I remember the first time I logged into facebook.com. I was 17 years old and the platform just opened to non-college students. My high school friends and I were waiting patiently to join. All of our older siblings with coveted .edu email addresses were already raving to us about how great and different this new social network was. I assumed it was just a slightly better myspace, which my friends and I were already using daily, so I was skeptical at first. I was wrong.
After logging in and seeing my friends’ real names and faces, I was shocked. We were taught by our parents to never personal information online. ( their paranoia doesn’t look so crazy now ) The pre-internet facebook was mostly username and avatar-based, with very little personal data being shared at all. I instantly realized that this was nothing like myspace and that we as a society were entering into a new era, one where our analog and digital lives were going to meld together. I had no idea what to expect next, but I was excited.
Fast forward 10 years, and I think we can all agree that Facebook has been a double-edged sword. As humans, we are constantly creating new technology and tools, and for better or worse, these tools are imbued with the values and intent of their creators. Facebook as a company has had plenty of time now to demonstrate what its true values are, and many of us are disappointed.
But I am an optimist. I always look for the silver lining, I can’t help it. For all the recent heat Facebook has been getting, I still can’t help but think all the ways it genuinely helped me connect to friends and family around the world. Unfortunately, the cons are starting to pile up and its time for the entrepreneurs of the world to step up and help solve this problem. But what can we do?
I have been thinking about this problem for years now, and I finally think I have a good solution. There needs to be a new type of social network. One that is the polar opposite of Facebook in almost every way. This social network should optimize for getting users off the site as fast as possible. It should value user privacy above all else, and it should be a paid service. It should encourage users to break out of their filter bubbles, get out in the real world, and have real meaningful experiences with their fellow humans.
The core data type in this social network is the event.
I have been working tirelessly on this new social network for months now, and the MVP is nearly ready for beta testers. It’s called peapods.com.
The first question I get from most people, is ‘What makes this different than meetup.com?’, and I am reminded back to my 17-year-old self asking my older brother what made Facebook different than myspace. Because while there are many similarities, there is a fundamental difference — meetup.com puts the focus on the group, Peapods puts the focus on the individual. What does this mean in practice? It means we strive for a more intimate social experience. The main innovation of Peapods is the concept of a ‘pod’, which is simply 2 or 3 ‘peas’ ( users ). Users attend events on the platform via pods, which they are socially accountable to during the event. It’s your job to make sure your pod is comfortable and having a good time. There is an agreement when accepting a pod request that you are just as interested ( or more ) in spending time with the particular person, as you are in attending the event. The events then become mere ‘excuses’ to connect with others. At first, this others will be close friends, then friends of friends, and finally total strangers.
I have come to realize that its shared experience that is meaning of life. Whether that shared experience be love, friendship, or simply chatting over coffee, we are social creatures that yearn to connect. We deserve to feel a sense of belonging, community, and camaraderie. The current generation of ad-based social networking tools are far less than we deserve, and far less than can be achieved. Here is why I am confident a project like this can and will succeed. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments.
- The current social networks have left people feeling more isolated, depressed, and anxious.
- Trust itself has been commoditized over the years. We now have no problem stepping into a stranger’s house or car. Attending a concert with a stranger seems like a fun idea to most millennials.
- The chicken-and-egg problem of bootstrapping a new social network can be solved with a 3-phase approach which involves building on top of existing platforms at first ( Facebook, Meetup, Eventbrite, etc ) A classic, ‘come for the tool, stay for the network’ effect is possible with event discovery.
- Technical infrastructure is cheap now. Facebook and Twitter had no choice but to take venture capital because they had to scale their infrastructure from scratch. It's totally possible now to serve millions of users with a small team and a modest AWS bill.
- Many millennials are done with Facebook but feel obligated to stay almost entirely for the events feature. ( based on my market research )
- It's possible to build a moat around brand and privacy alone. I remember a few years ago when ello.co blew up because of another Facebook privacy scandal. Unfortunately ello was not prepared to grow that fast and could not capture the momentum, but it proved there was a desire.
In conclusion, I think the future social networks will be entirely event based. Imagine if Facebook used its resources and data to help you form meaningful connections with new people, by connecting you through shared events instead of selling your attention to the highest bidder. We are seeing the general population begin to wake up to the problems with the current system. There is a big opportunity for entrepreneurs to come in now and provide new alternatives to the status quo. Peapods is my best attempt at creating a tool that I myself want to exist in the world. I hope that you join me in creating this new community!
I mentioned brand is a powerful moat. The Peapods brand will be one of the most fun and playful since Snapchat. Here is a little preview of one of our landing page assets: