What: Meeps is a mobile app that allows people to chat with others around the world and connect through shared interests.
Where: Meeps is based in Boulder, CO.
Who: We spoke to Mat Ranauro, Co-Founder and CEO
What was the hunch that got you started?
We saw a distinct problem – it was hard to meet new people on existing networks, especially as it was related to shared interests.
The foundation of our idea came out of a lot of places, but one particular moment I can point to was when one of our founding partners was looking for a tennis racket for his son. He did all his research online and selected what he thought was the ideal racket, but once he got to the proshop he spoke to the tennis pro who recommended something he never found online. And it ended up being exactly what he was looking for. It was clear that talking to the right person at the right time can be extremely powerful both for finding information and discovering something new.
What have you learned? Have you pivoted at any point?
We’re constantly learning from this app and the way it’s being used. That’s the plan – to capture data and learn how people are engaging with our product. When you have a decent amount of users, things begin to expose themselves naturally. We think that testing a lot of little things will help you find one big thing. That’s how we work. It’s always iterative, looking around, seeing what’s going on, how things are being used. And through this approach, we can build things quickly.
The word “pivot” is overused. We may build things quickly, but we change things quickly, too. Currently, behind the scenes, we are working on ways to sell the service and data that Meeps provides through different business verticals.
What is your company culture like?
We are a really small team, by design. We want to grow the company culture organically. We are lucky to have really talented people who all believe in the mission. It’s a very tight team that gets a lot accomplished. We all come from technical and creative backgrounds. The main guiding principle is to try a lot of things out and then perfect what works – it’s key to our culture.
What are your plans for monetization?
We feel that vertical market integration is where we can turn on revenue. We’ll start with one market first, and go from there.
It’s really hard to make the ad model work. Facebook and Twitter use it, but their revenue isn’t even close to where it should be – yet. Facebook is rolling out some very nice ad products, some a bit late, but they are beginning to make it work. We have to leverage massive networks like Facebook, they have solved an incredibly fundamental problem of connecting the world through who you know. We want to connect you to people you should know.
We’re also very interested to see where Marissa Mayer takes Yahoo!, Her vision for the future of the company is laser focused on the right ideas and we can see some inspiration for our revenue model coming from those concepts.
What can brands learn from your company both from the process in which you work and the product itself?
I think that brands need to be willing to get out of their comfort zone. It’s the classic innovator’s dilemma behind the office walls of most large brands – If they have a really good revenue stream coming out of product “x” – why would they not focus there? You need to be focused, yes, but you also need to have a roadmap to innovate and change the world, or someone else will do that for you.
Brands need to focus on their vision but be creative with their roadmaps so they are innovating all the time. Innovation is always a great story to tell. The brands we all admire do this the best.