What $970,000,000 Taught Twitch Founder Justin Kan About Friendship

Oct 01, 2021
Image edited by the author — Original from Flickr

As Silicon Valley mega-founders go, Justin seems strangely likable.

He earned his stripes by co-founding the giant live streaming platform Twitch back in 2011. You might not have heard of it but it has the 36th highest global engagement of any site on the web. For context, Twitter is one place below!

After only three years, Amazon bought the company for $970m and made Justin rich beyond most of our wildest dreams. You could say he had officially made it but the question for him was now what?

The way people perceived him had completely changed. His status represented something to them and he couldn’t be regular Justin Kan anymore. He struggled to tell whether people wanted to be his friend because they were inspired or because they saw him as an opportunity.

Even people who have far more modest achievements like me have felt this difference. It’s funny how everyone wants to be your friend when they think you can help them, isn’t it? This shift in relationships can be toxic to people’s well-being.

What makes Justin interesting is how transparent he is on social media. Through his Twitter and YouTube channels, he gives insight into what’s going on in his mind rather than the generic lines most tech founders trot out. He recently revealed the three lessons he learned about life after the big buyout.


Be open

When you’re burned by those who see you as an opportunity, the easiest thing is to raise your guard. Yet this doubles your losses because you don’t create the bonds which could have given you so much joy.

I’ve got a one-year-old nephew who will speed crawl over to any other baby he sees. He’ll plop down in front of them then blurt out some gibberish. They both giggle at a joke only they understand and they’re now best mates.

Yet 45% of adults find it difficult to make new friends. The average American hasn’t made a new friend in 5 years. Justin was oblivious of this until he tried to convince someone he knew to move away from California with him. The person refused without any debate. They were being alone in a new place.

You might think the pool of people who could relate to Justin’s lavish life is small but he instead chooses to see the similarities between people, not the differences. Even with an 8-figure net worth, he still believes he can learn something from everyone he meets. From a happy barista, he learned a phrase that has stuck with him.

“Why do you think the present is called the present? Because it’s a gift.”

It doesn’t matter how successful you are, other people can always teach you something new.


Stop keeping score

Three simple words will change the way I see you forever.

You owe me.

I’m less than two years into this online world but my gut can spot these people a mile away. If you freely offer to help someone then don’t poison it by later claiming they owe you. Keeping score isn’t a good way to create genuine relationships. When you feel you’re being taken advantage of, it’s better to be honest about it than use it as future emotional blackmail.

Despite Justin’s wealth, he is proactive about trying to help other people. He offers before someone asks him and never expects anything in return. It’s a simple philosophy of put out good energy into the world and if it’s returned then great. If not then you can still take satisfaction in your intentions.

A mutual lack of entitlement is key to creating true friendships by valuing everyone’s time. I’m more likely to help you if I feel you aren’t just trying to use me like most people are. Forget the slimy salesman tactics and focus on energizing those around you not draining them.

Your life will be better off because of it.


Masks are for your face, not your feelings

Hustle porn has rotted the minds of many entrepreneurs who try to show an impenetrable fortress of awesomeness all the time. They think it makes them look strong but it makes them seem fake. Real people aren’t 100% every day. I enjoy working with people, not robots.

Justin confesses he did this himself for the first ten years of his career. The boring answer to “how are you?” is “good” or “fine”. After tens of thousands of years of civilization, we can express ourselves better than this. Start answering this simple question properly and see what a difference it makes to your relationships.

The people who gloss over your feelings to get straight to what you can do for them aren’t the ones you want in your life. If the thought of admitting any weakness to someone churns your stomach, you should start to wonder why you are even spending your precious time with them.

Yet most people listen and share their genuine feelings too. It fast tracks my connections to friendships and this adds much more value to both of our lives. Some of the people who reached out to me because of my “success” are now the people I talk to about everything else except for business.

All because I was willing to be vulnerable.

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