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Social media evolution: FLIIST startup launches niche solution and is ready to grow rapidly

Friday, October 30, 2020

From general to the specific is how you can describe the trend in the development of social networks. Interaction between people is moving from the usual Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other services to more highly specialized platforms. They can give users a better experience and are therefore rapidly evolving. FLIIST is one of such platforms. Startup CEO Boris Faktorovich spoke about the essence of the business and how great the growth potential is.

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Collect and share

In 2016 we assembled an excellent team together with a partner and built a profitable network of more than 30 information websites. One of our projects (HappyModern.RU) has become the leader in organic traffic in the CIS with 2.5 million unique visitors per month.

We were leaders in several areas in the CIS market, had a good position in the US market, gained expertise, but we hit the ceiling and weren’t growing. I was tired and didn’t want to make informational websites anymore. That was a severe professional burnout.

In such situations, well-known entrepreneurs strongly recommend studying: reading books, watching lectures, going to seminars and talking to colleagues. Thus, the brain turns on again and reboots. Once this has happened, you can find yourself a new business that will make you get out of bed every morning.

I keep a list of interesting books for further reading in Evernote. Every time I came across a recommendation for an interesting book somewhere, I added it to this list. And then one day I opened this list and realized that it was soulless! It was just a list. Who recommended a particular book, when, why? There was no energy and emotions in it at all.

I thought it would be nice to have an information resource with recommendations from friends, celebrities, scientists and other people who are important to me. Where a list of books and other content I’m interested in would be “human”, with warm and important details. And a “template trigger” worked in my head — we need to make another information website.

When my team and I dug deeper, we realized that we need a user profile where you can add interesting things to your bookmarks, create your own selection, share your favorites and much more. At the stage of prototyping, the silhouette of a social platform appeared, and we let ourselves go in this direction.

We weighed up the pros and cons, assessed our strengths, sold several content projects and started development. In a few months FLIIST — a social platform of interests and recommendations was born. FLIIST = Favorite + List.

FLIIST startup
Click on the image to open startup's profile on the Rocket DAO platform

On FLIIST, users can collect their favorite content including books, games, movies, etc. and share it with the world. The main call to action is Collect & Share.

A great way to communicate with the world is through your interests. Not everyone wants to express themselves through posts, photos, and political debates. FLIIST is like a cozy room with favorite things, where a person collects all that’s dear and close to them.

Watch video here


FLIIST startup

Why now?

Creating your own cozy corner in the stormy ocean of big social networks is not the best idea. These networks are already so big that they resemble life in a communal apartment: you sit with a book under a blanket in your room, while the neighbors are having a noisy argument about politics behind the wall. And then another filter seller knocks on the door. Today it turns out to be easier to “move” in order to achieve silence.

Digital noise, non-transparent collection of personal data and toxic algorithms of news feeds force users to look for more suitable platforms for their hobbies. People are well used to online interaction, which is why new niche platforms are growing rapidly.

Earlier this year, the Product Hunt team launched the YourStack social network, where you can find out what products your friends love. This is just one of the possible implementations of this strategy.

FLIIST is one of the new platforms. We see both the reaction and the “pain” of users. They show that the topic is interesting and it’s worth improving and developing.


FLIIST startup

Sleeping competitors

We entered a huge, steadily growing niche with a new approach, we have few direct competitors. Most notable, promises “real” social interaction to its users. In the application, you can share content and recommendations without ads, algorithms and collection of personal data. They managed to collect more than three million users for the investment of the Lebanese billionaire. But in 2018, the team had a public scandal. We did not understand the essence. We only see that the development of the project has come to a standstill and they are gradually losing their audience.

Likewise startup offers to find interesting content based on the recommendations of friends. The founder of the project previously worked at Microsoft and was able to attract his friend Bill Gates as the investor. It is from his 52 millionth Twitter account that the main traffic to the project comes. We do not see active development at Likewise, possibly due to a rather mature team of unhurried founders. Although they have unlimited room for growth.

There is a niche service There, content makers show and discuss their sets of equipment. They have over a million visits per month and a $ 2.5 million seed investment.

None of our competitors have created anything really cool and big. Our audience has a lot of opportunities to create lists, collections of content. Pinterest, Airtable, Evernote and a thousand other services, including social networks, are partially suitable for this.

But no one has made a really convenient platform for collecting content in one place and social interaction based on it yet. These features are scattered across a dozen services. You find one thing in the notes, another in the music service, the third on the streaming platform, the fourth on social networks, and the fifth in the screenshots. Today it is difficult to collect all your favorite content in one place, and no one has fully solved this great pain.


 FLIIST startup

Big audience

Our product potentially provides value to a large number of digital content consumers on the planet. Among them, we have chosen a more suitable segment — millennials and zoommers. They respond quickly to new digital products, try new things, and pay for what’s important. This audience will grow and stay with us for a long time if they love the product.

