New mobile app developer Trusper has just launched with $6.17 million to bring the knitting circle and the farmers almanac into the age of the iPhone.
For the $6.17 million Series A, Jia turned to DCM, another venture investor with a long history of investing in the U.S. and Asia, and a group of heavy hitting angel investors including Charles Schwab (that Charles Schwab), and the founders and executives at companies like WebEx, Fortinet, Interwoven, Telenav and Juniper Networks. DCM’s David Chao will take a seat on the Trusper board.
It helps that Jia rubs elbows with these guys in his other day jobs as the founding chief technology officer of Interwoven and the founding chief executive of Baynote.
The idea for Trusper – a neologism for a “trusted helper” – came to Jia, a mister fixit type who likes to do his own construction projects around his house, when his friends started asking him for tips on how to do things like add putting greens to their own homes.
Jia, who had a black notebook filled with his own notes from past projects for things like putting up retaining walls, said he always intended to get his tips online… And so Trusper was born.
As the idea grew into a business, Jia found that the initial categories he’d targeted in his private beta to about 200 friends and family wasn’t scaling the way he’d hoped. Restaurant advice and vacation tips weren’t cutting the mustard for normal folks, and the service wasn’t catching on. It all changed, he said, when his wife started posting beauty tips.
Beauty took off like a rocket, he said. By focusing on beauty advice for women, then expanding into health and wellness and eventually into relationship tips, Trusper has grown with no marketing from a 200 person beta in May 2013 to over 5 million users now.
It’s part of a wave of new social networking tools trying to combine utility and networking. Apps like Jelly and Quest are looking at crowdsourcing answers to questions, and Hubub raised money earlier this year to bring quality crowdsourced content to the masses.
So far the data for Trusper seems positive. Roughly 70% of the company’s users are women aged 17 to 36 and another 19% are 13 to 17, and it’s registering 4 million monthly active users at its peak, according to Jia.
Anyone can post a tip to the site and gain followers. Some of the company’s most active users have as a many as 20,000 to 30,000 people tracking their tips on everything from how to make lipstick with crayons, to how to cook bacon-wrapped chili chicken bites (which sound delicious).
Editorial is partially crowdsourced and partially determined by site administrators, Jia said. And posters can earn points and tokens that allow them to either promote their content or the content of other posters and redeem points for discounts at retailers.
“We created a point system to control our user base,” said Jia. “With a social networking site it’s like running a city of 5 million. You need every bit of institutions that a small city would have to regulate its community.”
While Trusper hasn’t focused on monetization, the company has generated revenue through marketing campaigns with the movie “That Awkward Moment”, which bombed at the box office but got Trusper’s relationship vertical off the ground.
“We have done small scale experiments where you have sponsored tips,” Jia said. “If you’re doing a make-up tip, the makeup that you’re using could be part of that advertising.” There’s also the potential for the company to add an e-commerce or mobile commerce feature.
“Beauty is the last thing I thought I would do,” said handyman Jia. “The data has showed that this is what people want. Beauty is very universal and it’s infinitely engaging.”