You can find all the information you want, about anything you want on the Internet. There are scores of portals, blogs and websites that dish up this information for you to feast on. But what if you could log into a single website and browse through news regarding topics, that cater to your own personal taste? Affimity is a social network which aims to provide that experience. It is a platform for like-minded people to meet and engage with, based on their common interests.
Affimity was started by Venkata Ramana, Parveen Mittal and Amar J Singh.
Ramana studied at IIT Chennai and Stanford, based in the Bay Area is a technologist and entrepreneur. Ramana previously co-founded Stratify, a Data Discovery company and, as CEO built it into a $160 million business. Parveen graduated from IIT Mumbai and IIM, Ahmedabad, is based in Bangalore and was leading HP’s Big Data R&D team in India before joining Affimity. Amar J Singh is based in the Bay Area and has proven experience in managing large scale IT operations.
In conversation with Parveen Mittal, Co-Founder and Country Manager of India, Affimity, he shares the company’s USP and plans in detail.
Tell us briefly about your startup Affimity
Affimity is the latest social networking platform based on connecting people with similar interests. Affimity is built on an open-source technology stack and is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). It also provides a platform on which any number of channels can be created. Users can subscribe to one or more channels. They can share their thoughts, ask questions or just browse, make friends or follow people. Unlike other social networks, Affimity does not associate a user with his real-life friends but enables him to discover like-minded people.
What sets you apart from other social networking platforms?
Over the past few years, a number of social networking sites and interest social networking platforms have cropped up. The most successful of the interest-based social networks is LinkedIn – focusing on career and professional networking. There are others like Niume, 6Tribes and Kulzy formed with the idea of helping connect like-minded people and not just friends and family.
All these social platforms only cater to certain interests of people. Kulzy is only an advertising social platform. Niume and 6Tribes allow anyone to start any number of interest groups so quality control and engagement gets diluted; similar to Google+ woes.
Affimity caters to a larger but select range of interests like Travel, Holidays, Food, Sports, Fashion, Tech, Fitness, DIY, etc. We provide curated content in each channel, in addition to crowd-sourced posts. Our analytical engine highlights posts that are popular and relevant to you.
How did you come up with the business idea and how big is your team?
Imagine a scenario when you were too busy pursuing your life goals and when you decided to have kids, it was well into your forties. You then realise how hard it is to share the excitement and challenges of being an older parent – most of your friends either have kids in school, if not in college, and discussions revolve around other parenting milestones.
Ramana Venkata, co-founder, Affimity faced this interesting dilemma. As a father of toddler twins, he was on the lookout for a community that could empathise with him. At some level, Facebook Groups did that for him, but the overall experience was less than satisfactory and the privacy rules were confusing to say the least. In conversation with friends, Ramana realised that there isn’t a real platform available out there; that brings together people sharing specific interests. Be it parenting, sports or technology.
Ramana believed that this gap could be sealed by simply attending to user interests first; rather than their acquaintances. Affimity is the outcome of that belief. Affimity has 25 employees in India and US. In addition, we work with a large number of engineering and content freelancers.
Did you get incubated?
In a way, yes. For the first 4 months, our office was the dining table at Ramana’s (Founder and CEO) home as and the Affimity founding team used to meet daily there. We could not afford an office at that time. But we fleshed out our business plan, technology stack, initial prototype and business preposition during that time.
Have you received funding? If yes, how much and at what stage did you receive funding?
We have received an Angel Funding of $1.2 million till date. We got funding at the stage when we were just testing our concept with a beta site.
What is your revenue model?
Being in Beta phase still, we cannot share the actual numbers. But we are extremely excited to see the traction achieved till date, which validates our core idea.
Affimity can better discern the true breadth of their interests and depth of their passions, since the user interacts with content and people in specific interest channels. This allows for more relevant and desirable personalisation of interest-specific services to the user. We are more effective than monolithic social media platforms in bringing services and products that are relevant to our community users through our partners.
What has the response been like for your product, so far? How difficult has it been to get people to use Affimity?
We are extremely excited to see the user traction achieved till date, which validates our core idea. We have several hundred thousands of app downloads within 6 months of launch. Most users come via Apps with our website bringing in just about 10 percent of total user engagement. 50 percent of our user base is from India and the USA, with the rest from all corners of the globe. Many individual channels have hundreds of thousands of users. The global footprint is not surprising as you don’t need to know someone in the real life to share an interest with that person. More importantly, we are seeing a steep increase in user interaction, with many more posts, comments and friends requests.
How do you plan to widen your consumer reach?
We have planned online and offline campaigns, college reach programs and influencer promotion to widen our consumer reach. Also, by adding more channels on our platform, we are hoping to categorize interests to make it more lucrative for users.
I would like to add here that our female user base is 68% of the total in India. This has prompted us to create a number of women-centric channels like Food, Fashion, Beauty, Wellness and Parenting. That said, women also drive discussions on many other channels like Careers, Travel and Movies.
How do you plan to scale?
Affimity plans to be the platform of choice for anyone looking to share his interests with others. Our immediate plan is to provide better content and community experience as we reach out to more people. We are continuously adding channels as well as customizing each of them to suit the requirement of that particular community.
Our platform is also widely used as a social blogging platform. We have over a thousand bloggers with varying interests on Affimity. We provide them a great avenue to reach out to users who share their passion. Quality content posted by these bloggers, in turn, attract more regular users. We are reaching out to bloggers or anyone who loves to write and is looking for an audience to make Affimity their online social home. And in the meantime, we are building an organisation of talented and passionate people who enjoy creating what they always wanted – a great online place to meet the like-minded folks. We are also looking to grow our community moderator program across the globe.