It’s pretty easy to forget that the rest of the world exists when you’re blinded by the sights and sounds of Silicon Valley startups. But 3,000 miles away, across the Pond, are four founders who are changing the way that people work, communicate and interact with the entire world.
1. Marco Nardone, Fling
Marco Nardone of Fling takes a different approach than many networks do: He sends "Flings" (photo, video or text messages) to up to 50 people at random, and lets people follow the flings. The team is working to provide its social network of millions of users with the ability to interact with new people in an honest, open way. They regard their strategy as potentially a more realistic play than that of hot messaging startup Beme.
“Your friend’s Instagram and Facebook photos paint the best possible picture of their lives: They lack rawness," says Nardone. "We think that what’s important is seeing the moments captured by people outside of your social graph. Fling’s users, all over the world, capture real-time content all over the world, which may be out-of-the-ordinary in your life, but ordinary in theirs; it’s the inexhaustible variety of life.”
2. Ian Hogarth, Songkick
With $32.6 million in funding to date, Songkick, led by Ian Hogarth, has become a juggernaut in the online music space. The premise is simple: Users sign up, tell Songkick what bands they care about and where they want to see them, and the service provides customized alerts for ticket sales.
This isn’t as simple as aggregating multiple sources to create a newsletter: Songkick takes the classic ticket-purchasing websites and combines them with its own review of local newspaper classifieds, band websites and other data sources to get ticket availability information far in advance of many other sources, like site subscriptions.The kicker? Users can also upload set lists. At this point, Hogarth seems capable of making money even though it's a startup. This is surprising in such a crowded space, and a testament to how the London-based startup has continued to raise millions.
3. Andy Meikle, SportsLobster
Though far from being the first sports social network, SportsLobster has exploded, thanks to Andy Meikle's focus on creating a community where fans can do what fans love to do: make predictions, wild or otherwise. The app allows users to write blogs that win them points based on the "likes" that they get for the post. The points then put them on a leaderboard, bringing a classic sporting-competition feel to the network. SportsLobster has already raised $13 million in funding, in four rounds, the latest in 2014, suggesting that it's likely not far from raising another round, given the rapid growth so far.
4. Tom Valentine, Secret Escapes
Everyone needs a vacation, and Secret Escapes, led by Tom Valentine, can definitely afford one after raising $60 million, led by Google Ventures. According to Business Insider, the site has sold over two million rooms for its members-only travel club. The site exclusively deals with the creme-de-la-creme of luxury hotels, which it fills in using its member-base of avid travelers.
Though other travel sites have floundered in this space, Secret Escapes focuses on doing more than just getting good deals at the classic Five Star Hotels (such as the St. Regis). It also sends travelers to the stranger locations of the world like castles, or a yurt in Hawaii. While there are countless hotel-aggregation sites, Secret Escapes has cornered the market on the weird and wonderful parts of the world.