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Jessica Moreno and her co-founder Dan McComas couldn’t find the kind of inclusive online community they were looking for when they left Reddit in the summer of 2015 so they started Imzy, a community platform encouraging kinder interactions with like-minded individuals.
Moreno and McComas spent six years prior to starting Imzy cultivating community and learning the ropes at the site boasting itself as “The front page of the internet.” McComas came in as the founder of Redditgifts, a section of the site allowing people to send gifts to friends and Moreno worked with him for about five years before becoming Reddit’s head of community.
Moreno says the decision to leave was “difficult” but at the time Reddit was known for pulling out the darker elements of the web with seedy and offensive comments rampant on the site. That summer Reddit’s interim CEO Ellen Pao, who’d famously lost a gender discrimination lawsuit earlier that same year, stepped in to curb the deluge of hateful subreddits.
Pao faced a serious backlash from the community and many called the move “censorship.” One user even started a petition on Change.org asking for Pao’s resignation. It worked, Pao stepped down and the harassing comments continued.
Moreno decided it was time to exit as well and headed west with McComas to Salt Lake City where she had family and the cost of living was much cheaper than the Bay Area.
Imzy opened up the platform to the public last fall and has since grown to tens of thousands of users with over 6,000 Imzy communities.
It uses the same kinds of threaded comments, subreddit like sections and interaction as you might find on a site like Reddit so it’s easy to make comparisons, but it started out with basic rules on how people should treat each other while interacting on the site and comments are monitored to make sure no one is bullied.
Does that cause a reaction or accusations of censorship? Not so much, according to Moreno. “The people who came to us in the beginning were pretty supportive of [those rules] and they wanted to help maintain that,” she told me on a recent visit to her office in downtown Salt Lake City.
Imzy doesn’t allow hate speech and the open stance on inclusion instead creates a safe space for members who might feel more comfortable exploring communities and speaking on threads knowing they can do so free of ridicule. And you can find almost anything you want on the site, including a community for cat lovers, toy collectors, Star Trek enthusiasts or those interested in polyamory.
I chatted with Moreno about building the site and what it’s like running her own open and inclusive community platform in the heart of Utah’s capital. You can see that interview and learn more about Imzy in the video above.
*This article is part of a larger series focusing on the Utah tech scene. We’re going to be sprinkling several of these articles and videos throughout the TechCrunch newsfeed for the next couple of weeks, so strap on your ski boots and stay tuned as we guide you through the “Silicon Slopes”!
Featured Image: Felicia Williams
MikMak, the New York-based startup that is trying to make short and catchy infomercials (aptly named minimercials) the future of commerce, is launching a new feature to help retailers monetize their stories on Instagram and Snapchat.
The new product is called Attach, and serves as a middleman between a retailer’s daily story on a platform like Instagram and the actual product available for sale on the retailer’s website.
Typically, when watching a retailer’s Instagram story or Snapchat ad, users are prompted to “swipe up” to purchase the item. The swipe typically takes you to the item’s product page where you can buy it.
But MikMak thinks this is a flawed approach – and the numbers seem to agree. Some retailers are seeing bounce rates hovering around 90% after someone swipes up from their story to buy.
Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of MikMak, explained that this is because people watch stories on Instagram or Snapchat to be entertained – and the second they swipe up to a boring product page they are mentally removed from this mindset. That’s why so many people quickly retreat back to the entertainment of their stories.
So Attach smoothes this transition by letting customers swipe up and land on an entertaining and catchy infomercial for the product they want to buy. They can then hit a button to add the product to the retailer’s cart, or just tap the screen to watch more minimercials for products made by the same retailer.
The product has been in beta for a while, integrating with brands like GoPro, BirchBox, Dr. Brandt and more. And so far it has been working pretty well – Dr. Brandt has already seen a 500% increase in direct sales conversion from Instagram stories, and half of customers who swipe up also tap through and watch multiple minimercials.
And besides these conversion rates MikMak is also giving retailers the ability to control the customer experience, as checkout is still done on the their own website.
Check out the video to get a better idea of how the process looks, or head over to Instagram and watch the daily stories [email protected] @drbrandt @beautyblender, all of which feature MikMak Attach.
Facebook may have the generalist social network on lockdown, but when it comes to communities based around special interests, the playing field remains full of promise. Today, a U.K. startup called LoveCrafts, aimed at knitters and other home craft makers with a platform that is part social network and part e-commerce marketplace, is announcing a significant growth round to seize that opportunity. Read More
This is the best new social app feature in a long time. Twitter should copy it. Instagram should copy it. Facebook probably already is copying it.
I’m talking about Pinterest’s “Instant Ideas” button that started testing in February but is slowly rolling out to more people. As soon as I tapped it, I was hooked.
Essentially it’s an elegant “show me more like this” button, but that’s designed to live within a feed, not spawn a separate tab. It appears on every image on Pinterest’s home screen. When tapped on a post, it instantly injects around a half-dozen pieces of content similar to that post right below it.
Your feed could be currently showing you a pasta recipe, a pair of shoes, some home decor, and an arts & crafts project. Tap the circle button on the pasta, and suddenly six more pasta posts slide into view. Tap again and six more are shuffled in. Each tap adds another set of similar content.
But here’s the really clever part: the rest of your feed is still waiting for you. Scroll down past however much similar content you conjured, and you’ll see a diverse mix of posts again. No need to hit the back button, or navigate different tabs, or remember to untoggle some permanent setting. A few thumb flicks and you’re back to your old feed. Just because you wanted to see more pasta options doesn’t mean that noodles are the only thing you care about now.
The result is an unprecedented level of choice and dexterity while scrolling the single, infinite, algorithmically sorted style of feed we’ve grown to love. It’s the next progression in personalization after “In case you missed it”. This button is a lightweight, real-time way to dive deeper into a topic without getting lost down the rabbit hole. And every app needs this button.
