eSnips, an online sharing community, was launched last week at DEMOfall. Founder and CEO Yael Elish gave a great presentation - which you can now see in the DEMO video archive. We had a chance to chat with Yael via email:
Alex: What is your company about?
Yael: The company is about making it simple for mainstream people to share their interest, passions or creations online and to go one step further beyond sharing and socializing to easily sell and promote their creations online. eSnips is a one-stop sharing and social media site that represents numerous aspects your interests, passions and creations. Not only can you share and socialize, but you can easily sell and promote your creations online as well, using any media type, all in one central location. Unlike so many social media sharing sites, eSnips allows users to share every file type, not just photos, videos or links. From a single account, you can share things such as your thoughts, stories, artwork, photos, music, kids videos, flash files, presentations with business colleagues, party or vacation photos with friends, web research and tidbits you find on the web and more.
Alex: Why did you start this company?
Yael: We started the company because there was not one place where adults could easily share content about our interests. All the social sites were and still are dominated by teens, singles looking for dates, people obsessed with who they are and what kind of persona they want to convey. On the other extreme, content sharing sites like flickr or YouTube let you share just one type of file. There seemed to be so many options, but none of them fit pretty basic sharing needs for people to share by topic rather than by content . People do not only publish, they share too, and they have several networks not just one and thereÄôs more...
Alex: Tell us what eSnips has achieved so far?
Yael: eSnips is getting close to 1M registered users and 3M monthly visits. ThatÄôs becoming a big number that is showing that thereÄôs a big need for such a service, also eSnips has grown much faster than any of the services that launched during 2005. To me, the greatest achievement is the increasing number of amazing people who are signing up for our eSnips service, the beautiful communities that are forming as a result, particularly around creative and artistic areas, such as singers, karaokers, painters, photographers, poets and more. Since we enabled the ecommerce transactions on eSnips many artists started selling some of their work. I already bought a piece of art and there are now two more paintings that have been looking at and will probably end up buying. There are outstanding artists and creators on eSnips and there has been no forum like ours to get the kind of visibility for their work in such an easy and centralized way.
Alex: What are your major challenges?
Yael: The ÄòindustryÄô perceives the space to be crowded and I can see why. There are so many services out there, all of which are ÄòsocialÄô and all have something to do with sharing and passions. You canÄôt stop hearing about video and photo sharing for example, so new services start to blend together. When there is so much activity and noise, it starts to become confusing and everything feels the same. Fortunately our end users who are mainstream consumers, not techies, early adopters, or teens, can tell the difference. They find us online through friends and communities and see a substantial benefit. We sometimes have a hard time differentiating ourselves when talking to the industry or press. We do not have this issue when talking to end-users however, who see the difference between us and other sharing platforms and get the benefit immediately, hence our million registered users in such a short period of time. As they start to create and share on eSnips, they find more things to add and their use and sharing grows over time. We are close to finalizing our series A funding and have had strong support from our existing investors to-date. We can also tap into our users and the web, which is a wonderful self promoting tool.
Alex: What are you going to build in the next 12 months?
Yael: We have added a ton of new features in the past 12 months, optimizing what we have already done in terms of usability and performance. WeÄôll start with mini portals for our communities . For example, our karaoke community will get itÄôs own mini portal on http://karaoke.esnips.com. The mini portal will include dynamic social content the recent people that joined the karaoke community, latest files, most favorited users and songs and so onÄ¶ Building out and growing our existing fan base and communities will extend the reach and get our existing customers to use eSnips in new and diverse ways. This will help spread the word about eSnips' value and the adoption.
Alex: What is the most important thing for a start up to be successful?
Yael: To think independently, not to be automatically persuaded to do what works for others just because it works for others . It is important to narrow down to whatÄôs most important at a particular point in time, to focus on what has been successful for us, hone it and to execute well on all fronts. It is important that this is the mindset of our entire team. You will not get very far without an excellent team and an aligned mindset.
Alex: What web sites / blogs do you use / read often?
Yael: Leading a start-up, I do not have the time to follow many blogs, but when I do I enjoy reading Slashdot, danah boydÄôs many to many, TechCrunch, David HornikÄôs Venture Blog, Jeff ClavierÄôs blog, CNET, PC World Online, ZDNET, NY Times, and the WSJ for news and industry trends.
Alex: Which 'web 2.0' things are noise and which are signals?
Yael: There are broad definitions of what web 2.0 is, but generally I think it is most signals rather than noise. Simplicity, low cost yet major impact: Tagging is probably the biggest signal. Such a small, non technical thing that revolutionized the way people connect and find each other. At eSnips we first launched a skeleton version (Alpha) in which there we were no tags, just the basic infrastructure of personal, group and public access to content, then a few month later we released a beta version that included tags. The effect was amazing. The first metaphor that came to my mind was that we turned on the light in a dark room full of people that were sitting right next to the other but were not aware of each otherÄôs existence and presence until the tagging system was put in place. All the metrics jumped in an extraordinary way right from the first day. I blogged about it here. That being said, I think we are still very much in the web 2.0 phase and will be for a while. Talks about web 3.0 and 4.0 seem to be very premature as we are really far from having mainstream users buy into the Web 2.0. Most Web 2.0 are still mostly used by early adopters, teens and techies and we have to remember that rather than move on. At eSnips we try to do just that.