Linkilaw has picked Emerald, founded by Callan Carr and Lina Salih, as May’s Startup of the Month. Emerald is a social media web platform for people who feel disillusioned by what social media has become in today’s world. This interview talks about Emerald and the hardships of creating a new platform in a sector defined by established titans for the underdogs our social society.
Callan Carr Talks About How Emerald Is Changing Social Media
We have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so many more platforms for people to communicate with these days. So what’s the point of another one?
Callan believes that the social media paradigm that currently exists doesn’t properly connect us and says that we need to find a way to help people meet in an ‘increasingly isolated world’ – and many others agree.
Since launching only a few months ago, Emerald has immensely grown as a platform. With an Alexa Rank (a rank given to 35 million sites of the most popular websites in the world) that is lower than 250k, the Emerald website has become one of the top 1% sites in the world.
“Our Alexa rank improves slightly every day and should be nowhere near as low as it is for a site our age with such limited marketing.”
Surprisingly humble, for a founder of a website that signed up more than 100k users only 6 months after launching.
“In this digital age, we are becoming increasingly isolated. Often, we can only really meet people via circumstance, by being in the same situations or institutions. I wanted to create a tool that could be used to meet people, but I wanted it to be very different from the cheesy and superficial dating apps on the market. I wanted an authentic experience that mirrors what we would expect in real life but from the convenience of our modern devices so conversation matching by interests was something I thought would work. I decided to build it myself and see where it would take me.”
Before founding Emerald, Callan had always been tinkering away with web and app development. At 17, he developed his first online app, a flash shooting game called Cybershock. Later on, he created a series of apps on Google Play.
Until recently, Callan also worked full-time as a computer programmer in an app development company. Although he loved his job, he has always had ambitions to start a company.
When he quit his job to dedicate his time to Emerald, he tells us that although his family were very supportive and had faith in him to succeed, they were very worried about what the future would hold.
Who can blame them? The startup world is ruthless, with some sources reporting that 90% of startups fail.
“I thought our competitor sites would make it very difficult for us.”
Creating something new in the social media sector has two main issues. Firstly, many of the big-hitters in the startup world (Facebook, Snapchat) are in the business of making our world seem much smaller than it is with social media. Their dominance and resources to innovate has encouraged many to come out of the wood works to compete and create something new – causing the second issue of over-saturation.
Emerald, however, is overcoming these issues head on and has tapped into a market that many companies have neglected.
The typical ways for people to meet others these days, be that online or offline, can be pretty daunting for many. ‘Social’ media, to some, is anything but.
“Introverts may not be able to meet people easily in the real world and they may also find it hard to find those who share their interests.”
Emerald does have one close competitor – Omegle.
“There’s not much security and people don’t feel safe on that site. It used to be very popular, but because of the bots, it’s basically become unusable.”
And that’s where Emerald come in.
“I passionately believe the world needs something to bring people together. There are a lot of services for meeting people but they seem to match people in what I think are really cheesy ways, like flicking through pictures and pressing match buttons. That’s why I created Emerald, a social network designed to connect new people together.”
Many websites and apps either allow users to keep tabs on the people they have already met or, on the flip-side, to create mostly superficial relationships with people they haven’t. Talking to Callan, it’s clear people want alternatives.
“On Emerald, you are directly matched into conversations with people based on things you like. Emerald is a ‘meet friends’ kind of app with dating implied as a secondary or aggregate feature if that’s what you want to do. In other words, we are the first “make new friends” app that is aiming for the limelight in the social media space and who are doing it in the way we do. Instead of connecting to those you know, Emerald is for connecting to people you don’t. We’re hoping to build the go-to place to meet people, whether people are looking for friends, dating or just to chat with a stranger Emerald is the place to be.”
Based on the numbers, Callan and his team are on the right track.
Emerald has managed to amass a profitable level of traffic and has plans to monetise in the near future. Incredibly savvy, Callan is also working towards getting a ‘very, very good deal’ from any future investors. He knows that investors need to see a startup’s objective value before offering the kind of deal that he is interested in and is waiting for Emerald to be at critical or close to critical mass before seeking funding.
In the meantime, Emerald is bootstrapped and funded entirely by savings. Callan uses his previous experience and development skills to radically cut costs whilst growing. That makes Callan Emerald’s unsung hero – working as the founder/businessman, front-end developer, artist, back end developer, and system admin.
We ask him about the struggles that come with being a founder. Although he talks about working hard to protect the data of Emerald’s users and not having much of a work-life balance in this pivotal stage of his company, he remains happy and humble, and he has no choice in the matter thanks to the outpouring of support he receives from his family, loved ones and Emerald users.
Looking to the future, Callan says that in the next year, he hopes to be in a new office.
“My small home office is nice, but I think it would be the next step.”
Finally, we ask him how he wants look back on his startup experience in his old age.
“I hope I look back remembering that my goal was to help people who feel isolated in an increasingly isolating modern world and that I hope that by then, I had achieved that.”
Well said, Callan. We couldn’t agree more.
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