Monday 16 October 2017

The anti-social network is in for a lot of fun

Caomhan Connolly and Lorcan McNeela hope to revolutionise social networking as we know it, writes Joanna Kiernan

Buz: Caomhan Connolly and Lorcan McNeela. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Buz: Caomhan Connolly and Lorcan McNeela. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

Buz Media moguls Caomhan Connolly and Lorcan McNeela are on a mission to change the way we use social media by bringing face-to-face contact back into fashion with their new app, Instigate.com.

The friends and business partners, from Raheny in Dublin, started their first company together when they were aged just 19. Seven years later the Buz Media founders run a successful digital marketing, web development and design firm with offices in Dublin and New York. In the coming weeks the tech-savvy 26-year-olds plan to launch their first app, Instigate.com.

Instigate.com is designed to bring people together, in person, rather curtailing interactions within the virtual sphere, which many other social networking and group chat apps tend to do. It is, the Buz Media founders explain, the world's first 'future tense' social media application.

"Facebook is very much about sharing past experiences, so photographs from last night, articles that you have just read, everything happens in the past. Then you look at Instagram, Snapchat, it's all about sharing the moment as you experience them in the present," Caomhan says. "Social networks are ironically anti-social, so the whole idea of Instigate is to leverage the networks we have built up on these social networks and flip that on its head - to use those tools which are making us anti-social to bring people together offline and take the whole thing full circle.

"Instigate is a way to see where all of your friends are planning to go on any given night," Caomhan adds. "The average millennial consumer will have about 600 friends on Facebook, but most of the time when it comes to hanging out with friends offline, they always text the same five to 10 friends.

"Among that 600 you might have about 70 friends who you'd love to go for a drink with or hang out with, but because there is no real fabric to bring you together you end up spending your days liking each other's photos and sharing comments and articles, never really turning those loose digital connections into real world friendships.

"There's no real socially non-awkward way to reach out to those 70 friends and say 'Hey, want to hang out?' You can't text them all, you're not going to call them all and you can't post it up on Facebook because it is way too public - so you have got this middle ground of acquaintances who you'd like to be your friends, but no real world way to turn those into social experiences."

Instigate.com solves this problem by allowing for a more privacy and less formality around event planning than other online avenues.

"On any night of the week Instigate will recommend the three best places that you can go, based on your preferences in venues," Caomhan adds.

"However, you don't have to choose them, you can choose any restaurant, nightclub or bar and by tapping Instigate all of my friends across the city will now get a push notification saying that Caomhan is thinking of going to the Dean, for example. Then they can then click in, see exactly who is going and finalise plans via the app.

"You can essentially choose who is allowed to follow you, just like you can do on Instagram. If anyone can see where you are planning to go it means that basically you want them to join you. So all of a sudden, all of these connections that may have remained as just online conversations turn into real world friendships."

The idea has caught the eye of a number of big-name investors.

"Our current backers from SOS Ventures are our main investors and then we have a couple of other angel investors from the States that are involved, and we will be looking to raise more funding over the next six months," Caomhan says.

Lorcan and Caomhan have known each other since their schooldays.

They started their first company together when Caomhan convinced Lorcan to drop out of his computer science course in DCU and they haven't looked back since.

"We started our first company out of Ireland which centred around events, event production and social media to drive foot traffic to clients' events as well. That's when we learned how powerful it can be," Lorcan says.

While Instigate.com is Buz Media's latest creation, the services side of the company and its longevity remain key.

"Will the company be putting out just one product? Hopefully not. Instigate is our focus at the moment and it is the one that we think is going to be the billion-dollar idea," Caomhan grins.

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