HOW FADS START: One High School In California Is Responsible For A Mobile Craze 3.4 Million People Use
When Evan Spiegel, 22, and Bobby Murphy, 24, launched Snapchat in September 2011, they shared it with 20 friends.
Snapchat is a mobile app that lets users take and send mobile photos to others. Messages can be drawn or typed on top of the photos and the images self-destruct moments after they are viewed.
Today Snapchat has about 3.4 million users and 60 million images are swapped daily. That’s one-tenth the volume Facebook sees.
It may be a fad like DrawSomething proved to be last year. But how do you go from obscurity to mobile virality?
For Snapchat, the answer was a high school in California.
According to The New York Times, the first traffic spike the founders saw occurred a few weeks after launch. There was a flurry of activity between 8 AM and 3 PM that originated in Orange County, California.
Spiegel’s mother had told Evan’s cousin about Snapchat, and he started using it with friends as a way to pass notes in class. Users grew quickly from there.
Snapchat has its origins at Stanford, where Mr. Spiegel and Mr. Murphy first met as fraternity brothers. Mr. Spiegel presented a prototype of Snapchat in spring 2011 to one of his classes, but it was greeted as impractical and silly by his classmates.
…A few weeks in, they started seeing an influx of new users, paired with unusu! al spike s in activity, peaking between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
It turned out the activity was centered around a high school in Orange County. Mr. Spiegel’s mother had told his cousin, who was a student at the school, about the app, which then spread throughout the school.
Other high school students in Southern California picked it up, with the number of daily active users climbing from 3,000 to 30,000 in a month in early 2012. Mr. Spiegel took a leave from Stanford last June and Mr. Murphy quit his job and the pair raised a small round of financing and moved to Los Angeles to work on the application full time.
If you have a brilliant new idea for an mobile app, a handy gadget, a smartphone case that does something cool, an album you want to produce, or even a comic book you want to publish, it’s never been easier to get your idea in front of a lot of people and raise money to make it a reality. There are dozens of free and cheap sites designed to boost new ideas, but not all of them are best for your idea. Here’s how to pick the best one for you.
Sites like Kickstarter and many others all cater to people with ideas they believe can make it big, but who need money to get them off the ground. The community supports the idea, everyone chips in, and with luck and enough interest and the right amount of money, the product gets made and the contributors usually get first cut or a special perk. Still, even though Kickstarter gets a lot of press, it’s not necessarily the best one for your idea.
Photo remixed with an original by dinadesign/Shutterstock.
For The Most Attention: Kickstarter
Kickstarter is the major player in this space, and for good reason. The service gets a lot of media attention, and even though the majority of Kickstarter projects don’t go anywhere, it’s become the go-to destination for anyone looking to crowd-fund their projects thanks to a few high-profile projects that managed to raise a lot of money. It’s not the biggest crowd-funding community, and it’s not even the one with the best track record, but it’s incredibly easy to use, popular with angel investors and people looking for the next big idea to invest in and get behind, and well organized. Idea creators can set up their profiles for free, founders can pledge as much or as little as they choose, and no money changes hands until time runs out or the project is fully-funded. If the project is fully funded, Kickstarter takes 5% off the top, and the rest goes to the inventor or creator to make their idea happen.
For App-Builders, Game Designers, and Developers: IndieGoGo
IndieGoGo is actually larger than Kickstarter, and more people there use it for more types of projects. The site takes 4% off the top of your fundraising if you reach your funding goal, and encourages creators and developers to offer perks to the community for funding their projects. Unlike some of its competition, IndieGoGo also has its doors open to charities and non-profits. The site is particularly popular with software and app developers, although all sorts of creative projects are up on the site for funding, including documentary and independant films, education projects, and international aid projects. IndieGoGo also has the benefit of being a global site, available to users around the world.
For Inventors and Gadget Creators: Quirky
Quirky has an excellent track record, and some of our favorite gadgets started as Quirky ideas. The process of getting your idea in front of the Quirky community is a bit more involved than at other sites. You submit your idea, the community weighs in first on whether or not it’s an idea that could be made into an actual product before it goes in front of the world for fundraising. That’s the key, while other sites focus on creative endeavors, most Quirky projects are tangible products that can be manufactured and sold. The Quirky community is active and engaged in idea building and product design and development, and a lot goes on long before the idea ever gets on the site for presale fundraising. Pricing is on a sliding scale—people who get in early can get lower prices than people who get in later, and once the product is made, Quirky can work to manufacture it themselves, or work with a major retail partner to get it on store shelves everywhere.
