Meet the 2014 Founders: Famely

Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing the StartupYard 2014 teams in individual interviews with their founders and key members at the accelerator. We kick off this week with Famely, the news and social media aggregator that allows you to keep tabs on your favorite personalities, wherever they appear in the media. 
 

Tell me about the Famely team.

Nemec: I’m Pavel and he’s Pavel too. He’s Pavel Volek and I’m Pavel Nemec.

Volek: I’m from Prague and he’s from Brno. We met on the way to France as Erasmus students.  I studied software engineering, at Prague Technical University, and was in France for 18 months on Erasmus. We got to know each other on the trip, and stayed in contact. The idea for Famely came about 2 years after we met.

Nemec: I studied in Brno (computer science at Masarykovo University). We’ve both suspended our studies to be here at StartupYard. I’m doing a PHD, and Pavel is finishing his masters. But we’re happy to be here now.

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Pavel Nemec and Pavel Volek. Co-founders of FamelyApp.com

How did you come up with the idea for Famely? Was it based on an interest you had in celebrity news and gossip?

Nemec: No, neither of us is actually too much into gossip exactly. It was just that as a student, I met so many many interesting people, well known public figures, startupers for example, that I got a chance to meet. When you meet someone really fascinating, you want to read what they have written, but also see if they do something else that’s cool and new. Clever people constantly generate new opinions, and I wanted to keep tabs on them. I searched blogs, youtube, facebook, and collected the information constantly, but you can never keep up.

Volek: When he told me about the idea, we realized we could find broader applications like sports, which I’m interested in. I’m a big fan of Real Madrid, and they have an app. But the players also have their own Twitter accounts, and they appear in places the “official” app doesn’t cover.  And there are sports aggregators, team apps, etc, but if you like multiple teams or different players, you want to control the info that you get. You can’t do that with any existing app.

Last year, Parov Stelar, one of my favorite musicians, had a concert in Prague. I found out two days after he was here. I think that happens to most of us at one time or another. If I had been checking his Twitter feed, I might have known about that. There are a lot of small clubs in Prague that really famous people do shows in, and nobody hears about it. You can’t keep up with all the ways that artists communicate with fans.

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But this is more than just an events app, isn’t it?

Nemec: Yes. A friend of mine reads gossip magazines and such. I mentioned the potential for a product like this, and they reacted strongly. We realized it could be about more than just events. The definite change came from the mentors [at StartupYard]. We knew before coming here that it was an aggregator for celebrities, but we hadn’t yet decided what market to target. We wanted to be more general. The mentors convinced us to focus on a smaller market. Celebrity gossip is a good place to start. There’s a lot of material out there, and a larger base of users. We can use this initial feature set as a way to hone the app.

How does Famely fit into the landscape of Twitter, Facebook, and other news aggregators?

Nemec: Aggregators are about aggregating your interests, but not the profiles of specific people. That’s what makes us unique.

Volek: You don’t need to learn how to use all these different platforms to find all the info you’re looking for with us. Our app is one way: focused on content.

How are you planning to monetize the app?

Nemec: The core will be about affiliate marketing. Tickets, apparell, this kind of thing. Our target market spends a lot on entertainment and clothing. We are also exploring freemium models, but that needs a lot more testing. It’s hard to say if a user would be willing to pay for more celebrity content, or for a larger library of celebrities, or what exactly. You have to be careful in considering any kind of paywall.

Volek: We are also considering magazine partnerships. We want to integrate affiliate ads, and not break the design of the app in incorporating targeted advertising. Relevant ads are important to us. We think the next generation of users wants ads that are highly relevant to them, and to the content they are looking for. Too many ads are great for advertisers, but they’re not what people really enjoy seeing. But Famely offers a tailored content experience, and that means the opportunity to target ads in very pleasing ways.

What is your strategy for promotion?

Nemec: We’d like to approach individual celebrities, particularly those that need a prepackaged solution for promoting their own content and news. That is, those without their own apps already in the Apple store, or Google Play Store.

The app will launch with pre-selected celebrities and feeds to allow us to start with great quality. We’ll start with just a few, so we can really dial in the product, and deliver consistently relevant content to our users. A great experience, exactly what fans are looking for, has to be there from launch day, or people won’t keep coming back.

What do you see as your core user group, and your main competitor?

Nemec: Our core users are “real fans.” We see our initial appeal being with english speaking young girls, who are fans of actors and musicians, but also sports fans. Celebrities try to cover all social networks and core fans at the same time do not want to miss a thing about their favourites. The point is, since there is no longer only one social network on the market, it is harder and harder to keep up. When we spoke to some fans of famous musicians, they really checking all sources they know repeatedly over and over again to not miss a thing. Also when their favourite celebrity gives an interview for an online magazine which they don’t read because they read the different one, they simply miss it. Well, no longer with Famely.

Volek: There’s no direct competitor. The market is very fragmented.

Nemec: Yeah. There is Flipboard, who are the biggest in this market, and then there’s Facebook paper, who are doing something related. But they both focus on topics and news sources, instead of people. You can create a Famely-like experience on Flipboard, but it’s not made for that. Facebook was also not designed to connect fans with diverse news sources- only with fan pages, so we see a big opening.

Volek: We want to offer credibility and quality content channels you can trust, but go outside of the “official” newsfeeds and twitter accounts, to get other perspectives on famous personalities. That’s what people really want, we think.

 

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Let’s talk about StartupYard. How has your experience been with the accelerator?

Volek: It has been exciting. We’ve met a lot of interesting people. I’d like to follow some of them on Famely!

Nemec: Having a core focus of Data and Analytics brought together teams that really have a lot in common.

Volek: Yeah. Mergim (Cahani, from Gjirafa) has advised on open source libraries and data analysis tips for us. We haven’t swapped  code, but the general advice is very valuable. Having teams around you who are experiencing the same challenges is much better than going it alone all the time.

Who have been your most interesting/challenging mentors? Who has taught you the most?

Volek: The advisors come from vastly different fields. For technology, Jaroslav Gergic, a VP at GoodData, advised us on cloud technology, and how to deal with massive numbers of users so we don’t break the servers. He was a huge help. We’ve still broken the servers though :laughs:. But that wasn’t his fault.

Nemec: Advisors have been very helpful. Mentorship here has really meant more commitment than we expected. David Booth (CEO of 2nd Degree Leads), for example, gave us incredible advice when he was here, but then followed up after few days to give us more interesting tips. They kept thinking about us after the mentoring sessions.

It’s also great to meet with investors and see how they think about their potential investments. That’s the experience we had with Andrej Kiska from Credo Ventures. They’ve explained precisely how they validate products on the market, using equations for spreading of the “epidemic [of users].” We’ve found these new directions in thinking to be really helpful.

Register for Updates on Famely at FamelyApp.com

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