Aman Gupta is an entrepreneur who started his own company in the year 2014. He went onto launch FirstFate Social Network in the year 2016, and has come a long way in the creation of his social network FirstFate. He finally reveals some of the story behind his success.
From humble beginnings, Aman has used AR (augmented reality) in innovative ways in order to make his network stand out, the network which originally began as a platform for sharing first reactions and opinions.
Aman answered some questions about his social network and how he has been able to grow it into what it is today.
What was your inspiration to start FirstFate and compete with the big social networks out there?
Though I am, what you might say, an introvert by nature, I have always believed that social media can be a big tool in bringing the entire community together, and by community, I mean every single person in the world. It’s what makes us human – the sense of togetherness, love and passion towards things we love. But often I saw that in social networks, that the true meaning and opinions were getting lost just to please the crowd. It happened to me, when there are a person who I knew who posted something that I know they didn’t believe in, as a comment, just because rest of the comments and opinions were like that. There’s nothing wrong about it, it’s just how it evolved. And no one likes to be bullied anywhere, so we usually go along, and the original person who had asked for the opinion on the photo, didn’t get to hear the real opinions, which is usually people want in a real conversation.
That’s where the idea came to me, that one of the core things that my platform would provide, would be the ability of a person to give their first opinion on the content being posted, without being able to see how others reacted. Of course, you could be biased in that, but after you rate it, and then when you are able to read the comments, you are more likely to either put your point across or learn something and change your perception. And the original user would actually get the honest opinion of their friends, just like an actual conversation where we can see how others feel, sometimes via their face expressions or via body language. So that was the foundation, the first stepping stone, the second one being privacy.
So whether it was asking an opinion on a party dress that you would be selecting for your special night or first impressions of a marketing promotion that you will be doing later, this would help users get value out of their network as well as get the network involved as well. I knew if I had to start from somewhere, that had to be it. Plus, nobody else was doing it, so I thought why not me! Plus that’s where the name of the network came from – FirstFate, the first fate or the first reaction of your post.
I knew at that time that it would be challenging because they are already some pretty big names with millions and billions of registered and active users. But I knew that they also started from zero, and so could I, if I could give some value to my users. That’s the primary aim of FirstFate – to provide the users with the best possible social experience so that no matter who they are and what they stand for, they are able to get the best experience and share their thoughts and knowledge, with each other.
How did you achieve and maintain growth with FirstFate?
We weren’t backed by a VC or anything, so it was more like a slow and steady kind of path for us. Also we aimed for a long term success, not just a spell of few months and poof, the app has lost its appeal to the users. So we didn’t really mind the slow road that we took.
We initially started advertising the app on Play Store, and got the word out to app bloggers, who could review the app to get it the initial visibility that it needs. We didn’t really had much unique to offer in the first year of the app, apart from the core concept of ‘FirstFate’ of honest, unbiased first reactions, so that could’ve led us to a rocky road as well. But we were able to reach milestones that we planned realistically, and helped us to maintain a reasonable standard of daily active users.
Sure, in hindsight, a VC funding could’ve helped us, but personally, I loved the experience and it taught me a lot as well, as an entrepreneur. The experience was great and I am extremely happy with the result. Ours isn’t a big team, in fact, I played the role of developer, social media manager as well as handled user acquisition, and so I donned multiple hats simultaneously, which was fun. (laughs)
I had a couple of guys initially for the Android and iOS part, and help with the social media graphics, so that helped a lot. In the end, only the dreamer knows about its dream, and now I want to share this dream with rest of the world, and really provide them a great social experience.
How did you bring AR (augmented reality) into the social experience you have created?
The thought of integrating AR came to my head in 2016, I think, that we should improve upon the current experience of, you know scrolling, to something better, that will bring a lot of excitement to the users as well as bring them some value. But the idea got delayed due to some reason, but in late 2017, I set my eyes on it again.
Not many people know this, but I coded most of the android app of FirstFate myself, including the entire AR part. So you can see it was such a daunting task to think about that I didn’t really know where to start. I had to manage the everyday business as well, but that actually worked to my advantage. I was really able to take my time through it all, and most of the features got refined in my head, as I was developing it. So when the first version of AR, which is known as TimeLoops, was released, it changed to this much better version than what I had in mind, in the beginning.
I wanted to make it extremely user friendly, so that anyone is able to enjoy it, so we didn’t complicate it – you go to any place you can think of, open the TimeLoop screen which is nothing but a camera preview, and the app uses your GPS location along with in-built sensors in the phone, to show all the moments shared by other people near that location till date, directly on the screen over the camera preview. You can interact with the moments like reacting to them or visit the person’s profile etc. You can refine it to see only your own moments like a Throwback journey, or see moments created by your friends or see the secret ones left just for you. I know, right? What’s social media if you cannot leave secret messages for your friends and loved ones. (laughs)
Sharing content as AR TimeLoops is also simple. You take a picture or video, or pick one from your phone gallery, add a caption and share it. You can customize the post by changing the time as well, if it’s an old picture, and you can set its privacy to Public, Followers or Private. And yes to leave secret ones, just tag that person in the post. Once you tag a person(s), only they will be able to see it whenever they use the timeloop feature near that location.
