Zoe Chew

April 7, 2022

Curation Economy, Social Communities & Online Learning

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Issue #01

3 market trends + 3 startup opportunities:

  • Helping others to hang out with their peers (Future of social networks)
  • Helping others to curate (Curation economy)
  • Unbundling Zoom (EdTech)

Trend #1: Verticalization of social networks

“Niche” social products are created to connect users with specific interests, audiences, or use cases.

For example: Reddit is a social network for online forums; TikTok is like Instagram but focusing on short-form video content; Shuffle is like TikTok but for podcasts with audio clips sharing and social interaction.

New social networking platforms will focus on community-first, invite-only, curated discovery, shared activities, and unique social experiences. Vibely enables creators/influencers to build communities with their fans and monetize their tribe.

🚀 Takeaway

Help others to hang out with their peers.

🔥 See Startup Opportunity #1

Trend #2: Curation is becoming the new business model

In the pre-Internet era, information and content were scarce. Today, people are overloaded by new information that pops up every other second on their devices. It becomes harder to choose, prioritize, and filter which content to consume.

Deciding what to read, listen, watch, and learn is becoming an outsourceable task.

People are now paying money to access good quality curation and resources from curators. For example,

Flow State charges $8/month to get access to curated Spotify playlists. TheBrowser charges $5/month to access outstanding stories from the Internet.

🚀 Takeaway

Curators are becoming the new creators. Help others to curate resources and make money.

🔥 See Startup Opportunity #2

Trend #3: The future of classroom will be a totally immersive experience

COVID-19 has accelerated the mass adoption of online education and remote learning.

Unfortunately, Zoom is not the solution for educators. Teachers are juggling too many tasks during online lecturing: taking attendance, providing 1:1 assistance when a student asks a question, presenting lessons, and switching screen share back-and-forth.

Therefore, new companies like Outschool, Top Hat, Nearpod are created to help educators who are struggling to manage online interaction, lectures, and engagement with students. More solutions are needed in this space to imitate the “real classroom” experiences.

🚀 Takeaway

Create tools to help teachers facilitate effective online teaching and enhance the learning experience of students.

🔥 See Startup Opportunity #3

Startup Opportunity #1: Find a workout buddy

💡 New social networking platforms will focus on community-first, invite-only, curated discovery, shared activities, and unique social experiences.

A community-based workout app for finding a virtual workout buddy. Train together, stay committed, keep each other accountable and crush your fitness goals. Think GetMotivatedBuddies but for fitness.

For Who

  • People who struggle with staying consistent with their exercise habits.
  • People who want to seek social accountability to stay motivated.
  • People who want to meet like-minded friends who share similar fitness goals.

Problem

  • It’s easy to break an exercise habit when you are doing it alone.
  • At-home workout feels repetitive and boring.
  • Meeting like-minded workout friends should not be limited by physical location or traditional gym.

Solution

  • Accountability partner. Able to find virtual fitness buddies, set up exercise sessions, select availability on a calendar to meet their accountability partner via 1:1 or group-based sessions.
  • Relevant matching. Match users through 1:1 video calls or group calls based on their fitness level, goals, types of exercises, commitment level, etc.
  • Quality fitness programs. Users can select a variety of fitness programs based on their preferences and follow the exercise instructions during accountability sessions.
  • Analytics, track habit progress. A dashboard to see the total exercise sessions, duration, streaks, and connections made.
  • Network, make new friends. Meet your workout buddy via video conferencing. Turn on the camera, introduce yourself in 3 min, turn off the microphone during the exercise session (can be 15, 30, or 60 min). Users can choose to follow up with their connections after the session through in-app social networks.
  • Community events. Group-based workout events hosted by the users. Built-in event tool to host your own fitness events and build your fitness community.

