Facebook is the social network. But it’s still not really all that social. Yes, you chat here and “like” things there. But it’s not the same as going out to a bar with a group of friends. Shaker, a new startup launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt, aims to turn Facebook into that bar.
The easiest way to think about it is as a mixture of Second Life, The Sims, and Turntable.fm all mixed together using your Facebook data and connections. Your Facebook profile becomes a walking avatar. Your pictures are placed on an actual (well, virtual) wall. You can choose what music is playing in the room for everyone to hear. And you interact with other Facebook users as avatars. You can even buy people drinks.
Shaker is a fun, interesting way to socialize on Facebook without feeling confined to the more static and flat elements of the service. Shaker’s idea is that if you can make Facebook itself more like a bar, real social interaction will happen more naturally. It’s one thing to chat with your friends on Facebook, but it’s extremely hard to try to meet new people. That’s what Shaker is hoping to enable.
They do this by using color codes to show you not only your connections on Facebook, but also friends of friends. These are people you may not know, but you have at least one thing in common with — a mutual friend. Shaker also looks at profile information to show what else you may have in common with seemingly random people in the room. For example, you may have the same birthday as someone. Or you may both like the same band. Etc.
Another elements include proximity based chat, a Tweet wall, and a “smart phone” social discovery tool to look up information about people in the room.
The team has been alpha testing a version of the Shaker app in their homebase of Tel Aviv, Israel. The response has been extremely viral so far, the team says. So much so, that they had to shut it down to stop word from getting out too much before Disrupt. As a part of the Disrupt launch, they’ve created a special TC Disrupt-themed room for attendees to hang out in .
Shaker has raised about $3 million in funding so far.
Expert Judges Q&A Session:
Josh Felser, Freestyle Capital; April Underwood, Twitter; Jim Lanzone, CBS Interactive; Michael Marquez, CODE Advisors
AU: There are some interesting concepts here, to make social more fun and richer. But users only have so much time. What are you competing with for time?
A: The time we’re competing with is the time you spend anyway on Facebook. That time is huge — almost 2 hours a day for young people. We’ll make it more fun and casual.
JF: Love the demo. But synchronous model is hard. Asynchronous as well?
A: We did bet on synchronous. It’s a big bet, but it’s one we’re making.
JF: What’s ratio of registered users to simulataneous?
A: We had to block the invitations, it was going viral. We were at 80,000 MAUs after blocking invitations. People complaining that the bars are too crowded.
JL: It reminds me of casual Second Life. But it doesn’t have the gaining users problem. And it gives them something to do.
MM: I like what you’re doing to figure out what you have in common with other users. But what are you doing more than making it about inviting other people?
A: The location system isn’t yet built-in. But we’re using algorithms to bring together people who will be relevant to you.