New Social Media Platform Gains Traction With Richard Branson in BVI
Mark Bakacs and Richard Branson
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, BVI – A social media platform aimed at fostering discussions about big ideas is expanding to Australia and seeking a $7 million funding round, after its two founders were boosted by public endorsements from Virgin supremo Richard Branson.
Ideapod, the brainchild of Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs of Australia, allows users to post ideas on the site, sparking discussions with other users. It was founded in the U.S., but the pair have an ambitious goal of rivaling Twitter for user numbers in the next two years.
Users of the site are limited to 1,000 characters, or 40-second videos. Popular topics in the past week have included the Greek financial crisis, marriage equality and the future of technology.
“We have 150,000 users … For the last five months we’ve grown at 35 per cent every month in active users and we’d like to continue at that growth rate,” Brown said.
The venture has already received the financial backing of some high-profile individuals including Australian defence expert and Lowy Institute non-resident fellow Professor Alan Dupont and property developer David Devine. The company secured an initial seed funding round of $500,000 in 2013, and is currently on a drive to secure its next round of funds.
It has also been endorsed by New York-based performance artist Marina Abramovic, but it was positive public messages from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson that has given the venture cause for hope about broader adoption by business users.
“I love Ideapod and I loved reading about all the ideas you came up with,” Branson said in response to a post on Ideapod asking users what Virgin Group should do next.
“In fact, I’m writing an article for the New York Times based on that.”
The Ideapod founders met Branson on their trips to his island, Necker Island, as part of a group of 30 entrepreneurs invited to attend the Change Makers trip.
Currently the team has one employee based in Australia, a user interface designer, but if Ideapod takes off, then Brown said they will be hiring more people.
“We’re currently developing an enterprise version of Ideapod for crowd-sourcing innovation,” he said.
“During our last Australian visit we saw so much demand for it that we’re looking at launching it in Australia first.”
The enterprise version will be the main revenue driver of the platform, with businesses able to pay to crowd-source ideas.
Brown was living in London and studying for a Ph.D. in international politics when he decided to drop his studies and start Ideapod.
The co-founders decided on the United States as the headquarters because of its access to venture capital and the higher risk appetite of investors.
“It has a good culture for early adopters, with people willing to try something new,” Brown said.
“Ideapod would have been extremely challenging to build from Australia. We showed designs to people in Australia and we received a lot of no’s early on, which was fair enough because we didn’t have the traction at that stage.”
Brown said when people in London found out he was quitting his PhD to start Ideapod they apologized and said he could always come back to it later.
“Even though there is a high failure rate with high-risk initiatives, it’s important to support them,” he said.
“We’ve definitely not had a smooth run. We ran out of money early last year. It was really difficult to continue, but the vision of Ideapod was so important to Mark and me, there was never any thought of quitting.”