Spling, a new graduate from this year’s DreamIt Ventures Philly program, has just closed $400,000 in Series A funding in a round led by Deep Fork Capital and several other angel investors. The startup is entering the crowded social networking and content sharing space, with a focus on sharing links with friends. Via the site, you can share links publicly, privately or externally through Facebook or Twitter.
Wait, haven’t we seen this one before?
For some reason, startups keep re-inventing the content-sharing space, despite the popularity of networks like Facebook and Twitter, and even Google+. The newcomers are attempting to build something they call the “interest graph,” which, unlike the social networks based on real-world relationships (i.e., Facebook), are these new networks made up of those who share similar likes and interests. It’s a novel way to enter the social networking space without having to take on the social networking behemoths head on. Whether theres’s value in a standalone interest graph built outside of (instead of on top of) Facebook and Twitter remains to be seen, though.
For what it’s worth, Spling tries to go a different route. It focuses more on sharing links with your friends than with strangers who share your interests. By posting the link to Spling first then sharing it out to Facebook and Twitter, Spling is able to build an online archive of your favorite content, categorized and tagged for later access. On Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, that same content isn’t as easy to find after a few weeks go by. It drops out of Twitter search or falls off your Facebook wall. (Facebook’s Timeline improves access to older content, but is still not ideal for locating old links).
This quick access to a history of your shares may be the most valuable piece to Spling, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities between this new startup and its competition. It introduces the idea of Circles, for example, which Spling claims to have launched (via its private beta) before Google+. The Circles essentially function just like Google+ Circles, too, except that they are symmetric (everyone in a Circle is accessing the same Circle). And since Circles can be private, they can function as a way to share links with friends which you might not want to post to Facebook for some reason. (Ahem. You know what I mean).
However, Spling’s core concepts around content-sharing and interest-based networking are not unique or original. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for innovating in the content-sharing space. And it’s not always about who has the idea first, it’s about execution. But at the end of the day, Spling feels very much like the middle-of-the-road service that it is, and not something that’s breaking new ground. But considering the founders’ ages - Billy McFarland (CEO), Nic Meiring (CFO), Mac Cordrey (COO), and Henry Clifford (CTO) – were all 19 years old at the time of the round closing – there’s a team behind Spling worth watching. And maybe throwing $400K at, too.