In May 2014, I made a blog-post that details the conceptual design (how things work) when it comes to my latest startup. Since then I have received a steady stream of questions and some feedback related to the work I've been doing.
Now, most of the feedback that I have received is positive, specially when I paint the vision of the (potential) features that can be introduced in a fitness/outdoors related interest based social network.
But I have also received some criticism. The criticism usually comes in the form that this area is overdone. Specially with the emergence of other interest based social networks like fitocracy, pinterest, yaamo and mighty bells e.t.c. Overall, It begets the question, is there really a need for another interest based social network?
First of all, let me state that I find this criticism really valuable. In the words of Vinod Khosla, the most important thing is a reality where "someone disagrees with your point of view". I completely agree with this disagreement statement and I live by these words. I live by these words as this 'reality' forces you to challenge your own assumptions. There are two important reasons for having your assumptions challenged.
1. It creates synergy.
2. It helps shed light on the narrative from a point of view that you might have missed. And doing this could save you time and effort in the long run.
So paying attention to criticism is absolutely necessary for the survivability and success of your initiative.
That being said and to get back to the topic at hand. I'm creating TriboApp for a couple of simple reasons. These are questions or rather hypotheses in my mind. I have come to these hypotheses after observing the social media scene and also society at large. So in essence, what I am trying to do is test my different hypotheses. I believe that helping test these hypotheses is important, as getting the answers to some of these questions could help society at large. There is also the obvious and hugely important benefit of connecting individuals and bringing joy in their lives.
Now, these hypothesis that I have been referring to can be categorized into two groups:
1. Tribes vs Systems - Is that a good model?
I suspect that in most respects the potential for harnessing the collective capability of tribes or smaller teams is overlooked. I don't want to get into the actual cause, as this is just a hypothesis in my mind. Meaning large monolithic systems vs tribes. Although, that would be a very good thought experiment. But if this is true, then this is a major design problem. You'd have to go deeper and look at this problem from a biological (evolutionary), anthropological and societal point of view (psychology, group dynamics). Overcoming this design problem could mean a new way of conducting our lives and solving problems that confounds societies and entire civilizations. Also, overcoming this design problem would result in less waste. Waste that currently exists in the form of human capital that is not utilized, under utilized or utilized for the wrong endeavours as there is a skill mismatch. (task to individual/teams).
2. The social paradox
a. Social networks should be an enabler for connecting people. Not just people who you know, or friends of a friend or someone who you may benefit from (new job, new contract, new project e.t.c).
b. If an individual feels lonely then there should be a social network out there that helps solve that problem!
The emergence and popularity of 'interest based social networks' may be the driving force that gives credence to the two points that I have raised above. Or in other words, these are the problems that are driving growth in this space and will continue doing so.
Overall, I suspect that the way social networking has been done all this time could merely be the tip of the iceberg. There my be a huge untapped market for connecting people. Connecting people based on their interests seems like a logical start. And in a future state this reorganization of groups could fundamentally alter the way we conduct our lives, the nature of work and how society tackles problems big and small.
As with any project, there are many problems that need to be solved before we can get to a future state. Trust relationships, identities and reputation scores (more in the form of tribal knowledge) come at the top of the list.
Personally, I chose to launch a fitness/outdoor focused interest based social network because it has always been an area of passion for me. There are four things that I have done consistently throughout my life and that would be:
As a keen observer, I have always thought about how these interactions can be optimized. That is why I have decided to launch this venture. I chose to go with a fitness/health/outdoors focused social network, because I believe that this market is underserved. And like I've mentioned on my blog before, no one is focusing on 'group-cohesiveness' and 'group-dynamics'.
Can meetup.com or any other interest based social network guarantee that a significant majority of the members within each group get along with each other?
I figured I would take some time to shed a bit more light upon what I'm doing and more importantly why I'm doing it. As always, it will be great to get some feedback as I continue along this path of entrepreneurship. Thank you for reading and a big thanks to everyone who has provided support and feedback to date.
P.s: Please don't forget to signup for the Alpha release, if you haven't done so already. Signup link has been provided below.
There is a lot of fragmentation when it comes to the products Google offers and develops. That by itself is no secret in the industry. This is something that I have shared on my blog before and there are different types/kind/classifications of the pervasive fragmentation that Google would suffer from. If I was going to place these pieces in buckets, then we are essentially talking about:
But I don’t really see a concerted push to give their social movement some wings. I think the actual model of using Circles for social networks was a really neat idea. Google should have capitalize on that one idea and capitalized on it big time. I could see entire marketing campaign revolving around the “Circle of Life”. But you have to be a little careful, cause Disney and Elton John might soon be shouting trademark infringement. And something tells me that you don’t want to pick a fight with Elton.