Imagine if on Twitter you could instantly see more tweets about the same link or hashtag, or more of the same author’s tweets. Scroll a little further and yo’d return to the main timeline. On Facebook the button could surface more posts from the same keyword, the same location or event, or the same content type like more videos or status updates. Instagram could show more posts with the same color scheme or recognized subjects like sunsets or food.
There are monetization opportunities too. First off, this button could deepen engagement and lengthen browsing session times. Second, it could generate data on user intent and interests. And finally, ads related to the tapped post could be injected alongside organic content.
We spend an enormous amount of time scrolling through feed apps. But right now the best we can do is give a vague signal about “liking” a certain post in hopes the feed will eventually show more in the same vein. But when a breaking news topic, beautiful place, or big event catches our eye, we should be able to summon more about it right away. Pull-to-refresh, meet tap-to-insert-more.
Quora just became the unicorn of subjective human knowledge. After eight years carefully cultivating an ntelligent question and answer community, it’s just raised an $85 million Series D round co-led by Collaborative Fund and Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund. Quora tells me it’s “roughly doubled its valuation since our last fundraise” of $80 million in 2014 that… Read More
That was effectively the only conversation missing from Facebook’s F8 conference — an event that even made time for a progress update on a moonshot project that might one day allow us to hear through our skin. Perhaps that’s the luxury of a company whose advertising revenue is up 57 percent year-over-year. But don’t misconstrue unseen for unimportant. Behind… Read More
Who will be the Pixar of AR? Someone oughta be rounding up Hollywood special effects engineers and animated character designers to build an augmented reality content startup.
This week’s launch of Facebook’s Camera Effects platform means there’s suddenly 1.8 billion people waiting to be entertained by digital overlays on the real world. And now, startups won’t have to grow a user base from scratch, make people recreate their social graph, establish a place to share the content they capture, or develop much of the underlying object recognition and spatial perception technology.
All they have to do is build things that amuse people with magic of visualized imagination. Facebook is desperate to prove their are killer AR experiences out there, so there’s plenty of opporunity to be featured on the platform. Whoever establishes themselves as capable of commanding people’s attention with this new medium will have businesses throwing money at them to build branded AR experiences — like how BuzzFeed monetizes through its BuzzFeed Motion Pictures ad creative team.
And since everything that happens in Facebook AR happens “on camera”, it’s instantly shareable with a massive social network. AR will become part of the new social media storytelling vocabulary, offering viral growth for developers.
Experts in the field tell me there’s no standout AR content startups. That’s seems like a lucrative gap to fill. There’s already a bunch of startups like Penrose, Baobab, and Within vying to be the Pixar of VR. Several have raised tens of millions of dollars. And that’s despite the fact that most people don’t own a VR headset, and if they do, it’s probably gathering dust somewhere.
The main point Mark Zuckerberg tried to get across in his Facebook F8 conference keynote was that we don’t need to wait for augmented reality glasses. There’s already an AR device with near ubiquitous market penetration: the smartphone camera. Yet since the physical world is so big, blanketing it in AR experiences may necessitate leaning on an army of outside developers — who Facebook has historically embraced but Snapchat has shunned.
When any new communication medium hits massive audience scale, there’s a chance for new players to break into the entertainment space. It happened with radio, film, TV, web video, mobile apps, and VR. Pixar saw computer-rendered animation’s promise, seized on it early, and grew into a hugely succesful business.
Now AR is coming of age. It has different fundamental properties than past mediums, so the winners won’t necessarily look anything like Pixar in terms of organizational structure or business model. They might look more like Flappy Bird developer dotGears, or YouTube channel owner Maker Studios.
Still, this technological shift forecasts a possible attention shift that will precipitate a dollar shift. There’s always the risk that AR is a flop. VR has been slow-growing and no one’s getting rich off smartwatch apps yet. Though the sudden popularity of Pokemon Go and puppy face filters amongst teens seem to lend credence to Snap’s recruiting tagline: “Toys are preludes to serious ideas.”
There’s sure to be function-focused AR utilities and full-fledged games that spring up. Some might require people to download separate apps, and therefore might need to wait until more people are comfortable with AR and confident about its value. But Facebook’s Camera Effects platform and AR Studio tool mean there’s a powerful, viral distribution channel for lightweight experiences that can live inside Facebook’s apps.
Imagine a startup that makes a cute and loveable augmented reality character that performs comedy whenever your phone recognizes you’re in a different place or around different objects. In my head I see Chris Farley turned into a panda that pulls off silly slapstick humor routine with whatever else is in frame.
Or a startup could index the world’s landmarks and build mini-games or artistic effects triggered by each of them, creating a world-wide scavenger hunt. Every tourist is going to ask what the person next to them is doing laughing while they point their phone at the Eiffel Tower or Statue Of Liberty. They’ll discover they already have the app.
While the AR Studio development tool Facebook built does seem remarkably easy to use, this content development will require funding. Some intrepid venture capitalists might be wise to take a few swings at ex-Disney or DreamWorks employees building AR startups. Or Facebook should seed the AR developer ecosystem by providing up-front payouts for exclusive content, much the way it did to get Facebook Live video off the ground by paying top news publishers.
The most exciting part is no one really knows potential of a consumer AR platform. We’re literally on day four, and new mediums are few and far between. What’s your idea?
Today’s Stories Google Home can now recognize up to six voices and give personalized responses Google said to be planning a built-in ad blocker for Chrome GoPro to release prosumer spherical camera in fall 2017 FTC tells ‘influencers’ to quit trying to hide the fact that they’re shilling for brands Shopify launches a free, in-house-designed card reader Credits… Read More