This IIT-BHU and BITS Pliani trio takes hyperlocal bulletins mainstream, raises funding from Shopclue’s founder and others
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have taken over our digital lives and made us rely on them to not only keep track of what our friends and family have been up to, but to also discover good content on the web. In some cases, we may want to access content or gain insights that are location specific and may find it difficult to sift through large volumes of data on mainstream social media platforms. Loud Shout aims to tackle this problem.
What is it?
Loud Shout is a hyperlocal bulletin board that allows users within a community to share their thoughts anonymously. The mobile app allows users to post anything they wish in 180 characters without revealing their identity. The startup was founded by Amit Vaish, Anil Kumar Vaswani who are IIT-BHU alumni and Abhinav Singhal who is a BITS Pilani alumnus.
Amit saw the first tech boom and burst of 2000 from Bay area as a techie. Since then he has successfully run real estate and education management companies. Anil started his career with SAIL and then ventured out on his own. He has had a successful journey as an entrepreneur in construction, education and hospitality industries but considers himself an artist at heart.
Abhinav started his career with an investment bank and then moved to US to get his masters degree from UT Austin. But his love for technology and solving problems pulled him back to his roots. He recently returned from the USA and was inspired by the success of hyperlocal messaging apps such as YikYak. He wondered why such platforms weren’t popular in India and the founding team decided to take up this challenge with a few different USPs, one of which is multiple streams or feeds.
The app consists of two main feeds- one of the feeds is a ‘basecamp feed’ aimed at large colleges or office campuses while the other is a local feed existing within five km radius of a user's geographic location. The platform is moderated by the community through ‘upvotes’ and ‘downvotes’. Users can also 'flag' any posts to the Loud Shout moderation team, which will intervene and remove or delete a post, if it find it violating the community guidelines. Abhinav added,
If there’s a problem in a community, everyone is a stakeholder as it affects all of them. We want people to communicate with each other freely and not just to their known peers.
Revenue model and marketing
The startup is currently not looking to monetise the app but is, instead, focusing on developing its product, adding new features and increasing user base for the next six to eight months. It is only after this whole process will the company look into monetising the app through different revenue streams.
The company’s focus is on growing organically and the app is currently for campuses on invitation-only basis and is open across 70 campuses. Target audience include tech savvy Indians who are either in college or individuals who work at corporates or startups and wish to connect with their local community.
Funding and future plans
Loud Shout is a venture of AarRvee Idealabs Technologies and recently received investment from ShopClues co-founder and CEO Sanjay Sethi, Ravi Jaipuria (RJ Corp) and a Hong Kong-based investment banker. The investors will be mentoring the startup for future growth on product, technology and other aspects.
The co-founders have a combined experience of 45 years across domains of real estate, technology, scaling up organisations, education, hospitality and investment banking across the globe, and have also put in their own seed fund for the venture. Abhinav said,
All our other products are also hyperlocal, consumer-focused mobile-only platforms addressing everyday issues in a consumer's life. They are currently in stealth mode and we are collecting data on the ground and will be launching them soon.
The team is 20-people strong, across different roles such a technology, marketing, on-ground support etc. The founders are focusing on adding new features in the app for user engagement and have a pipeline for feature releases every month for the next one year.
Hyperlocal startups are currently the flavour of the season. Many hyperlocal logistics and delivery startups have taken over the local markets and are seeing good traction and some have raised funding from investors.
Coming to ‘hyperlocal messaging’, YikYak, one of the pioneers in this sector, has so far raised USD 73.5 million in funding in three rounds. Shout by Spangle raised USD two million from investors such as Robert Woolf and Shane McMahon. Lookup, a chat application that is trying to disrupt local commerce, raised funds from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, in May 2015.
Loud Shout’s founders believe that most of the internet consumption will be mobility driven, with India already having the largest youth population in the world with a large percentage of Indian smartphone users between the age of 18 and 25. Abhinav said,
Unlike other social media, where your message is relayed across users for whom it may not be relevant, our app allows live conversation in a community. We are positioning ourselves as a new anonymous hyperlocal Twitter.
The idea is interesting and there is a need in India to bring the local community together on a hyperlocal platform to discuss problems and needs. Loud Shout also has an experienced team which has worked in India and US and also at different scales. The main issue with anonymous platforms is authenticity of information, which was one of the main issues with Secret app, which shut down last year. So, content curation and moderation will be very important for Loud Shout. It will be interesting to see how the team adds new features and scale the product in the next few months.
Website: Loud Shout