We also started boldly together with literature lovers. Booktubers are intellectuals with a wild love of lists. They constantly compose and share collections of literature. And this same audience adores movies and TV shows, which have become an alternative to reading. Some users come to us from Livelib — an “ancient” social network of book lovers. They find our service on their own, thus there is a slight viral effect.

We began to develop our social networks and have already achieved the first results: we have 14 thousand subscribers on the Telegram channel, and 10 thousand on TikTok. Our Youtube channel is gradually growing.

Today we have only 21 thousand users who have created 215 thousand flists. We started doing some marketing in March 2020 and are now looking for our Product Market Fit.

We are able to grow the number of users to a million in a few months, as we found scalable acquisition channels with high conversions and low prices. CAC for today is $ 0.2 and is constantly falling due to organic traffic. So audience growth is a matter of budget.

There are already 585 active content creators on the platform that we call Flisters. They spend a lot of time consuming movies, books, games and music. They have a passion for structuring and organizing content. Flisters attract their audience from outside, which comes for recommendations and fresh trends.


 FLIIST startup

Small improvement and big traffic

Flist’s cherry on top is the Celebrity section (Russian and American). It has a selection of content that the stars recommend. We have assembled a team of volunteer editors who select personal recommendations from interviews and other open credible sources and make selections. It’s like Wikipedia, but with the interests of public figures.

None of our competitors have such information. We already have over 500 personal profiles, and they are constantly growing, so we partially solve the chicken & egg problem. In the future, we want to build a strong community of editors, like Fandom.

Many requests for celebrity interests such as “joe rogan favorite movies” are already in the top 3 of Google in the US. We have a strong SEO expertise that allowed us to quickly achieve this result — and this is just the beginning. After all, organic is growing pretty fast).


 FLIIST startup

Where does money come from

Initially, we thought more about user experience than money. When users love a product, well-implemented monetization only increases its value. We have several monetization options at our disposal that we are starting to test.

We have connected the first source of revenue, the Amazon affiliate program is now in test mode. We got a modest amount in September, but this is a matter of scaling — with a lot of traffic, the opportunity to make good money is real. And we have such experience: a few years ago, by invitation from Victor Karpenko, I shared how to build sites for Amazon at Nazapad — the top conference in the field. And there are already cases when, according to my recommendations, the guys built a blog with several hundred articles a year, making $ 40–60 thousand monthly.

Our main markets are currently the USA and the CIS. The CIS market is our home market, which we know well and therefore see a prospect in it, as they say: not America alone :). FLIIST is a multilingual project, in the future we are preparing for global expansion and different language zones.


Who did all of this?

The co-founder and CTO Maxim Borisov is responsible for the technical part, we have been working in tandem for more than five years. Now Max is engaged in technical support and implementation of new features on FLIIST.

My friends, TheMindStudios, were primarily involved in the development. I’ve already worked together with them and was very pleased, so I turned to them again. The guys didn’t just take the money and started working on the product, but demanded to carry out the discovery stage (market research) and custdev together. So we had to prove to them (and myself) by numbers that the market needed the product, because the developers were “tired of growing a graveyard of startups”.

After launching FLIIST, I took over the operational part together with a team — specialists in development, SEO, SMM, marketing, content. Now seven people are working full-time and a few more are helping part-time. We live in different cities of Ukraine and work as a distributed team.


FLIIST startup

Money as fuel

We have already invested more than $ 170 thousand of our own funds, in fact, having closed the pre-seed, and we are looking for a Seed round for $ 500 thousand. Money is the fuel for our rocket. Right after raising investments, we will launch applications for iOS and Android.

We will enable Flisters to natively monetize their content using affiliate programs. It will be possible to connect hundreds of thousands of affiliate programs on the platform in a couple of clicks, in this case we will take a small commission. Advanced Flister will also be able to register in affiliate programs on their own and receive payments without our commission. Additionally, we’ll add game mechanics.

In the near future, we will improve the conditions for building social ties. The “7 friends in 10 days” rule continues to work — we will provide our users with the opportunity to build a wide range of communications according to their interests as efficiently as possible.

We will also create a recommendation algorithm based on preferences and social connections, which will form a personalized feed for the interests of each user.

Another important improvement is the ability to transfer your playlists, bookmarks, favorite lists from many other popular services in a couple of clicks.

The task list is bursting at the seams. We will do the roll out, and of course focus on the main thing. Participation in the Seedstars accelerator, where we have just made it to the final, will help us in this. Thanks to the accelerator, we will get access to top experts and improve our product.

With the investment, we will be able to make the most important product improvements in a few months, and our entry into orbit will be unstoppable!


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