Many of us have experienced the same problem: we connect on Facebook and Twitter with acquaintances, but the topics they endorse online don’t interest us. Multiply that by however many friends we have in our feed, and it’s a cluttered social media experience full of stuff we don’t care about.
Last week we discussed new social networks in North America that are connecting people based on interests rather then the people themselves. One of the startups taking advantage of this timely opportunity is Montreal-based Bunch, cofounded by CEO Andrew Sider.
Along with cofounder Hesam Hosseini, Sider is trying to change the way we discuss interests online with Bunch, a mobile-friendly discussion board for user’s passions.
"Interest networks are at an inflection point where people are wondering what happened to quality online discussion," said Sider. "We're not seeing that discussion come out of high velocity interest networks like Twitter and Pinterest."
The concept of Bunch is simple: instead of consuming a noisy feed based on the people you follow, it lets users discuss their top passion with like-minded people. By only allowing users to pick one passion at any time, Bunch creates a more engaged community and what Sider calls a “cleaner feed” with “less noise."
“I’m very impressed with what Bunch has become,” said Greg Isenberg, a venture partner at Good People Ventures and CEO of Stealthy Startup. “Every week it’s getting to the next level. By the time it gets ready for prime-time in the US market it’s going to be a very well put-together app.”
Sider and Hosseini originally met while they were both studying at Western University’s Richard Ivey School of Business. Sider gained success as a business consultant before moving on to a couch in San Francisco as a founding member of BandPage, a “runaway success” that gained 12 million users in eight months while raising over $3 million in funding.
Meanwhile Hosseini co-founded FurtnitureToGo, a successful ecommerce business. From there he went on to Match.com, where he had several senior roles including country manager for Canada and VP of international business.
Eventually they moved to Montreal to start the company. Initially it was a concept while they iterated on the idea and built up a team (which, Sider admits, has taken over 200 interviews to hire just six team members so far). Bunch is currently in private beta and plan to launch its iPhone app in Canada soon.
The company was originally known as UrbanOrca, a discovery tool dedicated to connecting people socially, but they rebranded this past summer as Bunch.
Those in the Montreal startup community feel a few factors will differentiate Bunch. First, they are taking advantage of the content creation avenue of social networking, largely due to the massive advances in mobile technology in the last five years.
Second, the team happens to be the uncontested leaders in "growth hacking," a set of tactics and best practices for dealing with the problem of user growth. In Sider’s case, it’s cleverly using Facebook to gain large amounts of users while quickly iterating. Meanwhile seeing where they’re failing so they can rapidly improve.
“Andrew is the poster boy for growth hacking,” said Isenberg. “He’s shown that he’s one of the authorities in that world.”
The Bunch team at large are leading experts at growth hacking, something Sider can claim from the influx of calls he gets from other entrepreneurs in the community seeking assistance.
“We get calls from literally dozens of startups asking for help on this issue, because growth is one of the biggest pillars of being a startup,” said Sider. “It’s one of the most difficult things for an early stage company who can’t afford marketing.”
To Isenberg the next six months for Bunch is all about their product and generating their user base. And if people are interested in the concept, Sider wants them to sign up to be there for the launch.