Revenue Model

This startup opportunity can generate revenues using these income streams:

  • Subscription, $14/month. Charge users to access the full features of the platform (i.e. get matched, unlimited sessions, scheduling, calendar automation, progress tracking, CRM to manage workout buddies). For inspiration, check out this pricing structure.
  • Freemium. A 14-day trial to experience the full features of the platform, then upgrade to the $14/month subscription. Have a basic free plan for users to downgrade (with limited features) to reduce churn rate.
  • Pay-per-session, $10 to $14 per access. For occasional users who want to experience one-time accountability, they can purchase a pay-per-session.
  • First-timer pass, $7 to $10 per access. Only for first-time users.

Venture Scale

  • Industries: Consumer Social, Fitness, SaaS
  • Business model: Subscription, Freemium
  • Market risk: ◼️◼️◻️◻️◻️ Lower because (1) virtual gym is becoming more familiar due to COVID and people are more likely to adopt at-home fitness (2) Has high market potential because the Online/Virtual fitness is a large market, expected to reach $59.23 Billion by 2027. (3) community tools is a proven market—Circle, Mighty Networks, Discord, Tribe.
  • Execution risk: ◼️◼️◼️◻️◻️ Medium because it requires the (1) ability to onboard, match users, and schedule 1:1 calls, which can be done through no-code tools such as Airtable form (to collect user profile details), Zoom (video calls), and Zapier (for automating calendar invites) in the initial-stage of MVP development to gain traction. (2) Can you execute a product to truly differentiate? Since online fitness is a large market, therefore, higher competition risks to compete in the same category with big players. The solution can be playing in another segment. For example, instead of competing with on-demand fitness class streaming, i.e. ClassPass, FitnessOnDemand, focus on becoming a "community workout app".
  • Moat: (1) Create an unfair advantage by owning the phrases of “online fitness” or “fitness app”, through SEO keyword rankings, quality backlinks, or branding. (2) Competing with existing fitness apps by creating a segment, i.e. workout app but community-based. Users can host their own fitness class with their peers, therefore, able to build a community-driven product.

Startup Opportunity #2: TikTok, but for book highlights

💡 Curation is becoming the new business model. People are paying money to access good quality curation. Curators are becoming the new creators

Avid book readers are lifelong learners. A social network for book summaries sharing can help readers to become curators (or creators) and empower the readers’ community to learn and grow together.

Think: Extracting a section of Goodreads—build a niche platform with valuable utilities, tools, and user experiences that serve the needs of avid readers.

For Who

  • General readers who enjoy reading book takeaways, notes, and summaries to find their next favorite books.
  • Readers-curators who curate book summary content and share their learnings with like-minded, intellectual-driven people.
  • Brands and book authors who are interested in growing their visibility for their brands.

Problem

  • Swapping or sharing book notes with friends on social media often get lost in the sea of the Internet.
  • Constraints of finding curated book takeaways from a single source from other readers.
  • Avid readers who write book reviews, recommendations, and great book notes don’t have a sustainable way to monetize their work.

Solution

  • Mobile-first, full-screen, endless swipe. Discover, save or share book highlights from other readers in one swipe. Follow readers who share insightful book takeaway. Capture user engagement with vertical, full-screen UI.
  • Shareable book summaries & notes discovery. Indexing book notes and enabling other readers to save the entire (or a portion) of the book notes to build their own knowledge collection.
  • Help curators monetize. Send tips and donations to summary curators who create insightful book highlights or takeaways.

Revenue Model

  • Ad earnings from curators, 5% to 10% cut. Readers-curators who have large followers (aka influencers) can offer paid posts to brands. You can take a transaction % from the ad earnings.
  • Advertisement for book authors. Charge ads placement fees by promoting authors’ book releases via short-form video ads or vertical Instagram-like ads.
  • Donation earnings from curators, 2% to 5% cut. Followers can donate X amount to readers-curators who share quality content. You can take a transaction cut from the total tips earned.
  • Premium features $10 to $15/month. Charge users to access premium features: save more than 10 book notes, unlock note highlight feature, upload photo and convert scanned notes to text & share, etc.

