Dave Morin, CEO and founder of Path, today likened Facebook to a Chevy, and Path to a BMW or Audi, as he attempted to draw out the differences between his privacy-focused social network and the one that is now publicly-traded and recently passed 1 billion users (and happens to be his former stomping ground). Speaking at the DLD conference currently underway in Munich, Morin said that while people like to speculate that Facebook might want to someday buy Path to complement the more open, sharing-by-default mantra that Facebook espouses, this is not on Path’s cards for now:
“We’re interested in trying to create a sustainable long term business,” he said in response to a question from moderator David Kirkpatrick about whether someday Path might be a part of Facebook. Speaking in the kind of terminology reminiscent of Phil Libin, CEO of another personal data app, Evernote, Morin expanded more on the long-term nature of Path’s vision: “We take your memories seriously and we want to be a place [where those] live long term over time.”
My colleague Mike posted an interesting interview with Morin earlier about the company’s international expansion, and how some of Path’s privacy-first aspects make it a natural for the European market. On stage today Morin talked about a whole lot more that reveals lots of details about Path’s future strategy:
On Facebook as a Path competitor. “To some extent Timeline does compete with us,” said Morin. “They also have groups, lists and a variety of mobile products. They’re doing a lot of different things. We overlap in some ways and in some ways we don’t.” There are some things that Path is doing, moving more to quantified-self-type applications, that sets it apart. “We spend a lot of time thinking of 150 people or less. So one of the most popular types of path content is sleeping: when people go to bed and wake up.”
More on quantified self. Path in October 2012 integrated with the Nike Fuelband, and Morin says that it’s likely that we will also see the Jawbone and Fitbit also appearing in similar integrations.
On China. “It’s in one of our top five, mostly due to Apple’s efforts,” he said. “But as to why [it’s so popular] we’re not sure. We have no honest understanding of it,” he admitted. But he also hazarded a guess: “Because of the limitation on friends, Path behaves in a different way. One of the biggest segments of our users is family, and that is a big part of China’s culture.”
More on family and optimal networks. “From the data we’ve looked at, 50% of our user base is conencted to some type of family member,” he said. “If you only have a couple of friends on Path, the experience is not designed for that use case well. Once you connect to five it becomes very rich and engaging. It becomes a way to stay connected. Update: Morin notes that the 50% is qualitative from Path’s research. “We suspect half of our users are the family use case,” he notes.
“People desire to be in each other’s lives,” he continued. “The emails I get that keep us going every day are those that say Path has brought our family closer together and no other tech has done that.”
Path for business? Some companies are adopting path instead of Yammer or other social enteprise tools, noted Kirkpatrick. “It’s an interesting use case,” said Morin. “We’ve been very focused on family… We didn’t design it for that. But people with small client lists, such as art dealers or real estate agents, are using it. It’s an interesting use case.”
Given these different users, will we see multiple Path networks for individuals soon? “It’s not something we’ve done so far. It’s a balance between simplicity and controlling. [Right now] you con’t have to think about multiple lists in the system. The app icon means you know who is in there. It’s something we might consider.”
Money. Path has raised nearly $42 million in funding from companies like Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures and Redpoint (among many others). Do they expect more revenue coming from the service? Morin says that this is something that is ramping up, through the use of virtual goods and other premium services. “We provide premium filters, and we’re rolling out new categories of virtual goods in the first half this year. Premium subscriber services are also coming this year; we’re still working through it.” Morin says that the features of a premium service will be “things that won’t be interesting to a normal new user but intense users will want more options that a basic user won’t want.”
Longer term ambition? “There’s certainly a lot of people who have families so that can be everyone in the world, but since we’re so focused on quality we’re less worried about getting to a billion users, and more focused on a curve that is slow growing and intentional. If FB is a chevy we’re trying to be like a BMW,” he said.
On Snapchat: “The human condition is one where we have the capacity to forget things,” he noted. “I think more and more technology has to map to the human experience….I think the future [of tech] looks a lot like being a lot more human, and interactions that are more human. And we’re starting to see a lot more of that playing out. Privacy needs a lot more definitions. When we say privacy we sometimes mean security and the other way. It needs to be a lot more nuanced.”