Australian social media startup Ideapod wants to facilitate discussion of ideas that can change the world

- September 29, 2015 3 MIN READ

A cynical observer could be forgiven for thinking that there are well and truly enough social media platforms out there, but despite the domination of monoliths like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a number of smaller players are making their mark thanks to subtle differences. One such player is Australian startup Ideapod, which has been endorsed by high profile thinkers including Richard Branson.

Like the name suggests, Ideapod is all about sharing and discussing interesting ideas, with its about page stating that the platform stands for technology, radical openness, audacious thinking, and freedom of expression, among other values. Founded by Melburnians Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs, Ideapod allows users to outline an idea in 1000 characters or less, and then await feedback from others. The startup is currently developing an app which will enable users to post 40 second videos. As Brown describes it, Ideapod is like Medium meets Twitter meets TED, or a “global, collaborative idea incubator.”

“When we all express our ideas, and work together, there’s no limit to what can be achieved for each other and for our planet,” Brown said.

The idea for the platform, which launched to the public in March after a lengthy beta period, came from the founders’ own dissatisfaction with the experience of sharing ideas on other social media.

“The potential of social media is huge; an average person can have a global reach from their smartphone. We created Ideapod because we saw the potential of social media to be meaningful and collaborative. Sharing ideas on Facebook didn’t feel right. It’s just not the platform for that,” Brown said.

“Social media has become such an integral part of our lives, and now people are really happy to share personal – even video – content publicly. We find that people sharing on ideapod are comfortable being vulnerable, expressing themselves in ways that others might not agree with.”

It’s certainly true that people are becoming increasingly comfortable sharing parts of themselves online, so much so that slick blogging platform Medium has just raised a $57 million funding round, while Facebook has just relaunched its Medium-like Notes feature. However, unlike Ideapod, these platforms don’t easily allow for discussion and collaboration on what’s been posted. Discussions currently being had on Ideapod include the place of cyclists in Denmark and how Australia can capitalise on its brain drain.

The startup’s journey has been a long one. Bakacs, a former corporate lawyer, and Brown, a former management consultant and university tutor in international relations, began working on Ideapod part time in 2010. The development of the platform was initially funded by the co-founders and money pooled together from family and friends, with Brown and Bakacs deciding to work on the startup full time in 2012.

The pair then set up base in the US after failing to find investment in Australia, and secured a $500,000 seed round in 2013 to launch the platform in beta. They launched Ideapod on Indiegogo earlier this year, looking to raise $50,000 to develop the video capture app.

“We had offers from media and advertising companies like Saatchi & Saatchi and others, but we didn’t like the direction they wanted us to go in, and we’re really glad we’ve retained creative control of the company so that it can remain true to our vision,” Brown said.

The pair were last year invited to Richard Branson’s Necker Island for a Change Makers trip, where they pitched Ideapod to Branson and a number of other entrepreneurs there to pitch their own businesses. It was from these entrepreneurs that they ended up securing further investment.

Ideapod is being used in over 200 countries, with a monthly active user count sitting in the hundreds of thousands and Brown and Bakacs expecting to hit the low millions by the end of the year, but the platform’s user base was initially built up by the pair hosting idea salons in New York.

“As people started to post content on Ideapod we made it shareable, so that users could share their ideas on social media. For every idea created, we get about three new users, because people love to share their ideas,” Brown said.

The startup is seeing deep engagement, with users spending an average of 30 minutes per session on the web platform.

There are several ideas in play when it comes to monetising the platform. Ideapod has gone offline again, creating physical ‘Ideapods’ which can be used at exhibitions and conferences to capture and share content, while an enterprise platform allowing companies to have employees come up with and discuss ideas is also in the works.

Given it’s won praise from Branson and has a sizeable user base already, Ideapod has big potential, with the public launch of the app in the coming months sure to spur further growth.

Image: Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs. Credit: Lauren Kallen.