Venture Scale

  • Industries: Consumer, Mobile App, Social Media, Creators
  • Business model: Advertisement, Subscription, Freemium
  • Market risk: ◼️◼️◻️◻️◻️ Lower because (1) people are already paying money to access curated content. For example, Flow State charges $8/month to get access to curated Spotify playlists. TheBrowser charges $5/month to access outstanding stories from the Internet. (2) Low timing risk because the creators economy is on the rise and more solutions are needed to help creators (or curators) to create and sell.
  • Execution risk: ◼️◼️◼️◼️◻️ Higher because requires (1) a great engineering team to execute machine learning (ML)-driven products (2) Ability to execute the full creators stack on top of a social network: tooling for readers to highlight and share notes, social interaction & alternative income sources for avid readers.
  • Moat: (1) Hyper-targeted content recommendation and discovery based on user interests. (2) Create a strong data network effect by attracting users to generate content, collecting user's social graph, and improving the recommendation algorithm. (3) Note-taking tools like Google Docs, Evernote, and Notion are positioned as wide use-cases and collaboration tools, rather than note discovery via social networks.

Startup Opportunity #3: Help teachers to explain effectively

💡 The future of classroom will be a totally immersive experience. Create tools to help teachers facilitate effective online teaching and enhance the learning experience of students.

A video conferencing platform for teachers and students. Make online lectures 80% more effective and less boring. Search and add overlays directly in video calls through a database of videos, audios, images, animations, GIFs, etc. Think mmhmm, but for teachers.

For Who

  • Educators and teachers who are finding ways to enhance comprehension level and improve visual communication for their students.

Problem

  • Teachers who are new to the digital learning world often struggle to use the latest tech tools to create visually engaging teaching materials.
  • Digital whiteboarding tools are great to explain conceptual ideas but not effective for audio-visual elements.
  • For teachers, going through Google Slide, Canva, Zoom, YouTube videos, stock images to put together an online presentation requires a lot of tool-switching.
  • For students—Zoom fatigue kills learning motivation, causing comprehension-loss.

Solution

  • Visual overlay & placeholder. Easily add overlays and visual assets (i.e, video, audio, custom text, image, GIFs, stock photos, or PNG) during live video calls.
  • Searchable database. Browse visual assets by entering keywords. For example, if a teacher is trying to explain "What does a sine wave sounds like?", she can use the search, filter by visual types, choose a relevant item and place it as an overlay during a video presentation. There is no going back-and-forth between searching on Google or screen-sharing. It's a great way to visualize what has been said in a slide.
  • AI voice search. For example, "What is a Black Hole?" → automatically return suggestions of related visual assets through voice search without manually typing in search.
  • Save templates. Create overlay templates and replay the saved sequence of overlay items during the next online lecture. Save time from re-creating the same teaching materials.

Revenue Model

  • Subscription, $9 to $14 per teacher per month. Charge users to access the full features of the platform. For inspiration, check out the Zoom pricing plan.
  • Freemium. Free to use except for advanced features such as accessing video recording feature, unlimited visual asset database, limited video call sessions, etc.

Venture Scale

  • Industries: EdTech, Video Conferencing, Information Technology
  • Business model: Subscription, Freemium
  • Market risk: ◼️◻️◻️◻️◻️ Lower competition because (1) there aren't many existing players who are building in the segment of "video conferencing for online education" and solving the visual communication problems. For example, Top Hat is providing a learning management system (LMS) that is interactive to solve the student engagement problems; Nearpod is also competing in a similar space with Top Hat by providing assessment solutions and real-time student feedback. (2) COVID-19 has accelerated mass adoption of online education, therefore, creating a verticalized solution of Zoom has lower adoption risk since the market readiness is valid.
  • Execution risk: ◼️◼️◼️◻️◻️ Higher because (1) requires an engineering team who're good at handling different technical aspects of building a video product. (2) It’s best to focus on shipping one specific (core) feature in the early stage of the MVP development, i.e. using YouTube API to render a list of YouTube videos or Unsplash API to render searchable visual assets on an overlay during video calls.
  • Moat: (1) Provide a real-time overlay technology to increase visual communication and learning experience. (2) Being able to position as the leading "video conferencing platform for teachers". (3) Develop technical expertise to make a great video product that is hard to replicate by competitors.