Ello, the independent, invitation-only and ad-free social network that went viral almost overnight, is often compared to Facebook. Indeed, the still-nascent social network has already gained a reputation as the “anti-Facebook.”
But Ello cofounder Paul Budnitz doesn’t put much stock in those comparisons — in part because he thinks Facebook’s users have become so commoditized that the platform stopped being a true social network long ago.
“The advertisers are the customer and the user is the product that’s being bought and sold,” he told Mashable. “We don’t see ourselves competing with them, because what we’re doing feels so different.”
Let’s be clear: Ello’s existing features aren’t much different than those of any other social network. But part of what sets it apart — and what has helped fuel its sudden exponential growth — is the founders’ adamant dedication to keeping the site free of ads. They even wrote a lengthy manifesto that ends with this declaration: “You are not a product.”
In fact, the company raised $435,000 in VC funding prior to its recent explosive growth
And given the recent buzz, it’s certainly not unreasonable to think the company stands to raise much more than that in its next round of funding.
Additionally, as others have pointed out, when investors are involved, they expect companies to have a business model. So while advertising may seem like a forgone conclusion to some onlookers, Budnitz said this isn’t the case. In fact, he insists there is another— and better — way.
Rather than ads, they plan to go with the freemium model app makers are increasingly adopting: Offer core service for free, and additional, “premium” features at a cost.
Budnitz is quick to point out that those features, which may include the ability to create one profile for your personal life and one professional identity, are meant to appeal only to a small subset of users who will be able to unlock them by paying “a couple of dollars.”
“We want to make a successful business that makes money, but it doesn’t have to be a $30 billion company,”
But what about those pesky investors who may have very different expectations? Not the case, he said, pointing out that Ello’s founders own the majority of its stock.
“There’s no one telling us what to do.”