Jokes aside. Now focusing on that second question and how to drive more traffic to Google +, and going back to Circles. The theme for a concerted social push for Google should really be built on circles. Actually, this is something I shared on my blog a couple of days back link. But that was specific to Youtube. As in saving youtube clips in circles that would be funneled back to Google + as opposed to an actual Playlist in Youtube.
But today I started thinking, why stop there? Why just Youtube? Google could do this for Picasa, News, Finance, Books, Reader, Blogger. Any product really, any product that Google offers itself at the very least and that has the potential to have logical hooks into the social (Google +) sphere should be able to do so. And then think about a plethora of apps. Why did you guys stop @ Games? Where are the apps?
So where as in the past I might have recommended that Google work on a strategy where they would want to tie each one of the tools and services they offer with another one of the services they offer. Like tying Youtube with Goog Analytics (your implementation of that idea was really bad btw). This time around I am proposing that all the data that needs to be fed to Google + , is actually fed to Google +. And how you do it is through Circles. How those circles would then categorize the kind of content, I’ve actually spoken (written) about that in my previous blogpost here. But the key to doing this right is to make sure it is logical, relevant, easily accessible, secure (public vs private) and it looks aesthetically pleasing. It’s not like each one of the profile pages is a dump of information. And ends up leaving the folks on your circles, scratching their heads as to what is going on with someone’s profile.
Think of what you can do with the circles. You can merge them and come up with dynamic datasets. And only get the updates for the folks you really want to receive them from. Forget dumping 250 mill on trying to acquire path.com, you can make your own version of path by tinkering with circles.
So start slow, and then gradually increase the scope of the what the circles can actually do. Don’t limit circles to connections. That’s such a waste.
So to recap and in semantics, Google really wants to throw a big party with Google +. But for any good party to happen, you need to invite people to the party. Lots of people.
Think viral Google. Think Circles. Otherwise the product will plateau.
Originally published on August 04, 2011
Google + has been running in Beta mode for a while now. I got on the Beta back in June and started tinkering with the platform. My very first reaction could simply be expressed with the term “tabula rasa”. Google is going with blank slate strategy here. They are not trying too hard. In fact they are not trying at all. Google is not new to the social networking phenomenon. They’ve had orkut running for a number of years now and I am sure they’ve learned a lot from that experience.
Well, this blog post is not an actual review of Google +, as I am still waiting for them to keep on adding new features to it. Speaking of which, I had an idea for Google +, well a couple really and I thought I’d share. It has to do with the design component of how the contacts are displayed. Right now the system would just flat out display the contacts that you have in your circles. This approach has a couple of major drawbacks:
Just to recap, 1) bringing enriched data 2) using existing data at your disposal (gmail, blogger, buzz and other feeds coming into buzz) 3) monitoring the frequency and recency of message exchange between two or more entities and 4) being able to build some kind of metrics leveraging analytics is the key piece here. The important thing to remember is to not use a brute-force mechanism to be able to do this. But rather, the system would notice that the user has logged in. They have interacted with this and that individual during the course of the past xx days. Okay, let’s suggest this person to this individual based on these metrics. Food for thought for the Google plus team.
Originally posted on June 7, 2011 …..LinkedIn is trading at 70 odd bucks. Technical/Stock analysis is not my forte. But it appears to be that the company and the stock could go either of the two ways:
Also, the influx of new capital will start showing results. It already has. There is a Linkedin Sharing option appearing on a majority of the websites. Sharing through linkedin will soon go viral = virality means more subscribers.
Revenue streams. Lots of room to grow here. Ads, job posting by employers, apps (new and upcoming) e.t.c. Also don’t forget their subscription model. Even if 5% of their 100 million user sign up for the most basic of the paid subscriptions that is 100 millions $ in revenue just from paid subscription alone! (5 mill * 20$ for the basic business package). That's 100 mill per month. So maybe their billion $ ++ evaluation was not that far-fetched.
