BBC iPlayer creator Anthony Rose, who also co-founded social TV app Beamly, has launched a new startup today called 6Tribes as an iOS app. The focus? Interest-based social networking. The app is initially available in the U.K., with plans to expand to more markets in the coming months.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Rose said he believes there’s a gap for a new type of social network service that lets people socialize around their interests, rather than being tied to the people they know. The team has raised a seed round, with angel investors including Elio Leoni Sceti and Bettina Bahlsen, although it’s not disclosing how much funding it’s pulled in at this stage.
“When we interviewed millennials, essentially, students, twentysomethings, about social networks that they use, what they’re looking for everyone really explained they have the same problem. The first one is as a consumer of content on social networks your feed is becoming more and more irrelevant. It’s becoming filled on Twitter with commerce, it’s being filled with retweets and if you look through the feed very little of it is actually what you want,” says Rose.
“One of the problems is entire existing social networks are pivoted on people you went to school with, or people you follow — rather than topics that are of interest.”
Of course you can follow interests on a network like Twitter already but Twitter requires work to get the most out of it. Hence its ongoing user growth problem. Most people aren’t going to bother with a social service that requires a lot of legwork before it starts being useful.
6Tribes’ fix for this is to automate (self) interest discovery by using an algorithm that analyzes your music taste, Facebook likes and things like the locations of where you took photos to serve up suggestions for the groups it thinks you should belong to. It calls these groups tribes, hence the name (although there’s no hard limit on how many tribes you can belong to; and there’s no requirement to join or avoid tribes based on what the algorithm suggests for you).
“We’re starting with essentially lifestyle tribes aimed at urban millennials,” says Rose. “At launch we have close to 100 tribes. Users can start their own tribes and we would imagine we’ll have many hundreds or thousands of tribes in the coming months.”
Examples of tribes available in the app at launch include Coffee Geeks, Adrenaline Junkies, Feminists, Kung Foodies and Deephouse Bunnies. More will be added daily as users create their own — although (at least) initially the team will be doing some curating and editing of available tribes to shape the social community. So, for instance, Rose says he isn’t keen on too much duplication.
How will 6Tribes prevent abuse? Or just ensure that content posted within, for instance Coffee Geeks, isn’t related to tea or booze? It’s hoping users will self police tribes via an upvoting mechanic (similar to Reddit) called bump. Down the line tribe creators may also be given powers to actively remove content that doesn’t mesh with the group’s interests.
Initially 6Tribes users can post text and photos — and any posted content can become the seed for a real-time chat with other group members. The team is also planning to add the ability to post video soon, according to Rose. An Android app is also in the works.
“One of the great things about our technology is it uses geolocation as well, so you might go to Glastonbury or to Camden Rocks… and take out your phone, launch 6Tribes and it will say I found a tribe nearby — and, once you join it, you’re suddenly part of the streams for that event,” he adds.
Others taking an interest in this interest-based social network space include social leviathan Facebook — which last November pushed out Groups as a standalone app to try to capture more private sharing outside the news feed. There’s also Microsoft-backed Inlope, a startup which is more tightly focused on location for local interest-based social networking.
In the case of 6Tribes, whether prescriptive groups which seek to put overt labels on people and their interests can ever be cool enough for the socially sophisticated millennial target remains to be seen. Such visible pigeonholing might resonant better with an older age group that’s more certain in its identities, and less in thrall to fickle fashions.
“Although there are clearly similarities to, whether it be Facebook Groups or Instagram or others… there are so many apps around that clearly there are references to others,” says Rose, discussing the competitive landscape. “That said it is very different.
“I’ve got Facebook Groups. It’s hard work using it. You have to join a group and then someone lets you in and there’s no traffic to it. And you have an app which has got 30 icons and you have to click on each one individually… It’s far too hard and you find that you have a small number of groups that rarely changes.”
“We’re looking for a very different style network,” he adds. “People are looking for something new, something around lifestyles, and something where you can be yourself, with like-minded people, a lot more than you can with existing networks.”