Shane McCann, the CEO and Founder of Belize Source, is incredibly ambitious in executing his vision to create a social network specialised for Belize. In an crowed online space with plenty of well-established competitors, Shane reveals how his team overcome the initial hurdles to create a highly popular and growing app.
Shane answered some questions about his business.
What gave you the inspiration to create Belize Source?
Well Belize is located in Central America and is English speaking with a growing tourism sector. Belize offers many tourist attractions including the Blue Hole, Mayan ruins, 2nd largest Barrier Reef system, fishing, snorkelling, jungle tours and more. Annually Belize attracts over 1,000,000 tourist’s arrivals, creating a unique opportunity to develop and market Belize Source. Belize currently has a population of around 400,000 people and much of Belize is currently unmapped on Google Maps.
Due to the lack of an address and mailing system here in Belize, results in the lack of GPS coordinates for not only Belize businesses, but other local entities a well. Of three main sectors including Accommodations, Tour Operators and Restaurants; Google Maps only has about 8% of what the Belize Source has GPS marked and geo located. This not only aids the tourism industry, but the local Belizeans as well. Tourists and locals alike are able to find restaurants, accommodations, tour operators, and events while also reading / writing reviews and finding the location with Live GPS.
We started building the mainframe of the Belize Source Network 1 year ago, which has taken several turns as it evolved into the product it is now. Our team grew as the project continued. The Belize Source team scoured the country manually collecting data and GPS locations, while the Belize Source Directory is growing daily.
What makes Belize Source different than other social networks?
What makes Belize Source different than other social networks is that it is tailored for Belize. Being the first social network for the country of Belize and tourists makes us not new, but pioneers for ecommerce and technology for Belize. Not only does Belize Source offer a directory with live GPS, but we also offer a centralized classifieds platform, job dashboard, and forum.
There are other forums in Belize but not for the country. No centralized job dashboard exists that matches employers and job candidates. The classifieds in Belize consisted of about nine (9) Facebook groups that were owned and controlled by different people and were not synced and fluid.
The forum for Belize is the first as the Belize Source forum represents the whole country and not a region or location in Belize. Also, not to mention with our GPS mapping system being the leading mapping network even over Google maps, and still growing can save lives by improving local police and emergency response times. They know where they are going now. Trust me when I say this, in this country there are very few street signs, traffic lights and even fire hydrants.
Was it challenging to break into the market with other big social networks? How did you pull people to your platform?
It was a bit challenging breaking into the market as a new social network because it’s new. How do we convert users into using the Belize Source network and getting them to use something new? People are creatures of habit, introducing something new into users everyday life is a bit difficult and not as easy it seems. Brand awareness and funnelling traffic to the Belize Source network is paramount to our success. We have failed a couple times during our soft launch, and let me tell you it was discouraging and upsetting considering the 12 months of planning and development. But you have to go back to the drawing the board, and remain persistent.
We had a system meltdown on our first soft launch and Belize Source went down for 10 days, our team worked round the clock during that time going through every line of source code to fix the issues at hand. Those ten days were very frustrating, but we stayed true to the vision of Belize Source and our passion was a major factor in this happening
Social media has played a big part in our brand awareness. Belize Source users are growing everyday because of the functionality and user friendlessness of the site. Best and most effective marketing is word of mouth, plain and simple. When a user has a great experience and offers features nowhere else they tell their friends. Two turns into Four, Four into Eight and so on. The feeling the Belize Source team feels every time user registers for the site is extremely gratifying. Being an artist of some sort, while creating and developing a product that not only makes a persons life easier but more efficient is one of our team goals. This will also provide a platform for the entire country. Most import is the tourist experience that drives millions of dollars into the country each year, creating jobs and opportunities.
In terms of technology, what was the most challenging part of setting up the network?
Wow…this is a good question…where do I start? I would say building the Live GPS feature of the site, which has not been done before, including Google Maps. The massive amount of data we are collecting daily and updating to the site is a lot of work that requires team members out in the field and not just behind a computer. We are literally GPS coordinating every location of importance for an entire country. This is an undertaking that no one, outside major corporation nor government has done before. Certainly to the current scale we have accomplished and will continue to do.
Belize Source will never be finished, it will continue to evolve as the data continues to be verified and uploaded. Features and user experience will evolve, if the users want it, let’s make it happen.
How are you planning to expand/improve Belize Source in the future?
The future looks bright for Belize Source. Being one of the Founders behind the Network I can speak for us all and say that we literally are the pioneers of tech and e-commerce for the country of Belize. It doesn’t exist. Most would say I have tunnel vision in finding opportunities in very few economic sectors; example Offshore Banking, Tourism, and Real Estate. Did you know Belize literally has no “.com” laws, and literally has no economic revenue from the tech-sector? Being unregulated provides huge opportunities for those few with vision capable of exploring their creativity without restrictions or boundaries.
As we continue to grow we are hiring very special people to grow the Belize Source team. We are projecting to having over 10,000 listings live and GPS located within the next 90 days. Remember, 1,000,000 tourists visit Belize on an annual basis. With the tourism industry and Belizean population growing this only means more users for the Belize Source Network.
We are releasing an App for Android and IOS in the next 45 days as we are creating some App features that will not be accessible for the desktop site. Exciting stuff!
Not to mention the release of the countries first dating site and App! I am pushing for a product launch on Valentines Day. Match.com and E-harmony are non relevant in this country.
I am currently developing two apps that a serve a global market that will be launching soon. We are truly excited for the future with this truly remarkable socio business tool.
What is the biggest business lesson you have learned from creating Belize Source?
Collaboration is key. Put the right team together and watch the ideas, collaboration, and passion all mesh as it were coming out of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. This project really expressed this main key ingredient for the recipe of Belize Source project. When in doubt…get buzzed…step back and let loose for a night. Come back and view the project with a different set of glasses. You will find the solutions.