Roberto Gluck was reading tweets on his phone while driving home from work one day when he caused an accident. In that moment, not only did he learn an important lesson about using his phone while driving, but he also started to conceive what would eventually become The Social Radio. Alongside Alejandra Negrete and Demián Renzulli, Gluck set out to build the service, which allows users to listen to tweets instead of reading them.
The project began as a prototype to be shared with friends as validation of the idea. At that time (mid-2011), Geek on a Plane was in Buenos Aires. This was the team’s first opportunity to pitch the idea, which turned out to be quite the success. And the rest is history.
The Social Radio is now working out of Silicon Valley and has taken off globally, with over 100,000 downloads and new products opening up the path to monetization “by accident,” as Gluck explained to PulsoSocial.
Clarisa Herrera: When you pitched for the first time, did you realize that this was a product with potential?
Roberto Gluck: The feedback they gave us was good – it brought attention to what we were doing and was surprising. Moreover, it was our first experience with people from Silicon Valley, even though we had a prototype and not a product. We were lacking strategies, and there were spots they recommended we work on.
After that, we participated in the App Circus Buenos Aires and won. We’d just started, and we already had a big push and a lot of enthusiasm. People in the industry saw that what we had added a lot of value. We knew that after came the App Circus finals in Barcelona and that it would be interesting exposure; we were selected and presented there. We still had a functional prototype, a bit more, but we didn’t have a beta tester – basically, we were dealing with an alpha tester with people we knew. There was still much work to be done.
CH: Visibility is essential for an app’s success. How did you achieve that?
RG: At one point, we had the opportunity to present on the television in Argentina, and that’s when we launched the beta version for users. We started to get real feedback from people and, in parallel, we commenced the search for investment. At the start of 2011, we closed our first investment round, and at the end of the year, we launched the first public app on Android. Around that time, we were working with NXTP Labs, after which we were selected for Start-Up Chile. We went to Santiago at the start of 2012 to get the app seriously ready, including for iOS, which we presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That was when we got mass visibility, especially in big media outlets, television, etc.
CH: What is your strength, product-wise? What makes you stand out?
RG: There are tons of applications that do something similar, but no one does what we do. Twitter is really experienced in a different way that, up to now, hasn’t existed, and that attracts attention. The product is the differentiator, not a characteristic. It is innovative in itself. To many, the idea seems obvious, but we developed it. The main problem is in the first months, being able to get traffic and turning that into something more organic. We never paid for downloads. It was all organic and driven by PR. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking for ways to monetize, but for now, this is how we’re doing things. With the iOS application, we got 10,000 downloads in two days without any investment in advertising. It was mostly driven by the press. Today, we have approximately 100,000 downloads, 30% of which are in the U.S., 30% in Latin America, 30% in Europe, and the rest distributed elsewhere.
CH: Can you talk a bit about behaviors across different markets?
CH: What weight does music have in app engagement?
RG: The music is something that users like a lot, but it’s not exclusive. They’re native music listeners, and what the service adds s information, something more than what Pandora or Spotify can give them. It’s music plus content. Many don’t even listen to music – they use the app to listen to content like a top radio station, but the percentage is pretty spread out.
RG: We set out to create a global product, one of those that comes out of Silicon Valley, where things are made to happen. That’s why one of our objectives has been to spend more time here at conferences and events and in meetings with possible partners. Without a doubt, the issue of connections has been key and tricky. Getting to San Francisco and not knowing anyone was a problem, but you go about building your network. On the other hand, we hadn’t done applications for consumers before, just B2B, and it was hard for us to understand a company focused on the consumer. It led to some early mistakes that we had to overcome and learn from to figure out what we were doing wrong – for example, understanding users, usability. Today, we have a different type of know-how than we had before with respect to those critical points. Consumer isn’t so focused on revenue but yes on user engagement and traction. They’re questions you manage differently in each business.
CH: The type of application you’ve built isn’t the most conventional.
RG: That’s true. We’ve built an audio-based application, and it’s not in a category that’s got a lot of exposure (text-to-speech). The reality is that we’ve created a new market. There was no business for what we were doing, and the truth is that adoption, in those cases, is slower, and there are many challenges. Today, there are many users who use the application several hours per week, but we had to work hard on the product to provide the experience we do now, and there is still a lot to be improved.
CH: Are you looking to monetize in the medium term?
RG: We are again looking for capital, and we need to be here as long as we can. We’re working on a new monetization model. It wasn’t in our plans, but it came about basically by accident. It’s an interesting option in the B2BC market (business to business to consumer) with smaller social networks that want to replicate the experience with Twitter, a sort of service radio. We’ll be formally launching the service soon. The other question is a widget for online media to have a radio service with content curated by that media.