Jodel is the Hyperlocal App — a community that shows you what’s happening in your area in real-time. We spoke with the CEO founder of Jodel, Alessio Avellán Borgmeyer, about Jodel’s vision, what it means to create a network without personal profiles and the future of social media.
What is your company in 2-5 words.
The world’s local community.
In a few words, what do you offer to whom?
We offer a way to instantly engage with the local community. It means a newsfeed of messages, pictures and videos, showing you what people nearby (in a 10km radius) are Jodeling. Jodel gives you a sense for the pulse of what the community is up to, what are they talking about, what’s fresh, what’s going on… It allows you to discover and dive into communities that exist locally.
We started with university students on campuses, but currently more and more users between 18 and 26 years old start Jodeling to see what’s happening in the city.
What sparked the initial idea and what gave you the assurance that it would succeed?
We wanted to connect everyone on campus in a very simple and free way.
Our focus on moderating our local communities ensures that we are growing sustainably.
What has been the biggest speed bump along the way?
Our model in general is unique in a lot of ways. Proving that we’re building a sustainable long-term business was especially tricky when an American competitor first raised tens of millions of dollar just to then crash and burn. e.g. lots of people thought because users don’t create a public profiles, we must have weak retention and few ways to monetise, when in reality the opposite is true.
What major factor led to the partnership with MoBerries?
I got to know Mo and Terence (MoBerries co-founders) at a conference in Munich and we became friends. Since we do not have an HR manager at Jodel, MoBerries became a logical solution to finding leads in a big database of people.
What do you gain through the partnership with MoBerries?
We hired important members of our team through MoBerries. It’s a pretty straightforward benefit. 😉
Top 3 insider do’s and don’ts at Jodel?
We have a set of strong company values at Jodel, which we are pretty good at living up to.
- be open and humble,
- clever and bold,
- playful and friendly.
Big don’ts: gossiping and dishonesty. Lack of passion and pessimism are also a no.
What’s the best part / your favorite part of the work environment?
We want to embody our core ethos of community — we live our product and encourage all our people to be themselves. It feels very much like a home — people walk around without shoes. We have a great office with many places to chill and hang out. It’s very bright, which I love. The people that work here are generally happy & optimistic. It’s a cool place for productivity, a stage for moving forward.
What would a potential candidate be most surprised to find out about you?
At a first glance Jodel looks like a funny toy-like app — which makes outsiders surprised to find out how much business/analytics is behind it, and how big our vision is.
What would it take for you to up and leave everything? How much is Jodel worth to you (not only money)?
That’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know that Jodel is moving in the right direction, so I don’t see myself moving on to anything else at this point. I am super passionate about connecting people and Jodel is enabling exactly that for a new audience, people nearby, as well as in a much needed free/no pressure way. So what it would take for me to leave everything is that I know this mission and our people are in good hands while I can work on something else that I consider important.
What motivates you to get up and come here every morning?
It’s a couple of things. First and foremost, it’s what we’re working on – our mission. Seeing how people use the product and how much value they get out of it — it really keeps me going. Knowing how much work is yet to be done is equally important, we want more people to discover the value of Jodel. Finally, I am constantly motivated by the people I work with, the team.
If you had one sentence to convince someone to work at your company, what would you say?
I would say: You work on a product that millions of people use — and hundreds of millions could be using if you do your job right. Last but not least we’re learning tons and have lots of fun on the way.
Users love the app and stay with you, why? What keeps them hooked?
What keeps users hooked is a mix of a few things. First of all – it’s fun! It’s fun to be connected to the people nearby in the way we do it on Jodel. You don’t have to have a profile, you can up- and downvote and simply talk to them. It’s really entertaining to see what people share, it’s a great way to feel connected to the local community. On top of that, people use Jodel to get an idea of what’s going on – what do others in the community think about, what do they find interesting. Jodel lets users get in touch in an easy way, like reading a “social newspaper” of their area. Users receive a lot of relevant information, ask and answer questions. Last but not least, some users Jodel to meet people. It’s a fun way to connect to the local community.
Jodel is local. Other social networks might have local features but are not aimed at connecting you with people close by. Those networks connect you with your friends or people that you follow – give you glimpses at what’s happening in the world. We at Jodel focus on what’s happening NEARBY. Unlike other platforms where people stage and promote themselves, at Jodel we focus on authenticity. It’s meant to feel like hanging out at a local bar with people having fun.
What makes you better than your top competitor?
We do not have direct competitors, which is great but at the same time a huge challenge. It means we are our own biggest competitor, we have to “fight ourselves”. We have to find things out on our own and there is no one else who can verify things on the market. I think what we’re good at is that we constantly question ourselves.
What do you see as most dangerous in your biggest competitor and how do you battle it?
In a broader sense, other social media platforms can be considered competition. There are similarities in the content and mode of communication.
In that category, I’d say the biggest competitor is Instagram. Viral content from Jodel can end up re-posted on Instagram, creating a lot of traction – likes and followers, which can be potentially monetized. If people discover Jodel through Instagram or Facebook they can get a wrong impression of what we stand for and potentially never discover the app. This threat is also helpful because it that shows our weaknesses and what we have to improve in our product.
For example, we figured out that all these Jodel posts were being shared on Facebook and Instagram but focusing only on the most viral (non local) content. However, what keeps people hooked on Jodel is not just the viral content but also a mix of information and interesting conversations. We learned that viral content is an important entry point for new users and we must become better at presenting this easily consumable entertainment so that these new users can have an easy start and then discover and take advantage of all the other use cases as well.
What’s your take on ads?
We think ads are great, they are a great business model. We sell premium ads and we believe there is a huge opportunity in local user-generated advertising, in a style of “classified ads”. If you create good, relevant ads, it can be fun. They don’t have to be annoying. We are very careful with which brands we align Jodel with and try to avoid the pay and spray mentality, where budgets are pumped in and ads are shot out to millions. We work with our brands and users to define good ad copy and build out engagement. Some really exciting news is coming up. Authenticity is a pillar of what makes Jodel special so in that sense we want ads that are meaningful, engaging and authentic in wanting to drive value to the end customer.
What’s the future of social media?
Good question. Currently social media is dominated by camera-driven content, video and photo (through giants like Instagram and Snapchat). What more and more people start to realize is that these profile-based social services create a lot of pressure — how do you present yourself, how do you compare to other people like influencers. Suddenly everyone wants to be an influencer. It’s an interesting development, there is a lot of money behind it. A few thousand followers can get you free stuff.
Driven by the money and apparent fame, people strive for this lifestyle. But it becomes unhealthy and we see first cracks in the system. Counter movements are born. Teens in the US are stopping to use those services. I think the future of social media is heavily aiming at healthier, more responsible use – without social pressure. And this is one of Jodel’s core goals, creating a free way to communicate without a popularity contest.
Alessio Avellán Borgmeyer
CEO/Founder at Jodel
Special thanks to Alessio for taking the time to interview with us!