New app aims to ‘add a bit more humanity’ to social media, founder says
Somewhere Good Founder Naj Austin joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss a new social media app and how it's differentiated from Twitter and Facebook.
BRIAN CHEUNG: As Twitter continues to grab headlines, a new social media app is crashing the party, hoping to take on the big heavyweights. Somewhere Good is an audio platform designed to connect groups. And it's got some big backers in the VC world, and even angel investments from the likes of Gabrielle Union.
Joining us to discuss is Somewhere Good founder and CEO Naj Austin. Naj, great to have you on the program. One, let's just start off this conversation with your app itself. Tell us about what exactly you hope to do with your social media app. How does it differ from what's out there? And ultimately, what do you think is the growth trajectory for your company?
NAJ AUSTIN: Yeah, well, first of all, thank you for having me. Somewhere Good is an audio platform for community conversations. And we're looking to do a lot of things differently. The biggest one is bringing people together in intimate social spaces in which they can share voice with one another about things that they care about.
I think a big differentiator for us is creating a space where people feel like they don't have to perform. There are no likes. There are no followers. There are no algorithms tracking you. We've removed any temptation for bad behavior that you'll find on other platforms.
AKIKO FUJITA: Naj, why go for audio? The reasons that you mentioned, is that partly why you wanted to go in that direction instead of being able to post and text?
NAJ AUSTIN: Yeah, we wanted to add a bit more humanity back to what it means to be online. I think after the last two years of COVID, we've all been looking for what community means to us. And so as my team was thinking about it, it just became really important that you hear a person's voice when they're sharing.
BRIAN CHEUNG: Now, this is a very relevant discussion right now with regards to what types of voices are allowed on these platforms. And Elon Musk addressing what he thinks of Trump's Twitter ban, at least on that platform, relevant because of his ownership now of the company. This happened at the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit yesterday. I want you to take a listen to what he said.
ELON MUSK: Not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake, because it alienated a large part of the country. And did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice. So I guess the answer is that I would reverse the perma ban.
BRIAN CHEUNG: And, Naj, obviously, this is a very important discussion within the context of free speech on these types of apps. And before you get into it, I want to also point out that Apollo, which is the owning company of Yahoo, is also involved in the financing for this Twitter bid. But how do you approach this as someone that's creating this space? Would you like to have kind of rules around what people can, can't say, who can be, who can't be on the platform, given the importance of being able to communicate there?
NAJ AUSTIN: Yeah, so what I will say is that Somewhere Good has been around for exactly three weeks. So we are very early in a lot of aspects of what it means to be on the platform. In terms of moderation, we have a lot of thoughts. We're trying to move very slowly and intentionally around what the experience is like. I will say unequivocally that we won't allow any language that revolves around hate and all the encompassing ways of what that can mean.
AKIKO FUJITA: Naj, I'm curious what your ambitions are. I mean, yes, you're in a very early stage right now. But when you think back to how social media started, or at least the early days of the current social media as we know it, it was about being able to bring everybody onto a platform, whether that was Facebook or Twitter, being able to connect with people that wouldn't normally be in your circle.
It feels like things are moving in the opposite direction now, with more and more fragmentation. Is that where your app is playing to? I mean, do you want to create more of a safe space for people to be able to interact? Or do you want to go for scale?
NAJ AUSTIN: Definitely go for scale, but I think in scale there can be very different groups inside that space. I think fragmentation has been happening since the beginning of the internet. We just had these larger conglomerates come in and bring everyone to that space.
I think that can still happen within Somewhere Good. And the beauty of what we've done is we've already set it up so that becomes really easy. It's not something we're thinking about later of OK, people are segmenting themselves, versus us helping them today to do that in the best way.
BRIAN CHEUNG: And then lastly, I want to ask you just about how the platform is going to onboard people. As you mentioned, you're in the early stages right now. What's the marketing strategy for a company like yours?
Because, I mean, at the end of the day, this is a social app. So it's about getting the social word out there. Are you trying to get plugged in with certain communities and say, hey, here's the thing that's out there that you can use as a tool to hang with your homies and have kickbacks, is I think the language that you guys are using? How do you get plugged in?
NAJ AUSTIN: Yeah, that is exactly correct. Over the last year, we've spent a lot of time connecting with both IRL and digital communities that were looking for more innovative spaces to share what they were talking about. And so we've started a relationship there.
When we launched three weeks ago, we sent out an email saying, hey, we're live. Here is your code. Right now the app is code protected, mainly because we're in beta. We have a small team of eight people. So we're trying to be, again, very intentional about what that first experience is. But we're excited to publicly launch in the coming months.
BRIAN CHEUNG: IRL, I love that. Naj Austin, Somewhere Good founder and CEO, thanks again for stopping by the show. I appreciate it.
NAJ AUSTIN: Thank you.