Who do you consider a Quora celebrity

Yubo, Telepath & HAGS - does one of these apps have what it takes to be the next big social hit?

Is there still space in the “Social Space” for other platforms besides Instagram, Tiktok and Snapchat? Renowned venture capital firms seem to at least consider this to be possible, as they are still investing in new social apps. At the same time, the corona pandemic has opened up new opportunities and has driven user growth for some apps. With Yubo, Telepath and HAGS, OMR presents three platforms that have recently made a name for themselves.

Yubo - a mix of house party and tinder for Gen Z.

A look at the user interface of Yubo, with the four tabs "Live", "Chat", "Adde" and "Swipe" (screenshot: Yubo)

“Find new friends” is the promise with which the Yubo (iOS | Android) app aims to attract users. Yubo is apparently aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults between the ages of 13 and 25. They should be able to make new acquaintances with Yubo. “The social graph of Yubo users is not at all comparable to what you would typically find on Facebook or Snapchat,” Yubo co-founder Sacha Lazimi recently told Sifted. "We satisfy completely different needs."

In order to boost usage, the app mixes up well-known formats from already established apps. There are group livestreams with several people à la house party, where other users can watch, chat and be invited. As an icebreaker, the users can play a game together. But there are also single chats and single live streams. There is also a swipe function reminiscent of Tinder, with which users can "swipe" through new potential friends.

Monetize through in-app purchases

The swipe function is probably one of the reasons why Yubo is mainly perceived as a flirting and dating app for teenagers. The French operating company explicitly denies that Yubo is a dating app. But if you read through tweets about Yubo and see what many of the most popular YouTube videos on Yubo are about, you have to get the impression that many of the users see it differently - not a completely unproblematic circumstance in view of the minority of many users. Parent organizations advise not to let teenagers use the app in an uncontrolled manner. The Yubo makers want to guarantee the safety of users through a partnership with a child protection organization.

In order to be able to use some functions, users have to invite their friends to the app (and thus contribute to its dissemination) or pay. If users want to invite masses of friends, if they want to know who has "swiped to the left" with them, or if they want to point a "spotlight" on their profile (and thus gain more visibility), they must first activate these functions. Some of the functions can be bought out by the users in microtransactions at low prices; for others it is necessary to take out a subscription.

40 million users and EUR 8.6 million in sales

Yubo users have to pay for certain functions or take out a subscription

According to its own statements, the Yubo operating company Twelve App earned 8.6 million euros in this way in 2019. "We are the only social network with this gaming-like model," says co-founder Lazimi. Like gaming app companies, the Yubo makers apparently also invest relevantly in marketing and user acquisition. As can be deduced from tweets, the company apparently places high frequency advertisements on Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube within the target group. A YouTube video that was apparently placed as an advertising spot recorded more than 13 million views. Influencer collaborations can also be found on Instagram.

According to the company's latest press release on September 9, Yubo has already accumulated 40 million users in this way. Only five percent came from the French home market, more than half of the users come from North America, Lazimi told Sifted. The app has been around since 2015 (previously under the name Yellow); apparently the user numbers have exploded last. In a press release from December 2019, Yubo put the number of users at "only" 25 million users. According to Google Trends, however, interest in Yubo has slowly decreased since August.

$ 12.3 million for expansion

In three funding rounds, the Yubo operators have raised a total of almost $ 20 million, according to Crunchbase. The most recent Series B round in December 2019 alone is said to have brought in $ 12.3 million in capital. The lead investors were Iris Capital (whose partners include the French mobile phone company Orange and the agency network Publicis) and Idinvest Partners, the former private equity and venture capital branch of Allianz Versicherung.

The money is to be invested primarily in additional employees and international expansion (especially in Japan and Brazil), according to the company last December. In September 2020, Yubo also opened an office in the USA and then one in London.

Telepath - a hate-free mix of Twitter and Reddit

“Simply put, telepath is (currently only available for iOS, note from OMR) a new social network with a focus on conversation - a space in which people can make friends who share the same interests, ”writes Telepath CEO Richard Henry on his own platform. His co-founder Marc Bodnick shared four screenshots of Henry's detailed "Mission Statement" on Twitter.

Telepath launched invites this week and we're starting to be more open about what we're trying to do. / 1 pic.twitter.com/R4hHpGI9cs

- Marc Bodnick (@MarcBodnick) September 24, 2020

Telepath is reminiscent of a hybrid of Twitter and Reddit. The users can follow other users (like on Twitter) and join "networks" around certain interests (like in the subreddits in the social community Reddit). The networks with the most users currently include, above all, those relating to tech and VC topics. Every new post (which can consist of text and / or an image - Telepath has a clear focus on text) must be created within such a network. Then there is also a small portion of Snapchat: While the snaps and stories there disappear after 24 hours, posts and discussions on Telepath are automatically deleted after 30 days.

Back to the "good old days"

A post on Telepath - users can like the post and comment on it (screenshot: Telepath)

In contrast to Yubo, Telepath apparently addresses a significantly older target group, from their mid-20s or maybe even 30 and up. "The early Internet was a really good place to find friends around your own interests," writes Richard Henry, leaving little doubt that he longs to look back on this time. The established social networks would no longer serve this purpose.

Telepath wants to fill this gap and has defined - as Henry's remarks - six guidelines: an "obsessive focus" on good conversations, prioritizing moderation over pure growth, not tolerating hatspeech, targeted action against disinformation, not only to optimize clicks and to create spaces for people who share the same interests. In particular with the focus on moderation and a tough approach to Hatespeech, Telepath wants to differentiate itself from large platforms, but also "rising stars" such as Clubhouse (here in the OMR portrait).

Ex-Quora managers attract celebrity founders to the platform

An insight into the "Networks" active within the Telepath (Screenshot: Telepath)

The founders of Telepath have all previously worked in leading positions on the question-and-answer platform Quora. In the past it also had to struggle with political trench warfare and disinformation campaigns (we wrote about them on the edge of our Quora author ranking). Telepath CEO Richard Henry was “Product Lead” at Quora, co-founder and “Executive Chairman” Marc Bodnick was head of the “Business & Community” department. Also on the team are Tatiana Estévez, previously Quora Global Writer Relations Lead, now Head of Community and Safety at Telepath, and Rodericka Applewhaite, who previously worked on the campaign for US presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and is now Head of Outreach at Telepath is.

On the one hand, the founders' good network may have contributed to the corresponding press coverage for the closed beta launch of Telepath. Techcrunch, Casey Newton at The Verge, MIT Technology Review and Protocol have all reported on the Telepath launch. On the other hand, leading figures from the US tech scene have apparently set up an account with Telepath: celebrity founders such as Reid Hoffmann (Linkedin), Daniel Ek (Spotify) and Stuart Butterfield (Slack) are registered there, as are VCs Andrew Chen , MG Siegler and Josh Elman as well as journalists such as Kara Swisher, Casey Newton and Robert Scoble.

Seed funding from well-known VCs from the Valley

According to Techcrunch, the telepath makers have collected "a few million US dollars" in funding so far. Josh Kopelmann with First Round Capital is the lead investor. The VC firm was among the seed investors of Uber and Warby Parker and was involved in Square's Series A funding. Other investors are believed to include Andy Johns and Unusual Ventures (who helped Facebook, Twitter and Quora grow early on), as well as Sam Lessin and Slow Ventures (who worked in product management at Facebook from 2010 to 2014).

According to Techcrunch, Telepath currently has 4,000 users in the closed beta test. So far, the platform can only be used by invitation. "I don't think everyone in the world we live in now, but many people in the business and financial investment world will believe in the quality and the potential of a great 'social product'", Marc Bodnick told Procotol. Therefore, he sees neither the need to quickly increase the number of users, nor to earn money cheaply.

HAGS - From the digital yearbook replacement to the new "social space"

HAGS users can use Snapchat to ask classmates to sign their virtual yearbook (screenshot: HAGS)

Teenagers in the US often scribble “HAGS” in their “yearbooks” at the end of their high school year - an abbreviation for “Have a great summer!”. But the “Class of 2020”, plagued by the pandemic, had to forego this traditional ritual. Out of necessity, some classes recorded memories in digital yearbooks on Instagram and celebrated achievements. A student from Los Angeles preferred to develop an app for it himself - and named it HAGS.

HAGS is based on Snapchat's developer platform "Snap Kit". This enables developers to connect their own apps to Snapchat and use them to generate viral effects. The "Snap Kit" had previously helped other apps such as Yolo and Hoop to the top of the app stores. After all, according to a survey by the US investment bank Piper Sandler, Snapchat is still the most popular app among US teens - ahead of Tiktok and Instagram.

Google Ventures leads the seed funding

The signing process also runs directly via Snapchat (screenshot: HAGS)

The pupils were able to set up a digital yearbook via HAGS and then ask classmates to sign it via Snapchat. A network of “ambassadors” at high schools in the USA also contributed to the spread of the app. Tens of thousands of school children have used HAGS, the makers write on their website. The users could also order the finished yearbook as a printed copy; the proceeds were donated to a good cause.

The team behind HAGS is very young: founder Jameel Shivji is 18 years old, his older sister as CEO and 19-year-old James Dale are also on board. Nevertheless, the entrepreneur managed to win Google as an investor: the seed funding round amounted to one million US dollars. Google Ventures invested primarily in the team, writes the venture branch of the tech group - because the founders understood how to develop a platform for Gen Z.

"A new place for high schoolers"

This is what an entry in the yearbook looks like (screenshot: HAGS)

They now apparently want to provide the user base that has been acquired so far with new ideas and services. Soon, HAGS will be a completely new place for high school students and their classes, the website says. The HAGS team is also looking for new employees there who are interested in “thinking about the limits of 2D and 3D”. By then, the Google investment had at least helped HAGS to be featured at Techcrunch.