Voizd, the audio based anonymous online social space provider is aiming at becoming the defacto safe social space for people to discuss topics most close to their hearts. “We are looking forward to on-board around 5 million users in next 24 months”, say Sameer Agarwal and Pooja Daswani, Founders of Voizd: Voice Without Fear. The duo reveals the growth potential of their venture and more to Jayashankar Menon in an interview. Excerpts:
JM: Can you talk a big about Voizd and its parent firm in the US?
SA: Voizd Inc., is our parent firm, located in the US. Voizd.com was launched in September 2016. Voice Without Fear is an anonymous mobile app where you can freely express every opinion and thought in your own voice without the fear of being judged, labeled or trolled. A 30-second anonymous (optional) audio clips are available to express your thoughts. A network of real people connects based on real thoughts. Content discovery based on Trending Topics, Emotions and Proximity, Relevant topics. Community with a support system created by the people themselves
JM: When and How VOIZD came into existence?
SA: During 2013 general elections and post elections while sharing his opinions on many issues, I started getting death threats and troll attacks, initially I thought it’s isolated to political opinions but soon realized that our society in general has become quite intolerant towards opinions and thoughts which are divergent from mainstream. I also realized that we as a society subconsciously judge and label people based on their every thought and action and hence most people are always trying to fit in with the status quo even with very basics of their expressions, that seeded the idea of creating a safe space where people can be themselves.
While the app was still on the drawing board a conversation with an acquaintance made the team realized that traditional social spaces today are owned by English speaking audience and people who are not very comfortable with English or other written forms get hard end of the stick, hence the team decided that Audio/ Voice based expression should be mainstay of the App, as everyone can speak even when they are not very comfortable in writing. What voice also does is that it keeps the essence, emotion, tonality, of the poster and hence the message intact leading to a deeper connect between the poster and listener.
JM: How did you build the core team (co-founders and initial employees) – How did you meet and how did everyone align to the idea?
SA: Pooja, Rajiv and I use to work together at RockeTalk, which was founded by the latter. Pooja used to run Communities and I was the CMO and Sales head. All three of us had experience in building large communities, Social spaces and audio based interactions. I also knew that both of them have also faced similar troll and judgment attacks on social networks and real life so when I discussed the idea they connected with it. Then came the task of hiring core-engineering team. Since we are bootstrapping it we dug into our combined network to find talent from UI/UX to Engineering team, which helped us pushing the beta app out.
JM: Describe Your Startup, and explain, what exactly it does?
SA: VOIZD is an audio based Anonymous online social space where people around the world share real thoughts and experiences and trade advice. What’s catchy is that, you get to share all the above anonymously and in voice without the entire persistent real name trapping of other networks.
The app protects your identity, so you can go all out sharing what you actually feel without having to fine-tune it (i.e you can be 100% real), so basically it Gives you the Power to share your thoughts without the fear of being judged, labeled and trolled. It is an anonymous sharing app where you can divulge your deepest secrets to an audience of unknown people, and respond to their secret confessions or questions. The app beta was launched in Sepember 2016.
JM: What prompted you to start the VOIZD as another social network with many being already in the market?
SA: With traditional social networks being purely identity driven, the feeling of always being in the spotlight forces us to relentlessly curate how we self present online. Constant self-monitoring to hide our rough edges or different opinions to “fit in” leaving no space to be original, be weird or flawed. This especially sucks for the young people, who wish to freely exchange their thoughts and ideas.
Voizd is the only social space at the intersection of audio and anonymity, giving its user power to share their most intimate thoughts and issues without the barrier of language and education, as everyone can speak and Listen. Purely Visual and text based social spaces often leaves a huge mass of people, with powerful ideas on the sidelines. Text is limiting, and video is too bandwidth hungry and risky for countries like India. Besides, text lacks the emotive power of expression that voice carries, appealing to our very basic senses. It is also friction free and has no sign up on boarding.
JM: Who Are Your competitors? How are you different from them?
A: How are we different: Expressing your true thoughts on identity driven social networks means being trolled by people who do not share the same opinion as yours. It is at the cost of being judged by your very own family, friends or co- workers.
On Voizd you can freely express every opinion and thought in your own voice in 30-second anonymous audio clips. Since there is no sign up hence people connect with your thoughts/opinions than your identity leading to thought becoming more important that the user.
JM: Is The Startup funded? If Yes, provide details like – date, stage and source of funding.
SA: VOIZD is currently bootstrapped by the founders. We are working towards growing the network further and looking for funding.
JM: What are the technologies Used in VOIZD?
SA: Server side: Java, Apache, PhP, MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, Hadoop, Elastic Search and Native implementation on Android and iOS client.
JM: Provide statistics of Your Startup/App/Project such as tractions per month, revenue generating per month or any other stats that the company wants to share with us to influence our readers.
SA: VOIZD beta app was only exposed in mid September last year, to a 100 people but since has organically grown to 2000 users, doing over five thousand posts and over one lakhh public conversations, from topics ranging from Relationships, Gender issues, Fashion, Abuse. Around 70 % of our current users are women and highly vocal.
JM: What challenges are you facing in running your business?
SA: Indian startup ecosystem is skewed towards ecommerce/ transactions based business models and VOIZD is trying to build a social networking product with social impact out of India which is unheard of, plus it is easy to raise funds for copy past business models from western world but not when you are trying to do something totally out of the box. Even startup accelerators applications don’t have a column for mobile social, they have for everything from payments to commerce to food delivery but not for social startups
On the product side while audio is super engaging, UGC around Audio is hardly attempted in India which has both tech and acceptability challenges as with any new concept
JM: How do you look at expansion?
SA: Voizd aims to become the defacto safe social space for people to discuss topics most close to their hearts and we are looking forward to on-board around 5 million users in next 24 months.