Social networking startup Gather Online, which markets itself as ‘Snapchat for groups’, has accepted a $1 million seed investment from Brett Dawson and onboarded the former Dimension Data CEO as the chairman of its board.
Based in Sydney, the social discovery and messaging platform boasts 40,000 active daily users and has now raised $2.5 million across three seed rounds, with $220,000 capacity still available for its oversubscribed third seed round.
Gather Online was founded by CEO David Price in November 2015 to enable users to engage with communities of like-minded people via ‘time-limited’ access to targeted discussions on a range of topics from careers and business through to travel and health.
“[Gather Online] fills a real gap for engagement in the current social media landscape, in that you only connect to content you are interested in,” he said.
“On the other major platforms, a post only gets engagement from about 1% of people – so, 99% are passively consuming. Gather Online overcomes this by facilitating more fruitful communication which has a beginning and an end, like we have in real life.”
Price said the investment made by Dawson would support the planned international expansion of Gather Online, whose leadership team is split between Australia and South Africa. Specifically, he said the funding will be used to scale the platform, with a view to courting Series A investors later this year, and to target social media users in Europe, the United States and Asia, where it already has a presence.
“We already have large user bases in other countries,” Price told Dynamic Business. “Our US user base is by far the largest. We are a global platform open to anyone, so we have had unexpected international growth in places such as Afghanistan due to the popularity of some cricket discussions. We are focusing our advertising to internationally grow in English-speaking markets, but not necessarily the traditional markets like the US only, because they are over-competitive, so we can grow more easily elsewhere first.”
Price attributed Gather Online’s early success to the fact that it has “a strong team executing on a simple idea that appeals to consumers and investor, which is that you should easily be able to choose content that interests you and engage meaningfully with others around that.” He added, “Everyone has experienced first-hand that the major social media companies have failed on this front and they are hungry for an alternative.”
Asked about the value Dawson – to date, an investor in six startups – will generate for Gather Online as its chairman, Price said, “Brett has been intensively involved on the strategic side, helping us refine our purpose and vision. He works with us for a few hours every couple of weeks. He will leverage his network to help us set up further strategic partnerships. Our existing strategic partners include tertiary education institutions, media organisations, not for profits and charities as well as corporates in the US, Australia, South Africa and the UK.”