A new, home-grown social platform is helping people instantly bond over shared hobbies, with the possibility for real-life catch-ups. Although Hobspot is being touted as ‘Tinder for Friendships’, it’s also a forum for budding entrepreneurs to hash out ideas with like-minded peers… and perhaps even recruit talent to their start-ups.
Founded in July 2015, Hobspot had its soft launch last month after co-founders Alfonso Ordonez (Marketing, Business Operations), Sam Ethell (Finance, Business Operations) and Gustavo Campos (Technical, Business Operations) closed a $450,000 seed capital raise for their ‘interest-oriented’ social networking app in just over two months. This funding is now being used to finance the roll-out of new app functionalities as well as the growth of Hobspot’s national user base.
While the mobile app is available Australia-wide, the Melbourne-based trio are currently focused on growing key user groups on the platform through strategic partnerships with the likes of Melbourne Football Club, Melbourne University and Student Edge
Next month, Hobspot will undergo a new round of capital raising. This time, the Melbourne-based trio are seeking $8 to $10 million to increase the size of their team and help them reach key milestones – global expansion is on the horizon but first they will launch Hobspot’s targeted advertising revenue model. This feature will feed key user activity statistics to advertisers, so they’re able to develop highly-targeted advertising campaigns for niche interest groups on the platform.
Ordonez, a native of Columbia who started his first business aged 12, spoke to Dynamic Business about the genesis of Hobspot, the business model, what distinguishes it from other social networks and more.
Dynamic Business: How did ‘the band’ get together?
Ordonez: Sam and I met in 2014 at an Oktoberfest event hosted by our mutual friend’s bar in Melbourne. I noticed he was wearing an Ohio State basketball jersey and, being an avid basketball fan myself, I engaged him in a conversation. We quickly discovered we had close to a dozen interests in common across sport, gym, entrepreneurship and mobile apps. This encounter sparked the idea for what would become Hobspot. We saw an opportunity to connect people through their shared interests in the same way we had formed our friendship.
Neither Sam or I had the necessary coding skills for Hobspot – and that’s where Gustavo comes into the picture. We had interviewed a couple of coders before deciding to put an advertisement on Gumtree. Gustavo claims he found the job via Seek.com but Sam and I never posted anything on Seek…it’s a mystery to this day. Anyway, after speaking to Gustavo via Skype on several occasions, it was clear to us that he should join us on Hobspot. In 2015, the three of us formed ASG Capital Group, a technology investment company through which we operate Hobspot.
Sam, Gustavo and I each bring something different to the business but we also share a team-first mentality, so we’re lucky to have found each other. We’re joined by four other team members who’ve really taken ownership of the app and share our passion and vision.
Dynamic Business: How does the Hobspot app work?
Ordonez: It uses location-based services to automatically connect people based on their hobbies, interests and proximity. There are three main features on the platform to help users connect with one another on the app, each providing a different method of communication:
- ‘Discover People’ allows users to connect with others nearby with whom they share a hobby or interest.
- ‘Spot Board’is a community forum that allows users to connect with everyone in a particular category.
- ‘Quick Spot’ uses an algorithm to make connections between the most like-minded users.
Dynamic Business: What problem does the app address?
Ordonez: Hobspot addresses a key barrier to forming meaningful connections on other social platforms; namely, many find it daunting. People shouldn’t be afraid of meeting like-minded people, and engaging in shared hobbies, because it has mental and physical health benefits. It can provide inspiration, fuel motivation and creativity, even lead to innovation. Meaningful connections are especially important considering peoples’ circumstances, friendships and interests change throughout the different stages of their lives.
Hobspot was designed to create instant connections between like-minded people, whether they’re looking to start a new hobby, wanting to reconnect with an old one, transitioning to a new city or going through a major life event such as having children. Not only do we provide a portal for users to quickly find others, nearby, who share their interests, we eliminate the unnecessary stress that can accompany meeting new people.
Dynamic Business: How did you score your seed funds?
Ordonez: We have a friend at EY who not only loved our concept but admired our passion, so they provided us with mentoring, worked with us on our initial pitch deck and helped us get in front of Nigel Satterley (chief executive, Satterley Property Group) as well as Maryna Fewster and Matt Toohey (iiNet executives). They thought Hobspot was a great idea based on our testimonial, including the prototype app, user benefits and targeted advertising revenue model. Once they came onboard, we started moving forward very quickly.
Dynamic Business: How does Hobspot assist advertisers?
Ordonez: Most of our competitors are very good at identifying user interests but what they lack in is statistics on how active users are in a particular interest. With Hobspot, we are able to identify how active a user is in a particular category, which is an opportunity for highly-targeted advertising. Consequently, Nike – for example – would be able to target a user who not only likes jogging but is very active in this category on Hobspot. This is much more efficient than Nike advertising shoes to someone who simply “likes” jogging but maybe hasn’t jogged for a few years.
Our targeted advertising model is ready to go, we’re just waiting for the right moment. We’ve been engaging with potential advertisers who are interested in doing a few test runs with us. Right now we are focussed on building the active user base, so most likely this will be at the end of the financial year.
Dynamic Business: What does your user-base look like?
We have a strong user-base in Melbourne and Queensland as well as a good mix of both young and older users. The app has really resonated with international and first year university students. We launched in two universities during 0-week, this year, to test demand from students. As a result, Hobspot’s user-base grew by a little over 33%. This validation has been a big win for us because international students are our key market.
We’re fortunate to have established a very strong relationship with our initial users. We’ve been handing them our business cards at promotional stalls and they’ve been providing us with a lot of feedback, which we’re using to improve the user experience.
Dynamic Business: Is Hobspot useful for businesspeople?
Ordonez: Alongside pets, soccer and coffee, entrepreneurship is one of Hobspot’s most popular categories. Using the platform, budding entrepreneurs can talk through ideas with peers in the business community and motivate one another.
For those embarking on a new venture, it’s potentially an opportunity to assemble a team of like-minded people to help transform their concept into a legitimate business. As start-up founders ourselves, Sam, Gustavo and I will be keeping a close eye on this category – we also want to provide advice and help wherever possible.