It’s new, it’s exciting and the initial response has been phenomenal, so we are extremely happy.
What were some early challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Getting the first few users was tough, because as you know, social apps or social networks in general, are different from other apps, in the sense that they derive their value out of how many of our friends and people we know, are on it. So to convince people that FirstFate can be a big thing and with their support, will actually be a big thing, was challenging.
Another challenge was what is commonly known as chicken-and-egg problem in startups, that you initially need content creators more than the consumers, otherwise neither of the two will see any benefit of the platform. The way we went about solving these two problems, was inviting bloggers, vloggers, travellers and other content creators to our platform via their existing social media accounts. I emailed them, discussing about the advantages of the platform, and how they can derive value of it.
The start was a bit rocky, no doubt about that, but eventually as the word started getting out, the process became a lot smoother, and now we have over 100,000 registered users, which is just a drop in the ocean which we are targeting. It’s a long road and we are very excited about the journey.
We made sure that every feature we developed solved a problem that either users were facing or a problem which they didn’t even realize was setting them back. Be it like collecting RSVP in Events or sharing stunning pictures or sharing your opinions via videos, we added a bit of our secret magic sauce to make it more unique as well as more realistic, which we feel is required in this day and age when we are moving towards virtual space. We really believe that our AR TimeLoops feature, along with Lookies where you can see any spot in the world at this very moment, MapMyJourney which allows you to see hangout spots recommended by friends directly on their FirstFate profile, our awesome FaceFilters and other features which have been curated to give actual value as well as realistic experience, if not real, will really impress our target users, which is everyone on this planet, and maybe beyond. (laughs)
How have you made FirstFate an attractive place for businesses to connect with consumers?
Early last year, around May 2017, we launched this feature called FirstFate Discover. It allowed the business owners and entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services on the “Discover” page. The reason we launched a separate in-built service for this was simple – we wanted businesses to be able to reach targeted customers and clients who are actually interested in the service they provide.
It worked in a very simple way – while you are uploading a photo or a video on your FirstFate account, you had the option to set the post as a ‘Promote’ type. Now once you have set this as a promote type, users or your followers can express their interest by tapping an ‘Interest’ icon which showed up alongside your post whenever someone saw it. Now initially when your network is not large enough, you could promote this post by setting a daily bid which allowed this post to be visible on FirstFate Discover. Now whoever visited this page, will be able to see all such posts uploaded by various businesses around the world, and filter them via their requirements. Now once they express their interest by tapping the icon next to the post, directly on the Discover page, as a business, you can chat with them directly via the app like ‘Hi, you recently expressed interest in one of our products. Would you like to chat about it?’.
So what this did, was improved your sales funnel to the people who are actually interested in the service, not just random ad impressions. And using the chat option, you can directly close the sale quickly. And since all this is connected to your business page, you also are able to portray the trust level of your business that an authorised business representative is chatting with me. And here’s the kicker, like I mentioned, that you bid per day. So here, let’s say you bid $10 per day. So your Ad will be shown on the Discover page, sorted by preferences depending on your bid and the keywords, and it will be shown for the entire day. There’s no cap on impressions. We have a simple philosophy on that – Why should you suffer, because your content was so awesome that millions of people viewed it. This also allows startups to show their creativity in the content they upload, to catch the attention of users. Since they are set for the entire day, they don’t have to worry about reaching people outside their service area.
We are also developing a self-service advertising portal, where users can create and place Ads, on the home feed of their target audience, based on their locations and demographics. We plan to launch it early next year in 2019.
What does the future hold for FirstFate? Are there any new AR implementations on the horizon?
We will continue working on Android version, plus bring the iOS version upto speed with the Android one. Currently, we have launched till Lookies on iOS. So AR TimeLoops feature is missing. Also, we are excited about introducing new features for both users and businesses. Recently, we launched this feature called LiveDraw, where users can share images and draw on it simultaneously, in realtime collaboration.
So, this feature is useful for professionals and executives, who let’s say, are working on an Ad copy or a design, as well as for users who wish to play a game amongst each other. Currently, two users can use this feature. But we plan to increase it to 4, then more, for a group chat. For business and freelancers, who work on the gig economy, which I personally believe is the future of business, we are coming up with ways to enable them to sell their services safely, using the FirstFate platform.
Our focus for now is on User Acquisition, since we believe that once people see the energy and potential of this social network as much as we do, they will surely join and use the platform. We are big on privacy as well, like I mentioned earlier, so that’s a positive for people who shy away from the social media due to privacy concerns. We don’t track or gather any data outside of the app, nor do we plan to. Whatever you share within the app is all we know about you, just like your followers. And trust me, that’s enough. Sure, everyone loves to collect as much data as one can, but for now, we don’t really see the point.
Yes, regarding the AR, since it’s a completely new thing, we are excited about developing new features for it. We are also working on a special AR feed that only your selected followers or users will be able to see, so that you can share data for a special group. It’s just one of the many things that are going in my head, and I am really excited about it. We are also in touch with few VCs, to raise capital, to speed up this process and bring the future to the present sooner than later.
The future is bright, and we are optimistic as ever, that we’ll do our bit to make it better and more awesome.