By Abir El-Hallak
There is no doubt that startups have marvellously contributed to social media platforms. Just look at Facebook, a company now worth many billions, which began as a tiny startup over a decade ago when the then 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg launched the site in 2004. Its incredible success story is the aspiration of every social network startup. Instagram is a more recent example. Launched in 2010, Instagram was acquired by Facebook just two years later for $1 billion in cash and stock. Snapchat, a favourite of teenagers, “represents the greatest existential threat yet to the Facebook juggernaut” (Forbes) and it is hardly surprising that Facebook offered an incredible $3 billion to buy the photo-sharing app. With over 100 million daily active users and growing, Snapchat refused the offer. This year, the former Instagram and Snapchat executive Emily White, launched her own startup ‘Mave’, a high-end personal concierge service…watch this space or join the waiting list.
Let’s take a look at some of the up-and-coming social media platform startups with the potential for growth in the year ahead.
Periscope is a live streaming app for iOS and Android developed by Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein that allows users to watch and broadcast videos in real-time and from anywhere and saves the video streams for up to 24 hours. It has transformed video sharing making it instant and interactive rendering it a leader in personal branding. The company was started in February 2014 and a tweet from Periscope announced the startup’s acquisition by Twitter in January 2015 for a reported $120 million even before the product had been publicly launched. It was officially launched in March 2015 and four months later it had exceeded 10 million accounts. In December of last year, it was named by Apple as the iPhone App of the Year. According to Business Insider, “Startup stories like Periscope’s make entrepreneurship sound easy. Just put in 11 months of work and flip your app for $120 million, no traction or launch needed.”
A video chat app that launched in April 2015 which allows group interactions with up to four people that anyone can watch in real-time with an easy to use interface and where conversations can be recorded and it works seamlessly with Twitter. Blab is very relevant to social media marketers and people with online businesses giving Google Hangouts a run for its money as “the intimate video set up is perfect for brands who looked to fully engage customers in a small group atmosphere” (Why is everyone flocking to Blab.IM?). Serial entrepreneur and New Media Marketing Strategist Joel Comm perceives “it as one of the greatest opportunities for building your platform and growing a following.”
Slack is a cloud-based instant messaging and online collaboration app that offers team communication solutions and is available on every platform. Slack allows you to organise your messages, discussions and notifications; create private channels for sensitive information; direct messages to both individuals and to groups; share files; perform searches; receive notifications according to your personalised priorities; and has three types of built-in integrations as well as the option to build your own. This fast growing startup’s busy app was launched in April 2014 and is clearly on a mission to simplify and organise your life as the now 1.7 million daily active users (and estimated 90,000 companies) can attest. According to Harper Reed, CEO of Modest, “it’s very, very, very quick for anyone who interacts with Slack to consider Slack, the entity, their friend. That’s super weird” (INC. MAGAZINE).
The London based travel tech startup, Firef.ly, managed to raise over $1 million through Seedrs crowdfunding platform as well as a grant from Innovate UK. As part of their extremely effective Crowdfunding Pitch, Firef.ly identified “a huge gap in the travel market for someone who looks at the entire lifecycle of travel and connects the dots. We aim to build a massively scalable travel ecosystem that consolidates the fragmentation currently seen in the travel sector.” Tech City News describes the app as one that “helps you plan and capture your holidays, after which you can buy a one-of-a-kind data visualisation of your trip.” This travel app connects travellers to local businesses at every phase of travel which your own brand may very well benefit from.
What do you WAnt? What do you NEed? What do you LOve? Wanelo.
Wanelo, pronounced “wah-nee-loh”, is effectively “a digital mall where people can discover and buy products on the internet. The site has over 12 million products posted by users from over 300,000 stores, including both large brands and independent sellers, like those found on Etsy” (Wikipedia). This startup took Pinterest a big step further by allowing users the additional click-to-buy on the original site option. Deena Varshavskaya, the founder of Wanelo states that “a platform like Wanelo enables any maker or retailer to reach the customer directly. The long-term vision is to make sure those businesses can be built on top of Wanelo” (Mashable). Wanelo enables brands and retailers (some of whom are adding the Wanelo save button to their websites) to operate their own store pages resulting in improved overall engagement with the community as well as valuable insight as to which of their products are popular.
Two more social network startups worth a quick mention:
Ello, an all-purpose social networking service created in March 2014 with the main difference being that it is against advertising on its platform therefore making it a more privacy friendly option.
Shots, a selfie sharing app backed by Justin Bieber, has enjoyed surprising success since its launch in 2013. The absence of a follower counts feature and recent updates, including its new comedy focus, has tremendous appeal to its mostly teen 10 million registered users.
Explore these options, use them as inspirational stories for your own startup, decide whether one or more of them will fit perfectly with your brand, can be used as an effective communication tool and add value to your startup’s social media strategy or indeed to your own personal social network practice!