Matt Galligan is the Founder and CEO of Boulder-based Socialthing!, a new “Digital Life Manager” that is making its debut at SXSW. Socialthing! allows users to track their friends and their own movements across a variety of social media websites and networks.
Door Number 3: Why SXSW for your public launch? Was it a matter of timing, or did you want SXSW specifically?
Matt Galligan: Launching at SXSW was partly planning, partly serendipitous. We knew that we wanted to get it out to a bunch of people really quick but our original intention was to host a big party in San Francisco. None of us have been to SXSWi before, so it was a gamble, but it should be a really great forum for our launch.
I noticed that your website describes Socialthing! as a “digital life manager.” Is this bigger than “social media” or “social networking” or are all these terms really the same thing?
Digital life management is somewhat of a new trend we are hoping to start. Years ago when all we had was Friendster, it was really easy to keep track of everything, but now so many people have accounts in different places and friends on lots of networks, that managing all of that is a considerable task for anyone. So the idea behind a digital life manager is that you can interact with what is going on from one place, rather than a ton of disparate networks.
Do you think digital life, by its very rapidly changing and expanding nature, means tools like Socialthing! will always be “beta”?
That is a great point…we do believe that we will always be in a perpetual “beta” if you will, just because we are striving to always add new and interesting services and features to our product. The nice part about what we do is that if a new site pops up tomorrow that has some cool functionality but is difficult to focus on because your time is spent elsewhere, then we can help you and that service out by quickly integrating it.
What was your TechStars experience like? How do you pitch a product like Socialthing! that isn’t tangible and manages an environment as vast as social media sites?
TechStars was an incredible experience. In fact, it was probably one of the best times of my life. We learned so much about what it means to be an entrepreneur and really have a great product. We learned how to manage, pitch, scale, all kinds of stuff. When it comes to the application process, our application back then was even way more audacious than our current value proposition. Simply put, we wanted to kill MySpace. Nothing terribly special, just wanted to be way better than them. What happened is that we quickly realized that it was a ridiculous idea for a brand new, fledgling team that had nothing to its resume. But really, that’s what attracted TechStars to us: our team. Our team is what makes us really special. We are all fairly new and inexperienced with this but we really have learned how to build and awesome product and really keep that tenacity and excitement to really build a great company.
Socialthing! has both an official SXSW booth and an afterparty downtown. Which is more important in terms of getting your name out there? Or are there advantages to having an industry and a consumer presence?
There really wasn’t a whole lot of science that went into the decision to do both. Basically, we wanted to throw a really great party, because it seems like that is something a lot of people remember year after year. But the obvious truth is that a party is a horrible place to give a demo and have a captive audience, so we decided to do the trade show booth to be able to sign people up and show them what we were up to and then enourage them to come to our party. But as with your last point, I absolutely think it’s important to have a strong industry as well as consumer presence. As with what we are doing, the industry needs to know about us so that we might get a lot of cool apps integrated, but obviously without a consumer presence, then we won’t have a great chance to have some sort of critical mass.
Is Socialthing! meant only for person-to-person relationships? Would anyone want to keep track of, say, a beer company?
For now, Socialthing! is meant to help you manage your online self, and we believe that the majority of time is spent interacting with your friends and content in some fashion, so for now it is true that we are focusing more on personal relationships. But that doesn’t mean that working towards the future, that we would be opposed to new opportunities.
It seems like when it comes to advertising on social media sites, the ad industry is usually playing catch up. The technology comes first, the ads try to adapt to it. Does Socialthing! throw a wrench or make it easier for companies to advertise on social media sites?
Socialthing! will be an interesting play to advertisers. The cool thing about what we are doing is that we will know the aggregate information about a user, the content they create, their interests, etc. So with that, we are able to target advertisement much more accurately than any one individual site out there. We will see what the industry thinks of that.
Web 2.0 and the products that utilize it can live and die quickly. What have you learned about not only managing expectations and building hype about Socialthing!, but creating a brand that can survive long term?
So much of what we have done with Socialthing! was building the brand and our corporate identity. Too many companies build cool products, but don’t focus enough on the brand and they can get lost in the noise. Between our name, logo, user experience, schwag, business cards, etc., everything ties back to the brand in a strong way. Building a strong brand can be just as important to being heard and having longevity as having a strong product. Just ask Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, etc.
Why is the iPhone an important step in the development of Socialthing!?
Your social activity in real life certainly doesn’t stop when you are away from something, but in the virtual world, your social life essentially stops when you’re away from your computer. So what we want to do is create a conduit into your virtual world though the iPhone and, soon, other mobile platforms so that when you leave your computer, you don’t have to leave your blog, photos, etc., behind.
Are you worried about any kind of negative brand association with Socialthing! if, say, it becomes easier for an individual to find out things they don’t want to know about their friends (or crushes, or lovers, or enemies, etc.)?
No, it really won’t be much of a problem, primarily because we are showing you the activities your friends are already allowing you to see. Not that you couldn’t go hunting for it, but we aren’t “stalker” software because we are simply a window into your existing digital life, making it much easier to see what’s going on and interact with things. See Spokeo for stalking software. 😉