Hello Network in talks to raise funds from Indian investors
Bengaluru: Hello Network Inc., the new social network launched by the founder of Orkut, is in talks to raise money from strategic investors in India as the company seeks to establish itself as an alternative to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We’re looking at strategic partners in India to help us reach our vision. It would be great for us to have strategic partners who know India so much better than we do. We’re currently in conversations (with investors) and people reached out to us,” Hello Network founder and CEO Orkut Büyükkökten said in an interview.
He declined to disclose the names of the investors that the company is in discussions with or the quantum of funds it is looking to raise.
Hello Network was launched by Büyükkökten after he left search giant Google in 2014. Google later invested in the new social network. Büyükkökten had launched Orkut, named after him, in the early 2000s when he was an engineer at Google. After an initial surge in popularity, Orkut lost out to Facebook Inc.
Now, Büyükkökten wants to displace Facebook as the social network of choice for people in Brazil and India, which were also the largest markets for Orkut. It’s an understatement to say that it’s a tough task. Facebook has become synonymous with social networking and is estimated to have more than 250 million users in India whereas Hello Network just launched here last week.
But Facebook has been plagued by a host of problems over the past year. Last week, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified before US lawmakers after it emerged that London-based data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica had inappropriately accessed data on Facebook users in the run-up to the 2016 US elections.
Regulators and critics have blasted Facebook’s loose privacy policies and said that the company needs to protect its users more. In 2016, Facebook users were flooded with fake news articles posted by people promoting political agendas.
Büyükkökten said that Facebook’s troubles are just the latest symptom of what’s gone wrong with social media, adding that Hello Network offers users an alternative to existing platforms.
“Social media platforms today don’t prioritise users – they prioritise brands, third parties, advertisers, shareholders. As a result the user experience has deteriorated. (Additionally,) social networks don’t connect us to each other the way we connect in real life around common interests and shared passions. Hello is designed around passions and interests and meeting people,” Büyükkökten said.
He said that though Hello Network will show ads on its platform, it will not share user data with advertisers or any other third party.
The company is also using a feature called Karma to try and avoid the problems of fake news articles and hateful content that are widespread on other platforms. This feature will track interactions on the platform whose algorithms will assign a “reputation” to users based on their browsing and usage patterns.
“Using Karma, we’re able to understand that when something gets posted on the platform how widely should we distribute it. Fake news happens because people are able to create fake accounts and then distribute it widely by spending money. At Hello, content will be distributed based on the reputation (of users),” Büyükkökten said.
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