Our start-up of the week this week is Yapping, creator of a local-oriented social network for communities that want to connect via smartphone within a 50km radius. The tool could have special relevance in Ireland to begin with due to the rising concerns about rural-based crime.
“Yapping connects the dots between online communities and real local people,” explained Yapping founder David Willoughby.
“Our members drop their home pin and then can see people and activities and news in a radius of up to 50km or less; members get to choose how local [they want their network to be].
“It’s an open forum — a bit like an ongoing 24/7 tweet-up for people in your area. Just choose what interests you.”
“Our market is global and the product scalable,” Willoughby explained.
“Any community using smartphones is our market – and we are beginning with English-speaking communities.?”
Willoughby, who is founder and CEO, brings a wealth of project management experience from the world of engineering. One of his most interesting recent projects was in the Kalahari Desert in Africa, where his practical expertise was required to manage a diverse and complex engineering project.
The quiet nights and expansive space also allowed him to reflect on community, reflections that propelled his creative thinking when it came to social media. Willoughby is a tenacious go-getter with several start-ups under his belt, a seasoned and experienced manager of a major Irish engineering firm and, outside of his business interests, has a keen liking for kung fu and hillwalking.
‘Good ideas, even great ideas, do not arrive at your doorstep and wait for you to make it happen. You have to fight for your ideas’
– DAVID WILLOUGHBY
Dermot O’Grady, commercial manager, has a pedigree in growing businesses. Currently, he manages a group of businesses providing tax and compliance advice for construction companies. In his previous incarnations, he has multiplied one business from incomes of €500,000 to more than €150m in just 10 years, and for another he grew the client base from 150 to more than 1,000 in seven years.
Jillian Godsil, head of communications, earned her PR spurs in London, San Francisco, Sydney and Singapore. She worked in the Asia-Pacific region in technology and innovation, before returning home to take up the position of PRO for Iona Technologies and remained there until its successful IPO in 1995. She has also taken the road less travelled, fighting banks, changing the law and running for the European Parliament.
Yapping was formed as a concept two years ago by Willoughby.
After returning from the time he spent working in the Kalahari Desert, he noticed the proliferation of local community alerts, in particular, the mobile Text Alert watchdog system operating in most rural parishes.
These systems, though somewhat primitive, were effective as they were based on geographical boundaries. Willoughby did more research, including looking at the popular web-based locational services, and discovered some pretty compelling statistics.
“In Ireland today, 2.5pc of the population are using the mobile community service Text Alert. In the UK, 1.5pc of the population are signed up to [local social network] Streetlife while a staggering 35pc of the American population are signed up to [private neighbourhood social network] Next Door,” he explained.
Willoughby evaluated what was available on the marketplace and made the important connection between geographical location and mobile access.
He straddled the two popular elements and arrived at Yapping, which balanced geographical results with mobile access — a cross between Tinder and Twitter but without the dating. He imagined what it would be like to engage with others in the same area, pursuing similar interests or exploring new opportunities.
Willoughby engaged his technical expertise from previous start-ups, notably MyNextJob, and opted for geo-fencing as the technology of choice.
Users were invited to drop a pin on their location and use that as the starting point for the community interaction.
“The radius from which a pin can gather information ranges from .5km to a maximum of 50km,” he explained.
In a neat twist, he also saw how a second pin could accommodate people on the move in a county, across the country or even traversing the globe.
“The ultimate goal is to make Yapping a global success in community social networking,” Willoughby said.
Are you local?
“We are enjoying great traction so far,” he continued.
“The product is in pre-release in the run up to the Web Summit with excellent feedback from our early adopters. We have already attracted investment and partners – but we are always keen to find more.”
He explained that there have been many challenges, most notably balancing features with simplicity.
“We are striving for an effective app, not a heavily laden product. ‘Keep It Simple Silly’, in other words”
Believe in yourself
Willoughby is under no illusions about the start-up scene in Ireland and sums the reality up succinctly. “In a word – hard!”
But, that said, if you really believe in your idea you should give it a try.
“I strongly believe if people have a good idea they should stick with it.
“Self-belief is very important, especially as people will meet all sorts of challenges and naysayers along the way.
“A positive attitude and drive will make it happen. Good ideas, even great ideas, do not arrive at your doorstep and wait for you to make it happen. You have to fight for your ideas.”
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Rural social media image via Shutterstock