But then again, it probably won’t be 5% of their user base signing up for a paid mechanism. More like 1 to max 2%. It’s still a good chunk of change. And they are leveraging these other mechanisms to get the user (different types of users) to pay more. Soon you will also have all major corporations coming to these guys to buy customer specific data off of them. Same way FB is doing. That’s a cash cow for Linkedin as 95% of their user base comprises of professionals. Marketeers are going to flock to them in order to be able to build better customer profiles. So you can see it’s only beginning to LNKD. I think they are going to conjure up effective ways of building and launching viral campaigns. Their goal will be to become the de facto professional grade social networking platform. And viral campaigns are the way to do that quickly and effectively. So you saw the “share” button or whatever they call it. Their goal will be to go from 120 mill to 200 and then 300 mill relatively quickly. When that happens, companies start focusing on growth and it takes their focus away from innovation. Twitter is a prime example here. Something Evan Williams admitted to recently. I don’t know if the same wil occur with Linkedin. But it doesn’t have a menacing competitor over the horizon. Bottom line if you ask me, the stock is going to drop.(I stand corrected as the stock shot up 7% the very next day)
But the potential for the LNKD as an enterprise is huge. Best amongst all social networks (for investors).
Originally posted on January 17, 2011
Back in November I attended a conference held by one of our local Tech Incubator. The intent of this week long gathering was to promote entrepreneurship in the region and to celebrate and showcase the successes.
One of the things that stuck with me from this conference was the mantra of “Social, Local, Mobile“.
It really got me thinking about the massive technological shift of our times.
Plus, there will be a plethora of small/mid-scale start-ups that will drive their business being inherently dependent upon the Big social and local landscape. These start-up will find the niche services that the parent social/local giant fails to provide. This is already happening, with various start-ups ranging from analytics (Kissmetrics, Kontagent), trending and stats (various online trending/stats tools for twitter and other social networks). Then there is an entire eco-system of app developers for the social and mobile scene.
Venture Capitalist keep dumping insane amounts of money into social/local start-ups. I don’t necessarily believe that this is akin to the frenzy that we saw before the dot com crash. Meaning, well that a) the VC and investors are not stupid and b) whoever commands the impressions (tracking eyeballs) in the future controls the market share. And this is the reason why predominantly all social/local big names offer their services to the user for free. For now the user is paying with tiny bits of privacy, but that is a debate for another day.
Invariably the majority of these businesses will generate their revenue through ads, user generate ads at that. Google Adsense has been up and running for a while now. But now we are seeing the emergence of ads on the Facebook and LinkedIn networks as well. The mobile/local scene is going to follow suit. Plus there has been speculation in the industry that the big engines are going to start charging the customers at some point. This too has already started happening (LinkedIn Premium Account, Google Apps). However the bulk of the focus is towards gaining numbers and build a mass at this point
Bottom-line. If you are an enterprise or a recognized institution, then most definitely you already have a social media presence. (Unless you are Pentagon). Also odds are pretty good that you have a mobile version of your website and that you are looking to see how you can benefit from the localization phenomenon. Not to be confused with localization for languages.
If you are a medium to small business (also applies to big businesses), then you need to start paying attention towards these trends. Facebook has 500 million users and close to 200 million are on Twitter. Google is synonymous with search and Google adwords can target ads to your geographic locale. Honestly, hardly anyone in the age group of 18-42 advertises in the local newspaper anymore. That’s a fact. Smart-phone usage is becoming more commonplace and if you can pay a developer 400$ to create an app for you, which will make it easier for your customers to interact with your business. Then they will obviously love you for it. Also be on the lookout for how the whole “local” scene pans out. Advertising and discounts are a reality on Foursquare. Oh, and did you hear about Groupon and what it can do for your business?
On an individual front, well it’s highly unlikely for anyone to not have a Facebook account. But social media and interaction is much more than just Facebook. Use these platforms intelligently. Use, LinkedIn for networking and keeping abreast of what’s going on in your network. Twitter/Tumblr for microblogging and for keeping abreast of the topics of interest to you. Facebook to stay in touch with your friends and granma. Yes, she prefers Facebook over text messaging. Ditch your dumb Nokia phone for a smart phone and then incorporate all your social feeds on it! Catch the localization bandwagon to see what your friends are up-to or to pocket deep discounts. Also, use these engines to create your own brand. I see so many people mindlessly interacting on the social platforms with little or no thought given to their actions. Use these systems intelligently and efficiently. Inter-connect these systems by virtue of the API’s that are offered. So you do not have to update each and every one of the engines separately.
Finally, it’s the “Social, Local, Mobile” trend and it’s here to stay. You may choose to ride the wave or you may choose to ignore it and it will eventually hit you with a splash. More like a tsunami if you are a medium to large business. Just don’t say that no one warned ya.