For Musicians: Bandcamp
We touched on this topic a bit in our previous story on how to release music online so music-lovers can get to it, but while SoundCloud was one of our favorite options for releasing your music for free, allowing people to remix it, and comment on it, Bandcamp is another great solution for musicians looking to set up a free storefront on the web to allow people to buy and download their music directly. Artists and fans both love Bandcamp, and the service handles the entire payment platform, from set-your-own-price albums and songs to artists with a mix of free and paid songs in their discography. Artists can also sell merchandise through their stores, and Bandcamp takes a slice off the top depending on the artist’s sales. Fans and music lovers on the other hand get a social platform where they can follow and interact with their favorite artists, get alerts when new music is released, and discover new artists through their friends.
For Crafty Types: Etsy
Crafty types are already well aware of Etsy and how the platform works. When people who made their own hand-made goods, arts, and custom crafts wanted an online storefront that catered more to their needs than a general auction site like eBay, Etsy was born. The site has dozens of categories, including clothing, art, jewelry, household accessories, and more. While most people know Etsy as a craft-lovers haven, the site is also home to a number of stores that manufacture products you wouldn’t associate with “arts and crafts,” like wall decals, custom motorcycle helmets, and even edible crafts like homemade cookies and beef jerky. Where other similar sites help you get seed money for an idea, Etsy is more of a traditional store, meaning you have to have your idea off the ground and your product ready for sale—even if it’s a single item—before you can sell it.
For Global Users: RocketHub
Many of these sites limit their membership to users in the United States, but RocketHub is one of the largest global communities dedicated to crowd-funding new ideas. RocketHub combines a traditional crowd-funding site where individuals can promote and raise money for their own ideas and pet projects with a funding bank where people with inspired ideas can connect with sponsors, non-profits, and funding groups who are willing to share some cash with a particularly motivated or passionate individual. The service works much like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo—sign-ups are free, and the site takes a 4% cut.
Different crowd-funding sites have different goals and different audiences. Depending on the type of idea you have and the audience you want to reach, you have an array of sites to choose from, and this is just the beginning. For example, if you have a random request or want to get the crowd’s help in funding a life event like a wedding or a vacation, you can try GoGetFunding, and if you’re an industrial designer, Yanko Design is a great resource for like-minded designers.
Whichever site you choose to get your ideas off the ground, make sure it’s one where the community is aligned with and supportive of your ideas, and you’ll have no trouble raising the funds needed to make it a reality. Have you used any of these sites to crowd-fund a project or idea? Share your experiences in the comments below.
It’s the perfect example that doing what you love — and knowing what the market lacks — will eventually pay off.
Alex King-Harris, Craig Kohland and Amani Friend met through the yoga community, but what’s unique about the trio is that they were all musicians making music for those who were terminally-ill or facing chronic illness. King-Harris had been involved in a bad car accident years ago which introduced him to yoga.
As yoga increased in popularity, the co-founders realized there wasn’t a platform for instructors to get recommended healing music or share their playlists with one another or with their students. All three guys immensely believe that the right music is essential for various sequences in a yoga routine.
After initially raising $150,000, YogiTunes, which works a lot like iTunes, but is catered specifically to the yoga community, launched in July 2011. The site currently has around 6,000 artists to choose from and the downloaded music can be played through any medium — unlike iTunes, which requires Apple products.
But people are used to getting their music through iTunes and other popular sources:
“You’re up against people who have really strong habits of consuming through iTunes, or consuming through Pandora,” King-Harris told us. “It takes a little while to shift people’s habitual ways of consuming.”
Eventually, the company wants to grow beyond music and become a community for health and wellness enthusiasts.
“We definitely want to draw people in with the music and then extend to other products, other services, other things that we feel are valuable for people’s lifestyles. It’s kind of taking the Amazon model. They were really good at selling books and now they do everything.”
“We can also scale quite quickly beyond yoga to the health and wellness market. A lot of massage therapists, fitness teachers, tai chi people use our music. I think the yoga market is particularly interesting because, in general, the median income is high so we know we have an broad enough audience.”
For inspiration, the company looks at Beatport, a private company that offers music for the DJ community.
“It’s a similar way that we see ourselves servicing the yoga community. They’re a very successful enterprise, very well-known and well established in what they do. They really know their niche. And that’s what we want to do.”
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The company plans to use the investment round to expand the product and curriculum as well as increase distribution. In the past year, half a million elementary school students used the platform, viewing more than 11 million lessons. An independent study found that students who used DreamBox for four months, improved their test scores by about 5%.
As a nation, the United States is lagging behind in math, but educational startups may soon change that. Another popular startup Khan Academy recently raised $5 million, which uses videos and practice problems to teach a range of courses including physics and computer programming. In October, Founders Fund invested $33 million in education startup Knewton, which has an adaptive learning algorithm that has been used to power a college online math readiness course.
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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