Back in November 2015 I had the chance to visit Israel for the first time and see Tel Aviv and its startup ecosystem in person. I met with a number of startups and tech companies that are doing incredible things, some of which I have already written about, such as the startups at the Nautilus Accelerator as well as a handful of companies I met at Blonde 2.0’s headquarters during a session of startup speed dating.
But as you would likely expect from me and most people in my generation/in the tech space, I used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to keep my family, friends, and followers up-to-date on things I was doing while in Israel. These platforms are indispensable tools for individuals who want a simple and fun way to share their experiences with their friends.
For brands, however, it’s a bit of a different story. Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms seemed to promise brands a new, effective, and free way to communicate directly to their users. The tech industry being what it is, the leading social platforms have looked to brands and brand pages as one of their main tools for monetization, pulling brands towards paid media opportunities and away from the once free potential that social media seemed to offer.
It was exactly this problem that motivated one of the startup founders I met in Tel Aviv – Arik Benzino. We sat down for tapas at a Tel Aviv restaurant not far from the mediterranean and talked about the way in which some brands felt that Facebook had pulled a “bait and switch” offering free engagement with users and then locking down the platform and limiting organic reach once brands had spent considerable resources building their communities.
Benzino pointed me to this lecture (begin at 7:02) by L2 Founder Scott Galloway, in which he describes the phenomenon. Benzino also pointed out what every brand on Facebook knows, that organic reach has fallen to almost zero, and that the only way to reach your audience is through paid media.
Benzino is offering an alternative in the platform he has developed – Memeni. The best way to think of it is as a white-label, SaaS alternative to Facebook and other social platforms. The company wants to give brands and other organizations, a tool that will allow them to build a community for their users or other community members.
What will these communities look like? Imagine a place that you can come together and share posts and talk with anyone about a topic you care about. Whether that’s a community for parents that’s organized by diaper company, or a community for runners organized by Nike, it’s clear how brands can use these communities to their advantage.
And of course, Memeni will be quick to point out, that once the community exists, it is completely owned by the brand itself. They control the data and the relationship with the user, not a 3rd party looking to monetize the relationship. Memeni will make money through a straightforward SaaS model – charging brands a monthly fee to use the software.
Of course, with the leading players thoroughly entrenched, Memeni will face an uphill battle. Facebook and other players have almost unimaginably huge communities. But if Memeni can get brands excited and offer them real advantages, that might be enough to sway the brands to their side and have them do the work of pulling in end users.