On any given day we’re pinning, posting, instagramming, tweeting and checking in – is there room in our social media schedule for one more network? Or, what if a dark-horse photo sharing network rises from the shadows to vanquish all other social platforms?
The founders of Sacramento’s newest social networking startup, Modera.co, are vying to create just that sort of disruptive network.
Modera.co founders Nodir Mirsaid, 22, Sanjar Babadjanov, 38, and Marat Ibragimov, 22, were tired of the uncensored, firehose of information inundating their news feeds. How many pictures of people’s babies can you really handle? So the Uzbekistani entrepreneurs, with a background in finance, set about building the social network they wanted to use.
After three years of bootstrapping their project, they launched in March and have managed to grow the team of three to 27 people across three different countries. The co-founders all now reside on a 4.5 acre live/work compound in Carmichael where they work on their web site and test user sentiment. The main room is filled with guys in colorful t-shirts and shorts, hunched over computers, while the sun reflects off a glimmering pool in the backyard – this is the Modera Mansion.
So, what have they built? Here’s the explanation on www.modera.co, “When we started Modera, we were overwhelmed by the amount of clutter on all of our other social networks. Our mission was to create a platform to share photos and have them ranked so that only the very best content from our friends and things we’re interested in came up to the top of our news feed.”
At first glance Modera appears to be a clone of the early 2000’s site Hotornot.com, as I began voting up or down photos of sexy ladies in underwear and gents in suits and ties, I ran across photos of ferrets, Kim Jong Ill on a horse and blurry party shots. One of the more peculiar choices given to me was Kim Jong Un Vs. Psy (the Korean pop star behind Gangnam Style). This is not your average photo rating site, and the founders have a much bigger dream for the company.
In addition to being able to post photos and have strangers weigh in on your looks, you can compete with other users to win a $300 gift card from Fly Elephant (a Sacramento clothing brand) or Only Hearts, a lingerie company from New York. This can work a number of ways, either all online with contests hosted by brands on the modera platform or the contest can be centered around a specific event. For example, a vodka brand could host a Modera party, taking picture of people dressed up and drinking cocktails, then post the pictures within the contest section on Modera.co and the person whose picture gets the most votes win a trip to Mexico.
Contests can run directly on Modera.co or the brand could plug into Modera’s open API (Application Programming Interface) and run the contest on their company’s own website using Modera’s contest infastructure.
The idea is by partnering with Modera to interact with users, brands get a unique ability to place their names in front of customers in a new, fun way.
“It’s the purest marketing for a brand,” said Mike Paulmarie, intern-turned-chief operations officer in a matter of months.
On a recent Saturday, Paulmarie’s hip hop group, The New Aira, shot a music video at a pool party at the Modera Mansion hosted by Fly Elephant, Cloud Nine clothing and HOF Productions. As party guests arrived a photographer snapped their photos at the front door and helped them sign them up for a Modera account. A group of college-age guys played basketball on the side of the house while women in their early 20s splashed around the pool in front of a camera crew. There was no shortage of beer, music, beautiful people or swag, and that was part of the plan. It’s party-marketing. (partketing?)
“(Customers) look at your product and remember the good time they had at the party,” Paulmarie said.
Modera has partnered with with event promotions company, HOF, and the two companies are planning a huge party called Babylon on August 24th. Specifics have yet to be released but following Modera on facebook will keep you informed of all the company’s events and progress.
“We’re trying to bring brands closer to the consumer,” President Mike Burns said.
People seem to like what they’ve built, and the community is growing at a steady 400 users a day. But why Sacramento? Out of all the places in the world to start a social photo sharing network, why Sacramento?
“It’s a very cost effective place to be,” said Burns, “Sacramento has a great infrastructure for startups.”
The founders were considering between the United States and United Kingdom. When they decided to settle in the US they looked at the silicon valley, but found it to be crowded and expensive. Sacramento provided an affordable, centrally located place to hunker down and launch the site.
Burns saw his first startup success with a toy company 12 years ago.
“I was attracted to the energy and vitality, and the belief in what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re smart, and I’m just trying to facilitate the whole thing.”
Smart and ambitious – Mirsaid is only 22-years-old and started his first company at age 16, which he sold a year later. He started working for a large investment company in Uzbekistan at age 18, and after helping attract foreign investment to fund Uzbek projects, he left the company to build Modera.
Eventually he wants to see it so you can simply click a hashtag and see only pictures of, for example, your friends’ breakfasts. It’s similar to instagram, but with voting and contests.
“We’re trying to break the filter bubble,” said Mirsaid. “Everyone gets frustrated when you like a couple posts from a person, and then that’s all you see in your feed for a while. We want to let people decide what they want to see.”
Right now the Modara team is in the testing phase. It made sense to start with fashion – because it was an easy thing for people to latch onto – but as made evident by the numerous ferret photos I came across – Modera can be whatever you make it.
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