[App Fridays] Rabbler to take democracy online through social polling, competing with Sean Parker’s BrigadeHarshith Mallya
Unbundling has become a common practice for mobile apps. Facebook unbundled its primary app from its messenger service, while Zomato recently launched an app to facilitate food ordering and delivery.
The success of apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp have shown that the key to gaining traction is to focus on one or two very specific features or USPs and execute them to perfection. Therefore, is social media on the verge of being unbundled? Rabbler, launched by Indian founders, seems to thinks so with their social polling app.
What is it?
Rabbler is positioning itself as a different kind of social network with polling embedded into a 255 character microblogging platform. Users can discuss and debate on their areas of interest and call for a vote by creating a poll. Like on Twitter, a user’s feeds will receive messages and polls from people they choose to follow. It also has an explore section which includes the latest trending polls or discussions.
Rabbler’s intent is to change the way democracy works - by putting polling power in the hands of the masses through their smartphones. The underlying thought behind this is that while an opinion poll of one thousand has little impact, votes from ten million users, for or against, an issue will make people in power sit up and take notice.
Idea to execution
The idea was born in April, 2014, when Divya Agarwala, one of the co-founders was searching for ratings for a particular printer. She realised that there were a plethora of websites but no one place people could go to. She was aware that polling as a platform had many use cases - politics (approval ratings for political figures), game-show voting, product comparisons or ratings, A/B testing by brands, etc. She was also aware of the fact that polls had been successfully used in politics and other spheres as a call to action or to create awareness. She discussed this with the other founding members, and they soon perceived that ratings could be clubbed under the umbrella of polls. So they decided to build an entire polling platform from scratch and let users decide how they would want to use it.
Rabbler raised a seed round of $430K late last year and launched the app in May, 2015.
Rabbler’s founders are Amol Agarwala, Divya Agarwala, Vivek Singh and Amod Agarwala. Amol and his wife Divya were batch mates at IIMC while Amol’s brother, Amod, was their immediate junior. Amod and Vivek were friends, both having studied at NTU, Singapore. Amol is an IIT, Kanpur alumnus and is currently working with Deutsche Bank - he looks after design and product. Divya is an IIT, Roorke alumnus and had worked at IBM and ANZ - she looks after marketing. Vivek looks after Rabbler's technology as the CTO and leads their 12 man tech team . He had been VP and lead system architect at yatra.com previously and was responsible for building their platform from conception till September 2014. Amod looks after operations and marketing and was previously a trader at Merrill Lynch and BTG Pactual.
Marketing and revenue model
Just from simple word-of-mouth marketing, the app has so far received over 15,000 votes in the last two months. Rabbler is present in six campuses across India, and they are targeting another twenty-five B Schools over next two weeks. They will also start engaging with the US market in about a month. Amol adds,
Schools are natural social groups, and are compelling targets for us since they are breeding ground for opinions and debates and informal voting. The schools also give us valuable feedback. For example, we learnt that Rabbler is also being used as a fun tool to get opinions on interesting topics like God or religion, etc.
They are not yet focusing on monetisation and are currently only seeding the product. In the future they aim to monetize through multiple channels - buying links on product comparisons or rating polls, paid voting for game shows, advertisements on the feeds page or embedded within the poll itself.
There are many platforms that provide ratings for products in niche areas. IMDB is a popular platform for movie ratings and review. A recent Indian startup, Buzzreel, is leveraging Twitter feed to provide movie ratings and bit sized reviews. People refer to Amazon and Flipkart to read user reviews and ratings for various products. Even Facebook allows people to create polls though that is sometimes lost amidst the noise of other updates. On the global front there is Polarb, and Sean Parker’s recently announced Brigade which has already raised $9 million.
Amol feels that social polling is still at the nascent stage, but they do consider Sean Parker’s Brigade to be their biggest competition. Amol adds,
Social polling is the next step in the evolution of social media apps. It’s a matter of time before democracy shifts online given how many users are on the internet. We were unaware about Brigade as it was in stealth mode and came to know about it only after it was officially announced. We consider them to be our greatest threat but they are also a market validation of our product.
What we liked
Rabbler has an interesting concept and value proposition. The app is designed well with a smooth user interface. Users can create polls quickly and decide if they want a ranking, rating, MCQ, free answers, etc. for their polls. Users can also upload images from within the app to add context to the poll.
The explore feature is interesting and it provides a peek into trending polls and views of the general public around them. It is similar to Twitter, in the sense that users can ‘Rerabble’ polls to their followers, and also forward them to create a chain reaction to get more votes for different polls.
What can be improved
Since the app is relatively new (few months old) the volume of content is limited to a few topics only. Currently users can upload images, but it would be more versatile if users could embed video links or attach pdfs for more complex discussions in the future iterations.
Amol confirmed that they are also building a web widget for their app - to enable users to take a created poll and embed it onto any webpage to drive more conversations. In the future they also plan to allow geo-fencing polls based on location, to reach out to the right target audience.
Social polling is still in its nascent stages; so a social media platform for polls may not appeal to everyone just yet. However, some of the use cases such as political campaigns and game-show voting are interesting. It will be interesting to see how Rabbler scales up and also monetizes their platform in the future.
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