There’s no escaping the shadow of Facebook for the entrepreneur that sets out to create a social network. This doesn’t mean, however, that there’s not space or interest to accommodate newcomers.
The early clamor over Ello, neighborhood-focused sites like Nextdoor, prove that Facebook doesn’t scratch every itch. Darius Burke and Ben Hatt Smith are betting on privacy and environmental concern as being huge magnets that will draw folk to Connected, their budding social network. Darius tells us more:
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
Connected is a social networking website that values member privacy and security more than anything else. My job is to manage and provide oversight to the company. My customers are generally people between 18-25 years old.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
The greatest thing about my website is that the site offers an internal profile system that only registered members of the website can see. There are several reasons why Connected is better than the competition. The first reason is that the website has an internal profile system built in. This is better because negative activities such as spam are avoided. The user’s profile isn’t public – preventing spamming by guests and visitors to the site. The second reason is that Connected is an advertisement free website. Using this method, the site can attract more visitors rather than scare them away. It also helps because personal information about members isn’t shared with advertisers. This helps maintain security and individual privacy, thereby providing a friendlier user experience.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
I was sitting at my computer one day and it popped right into my head.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
My first computer was a Compaq desktop computer. I got it in 1999 and I was 4 years old at the time. I loved the Juno software on that computer!
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I start working on the website at 12pm each day. I usually work for 12 hours or more on the website. I take breaks in between.
Co-founders of Connected
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
I went to Maryland during the month of June, 2013. I saw the fireworks there!
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
The best ideas come to me when I am relaxed, mostly in the afternoon. I get a good idea and I go for it.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
I would have to say my confidence came from the internet. So many are building startups right now, and I think the internet is a great place to build.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
I went through many struggles. One day the website had a technical failure and I had to build it from the ground up again. It was frustrating, and I hope that never happens again. Another struggle was gaining members. It is a difficult process, but I usually gain 2 members a month.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
I handle frustration by figuring out how it can be solved rather than getting angry. My biggest professional frustration has been promoting the website. It can be a frustrating thing to do, but I am determined and hopeful that it will work eventually.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I picture my company’s operations taking place in an office park 5 years from now with an official headquarters. I hope for there to be a few thousand employees by then.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
Mark Zuckerberg has been my biggest role model. If he can build a social network that helps people to connect then so can I. It just takes time and dedication.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
I plan to fund this venture through a Venture Capitalist. The other part of funding will come from crowdfunding. I plan to use both sources of revenue to move my company to an office and provide computers for all my employees.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Don’t give up! It may seem hard right now, but just believe in yourself and put in the effort. You should do fine.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
I would take a trip to the Bahamas and then all over the world.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
I consider myself a successful entrepreneur because I am making an effort to put my company out there for people to see. It may work or it may not. In the end, at least you made a strong effort.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- LinkedIn – I use it to promote my website.
- Facebook – I use it to let others become aware of my website.
- Twitter – I use it to promote my website as well.
- Google+ – you can make a business page for your company.
- AngelList – it helps you connect with investors.
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
YouTube is my favorite. I am listening to “Glycerine” By Bush right now.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)
I would have to say Canada. The reasons are because they have better health care and I love cold weather.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
- Ben Hatt Smith – he is the Co-founder of Connected and is my team partner.
- Mike Okhravi – he is a startup founder and looks like he could have some help.
- Ryan Shanks – he is a angel investor and is incredibly professional.
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
Funding has not begun yet and I plan to have that start very soon. I have no revenue currently being put into the website. Connected receives under 100 visitors a week.
Where can we find you online?