- With problems on Facebook and the future of Twitter uncertain, many users are looking for alternatives.
- VCs see an opportunity to support the next big social network and take on the existing giants.
- “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, they’re weak and they’re just losing that edge,” one investor said.
With Elon Musk’s turbulent acquisition of Twitter officially done, some disillusioned users have already started talking about a big migration away from the platform. But where would they go exactly?
The #TwitterMigration hashtag was trending Thursday on open-source social network Mastodon, which received thousands of new users within hours of the deal being finalized, he said.
Meanwhile, Bluesky, a decentralized social media protocol backed by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, saw 30,000 new users sign up just 48 hours after its waitlist opened.
And there could be room for even more social media startups. With the expected exodus of not only users but also talent from Twitter, some venture capitalists see this as the perfect time to back an alternative to Twitter.
“I think the next six months will be the perfect time to launch the next platform or platforms,” said Anna Barber, a partner at venture capital fund M13, which is actively seeking to fund a new social media entrant.
For her, identity verification and responsible moderation of content are non-negotiable in any new social platform she supports.
“We have the opportunity to elevate the public discourse and make people feel more connected to each other and I would say that’s all social good, but there’s also a huge economic opportunity underneath. underlying here too,” she said. Not only is Ward considering startups, but M13 is also considering using its in-house venture studio to create something from scratch, she said.
Of course, breaking into an industry dominated by behemoths like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok is no small feat. “It’s a big swing,” says Taryn Ward, privacy consultant and founder of pre-launch social media app Bright, which plans to use strong user authentication and an ad-free business model to build community. online less toxic.
She started working on Bright two years ago after watching her 12-year-old daughter go down a rabbit hole of messy food content on TikTok. “It touched on that vulnerability in that middle ground between emotional insecurity and bad information,” she said.
She raised £350,000 in funding from friends and family and assembled a team comprising a public health expert, a data privacy lawyer, a scientist and an intelligence officer retired soldier. They’ve built a demo product, opened a waitlist and are currently looking to raise a £1.5m pre-seed round ahead of an expected launch in early 2023.
Despite being the first founder without a product launch, she said interest in her company skyrocketed in April after Elon Musk announced his offer to buy Twitter.
“We started getting these really weird messages on our website from fellow tech guys who I think thought it was the cool thing to do now is buy a social media network “, she said.
Ward turned down an offer from an angel investor who compared his platform to Parler, the right-wing social media app being acquired by rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. “It was kind of a conversation stopper,” Ward says, adding that she hopes to partner with an investor who shares her vision for a more positive and inclusive community.
Despite the challenges, Ann Bordetsky, a partner at venture capital fund New Enterprise Associates and a former Twitter executive herself, said she sees this as a boom time for founders looking to disrupt the social media landscape. .
“For the first time in a long time, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, they’re weak, and they’re just losing that edge and relevance,” she said, pointing to a generational shift, which has seen Gen Z become remove. from existing social networks.
Speaking to the founders, she said she’s seen more innovation in mainstream social media in the past six months than in the previous six years. NEA has recently supported several companies in this area, she said, but declined to name them.
As Musk contemplated massive Twitter layoffs and Meta’s falling stock price made stock options less attractive, Bordetsky also said now was a great time to be in the social media talent market. .
“These companies are bleeding talent,” Bordetsky said, “and so if you’re a company that’s emerging in this space right now, I think you have this incredible unfair advantage. Where before it would have been very difficult to getting that engineer out of Meta should be a lot easier today.”
Youri Lee, an investor at venture capital fund IVP, is also on the hunt for the next big social media startup.
“There’s a sense of decline for some of these big social media platforms,” Lee said. She hasn’t made any investments yet, but she talks to the founders and points to Farcaster, an invitation-only blockchain-based social network, as an example of a promising company.
“I think people are really excited to build a new platform that can bring back that sense of community,” she said.
Even with growing interest from investors and founders, any startup looking to take on Meta or Twitter faces a serious uphill battle, investors warned.
“You have to have a little magical thinking, you know, an unrealistic optimistic outlook,” says M13’s Barber, given that this is an industry that hasn’t seen a major new competitor since TikTok and Snap. . But, she says, doing the impossible is what venture capitalists are good at.