Once upon a time, the pinnacle of social networking was the ability to connect with former classmates and share what your cat had for breakfast. Today, the requirements for social networking have evolved and are more immediate. We need social networks to quickly connect us with the classrooms, businesses, hospitals, rallies and neighborhoods we frequent on a daily basis to allow private communications between parents and teachers, to notify neighbors about a burglary, to alert co-workers about emergencies, and so on.
Yet, for many real world purposes, today’s social networks are found wanting, suffering from steep learning curves and on-boarding friction, confusing privacy controls, oversharing and fixed sharing policies that don’t necessarily reflect or adapt to niche communication patterns one finds in real life.
Celly, a Portland-based startup that makes it easy to instantly create your own social network, believes that the opportunities for social networking in the real world are fundamentally emergent — that groups tend to arise spontaneously, grow and then combine to form interdependent networks.
Unlike existing social networks, Celly allows groups to create lightweight, private social networks called “cells” that members can join in seconds from any device. As membership grows, group discussions can be moderated to keep communication on-topic and free of chat storms, oversharing, and cyberbullying threats.
The idea is for these cells to serve as social building blocks that can stand alone or link together to form networks that adapt to the size, shape, and sharing policies of any organization. In turn, the startup’s decentralized approach secures private data within autonomous groups, while unlocking communication, workflow and cross-group collaboration throughout your organization.
In sum, Celly aims to provide companies and groups with instant, device-agnostic on-boarding for flash networking scenarios, while allowing universal access across those devices, unlimited group sizes and the ability to streamline conversations with moderation roles.
Since launching last fall, students, educators, coworkers and community members have created more than 20K cells via the startup’s platform. Celly co-founders Greg Passmore and Russell Okamoto tell us that the most prevalent use cases thus has been among schools, which are using the service for teacher-student and parent-teacher communications and hospitals, which are communicating two-way messages and emergency alerts through the system. The City of Portland is also currently leveraging the service to keep its citizens informed of important alerts related to neighborhood safety and gang activity.
On the heels of this adoption, Celly is launching its first iPhone app today, which will complement its already existing Android app, allowing users to create cells with one click and invite members to participate from any device that supports SMS or the Web — while on the go.
In addition to basic group messaging, Celly’s apps allow users to send polls and alerts and track topics so they can more easily share and organize information. Both the startup’s Android and iPhone apps can also now be used outside the U.S., although SMS is still only available in the states.
In conjunction with the the launch of its new iPhone app, Celly is also announcing today that it has raised $1.4 million in seed funding led by Oregon Angel Fund (OAF), with contributions from Upstart Labs, Portland Seed Fund and a handful of angel investors. With its new funding in tow, the startup plans to begin expanding its team, starting with engineering talent.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges still ahead of us,” says Celly CTO Greg Passmore, “from trying to reach scale to creating better, simpler user interfaces. But we’re on a mission to build the smallest tool that can have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time, and we want to work with people who, like us, believe in using software for social good.”
For more on Celly, find them at home here.