some emerging platforms don't necessarily have the whole policy team or the large budget to invest in technology. So having initial guidelines and standards can hasten the time to value for them. So thank you so much for highlighting that. Of course.  Thank you so much for being on the show. Your expertise and vision in safety, and especially your contribution to the real-time engagement ecosystem, are so highly appreciated here. Thank you so much, Reggie.

Reggie Yativ  12:24

We're looking forward to working with you and the other members of the consortium to contribute as much as we can. As I mentioned, at Agora, we need to make sure that the tools we give to developers help them create that safe environment for people and I'm looking forward to future dialogue.

Tiffany Xingyu Wang  12:42

Thank you, Reggie.