How Pop App Plans To Beat The Social Networks At Their Own Game
December 19, 2023

How Pop App Plans To Beat The Social Networks At Their Own Game

Our aim is not only to reimagine traditional models applying blockchain technology but to fast-track mass Web3 adoption

It takes a brave man to take on the world’s giant social media networks, but Michael Shen, the CEO and co-founder of Pop App, thinks he can do it. The model of most social media networks is unfair, he argues, because the users and content creators that drive their success are not properly rewarded. Pop App, he suggests, will prosper by treating people more equitably.

“Social media platforms profit from both the ads and the content, but creators are left without earning opportunities,” Shen argues. “That’s why we created Pop – to disrupt the entire creator economy and to become an equaliser offering earning opportunities to all users.”

Clearly, there’s plenty of market to go at. The existing social media networks collectively boast 4 billion users worldwide, with the average user spending almost two-and-a-half an hours a day on the platforms. Pop App only needs to claim a small number of those eyeballs in order to make a big impact.

It takes a brave man to take on the world’s giant social media networks, but Michael Shen, the CEO and co-founder of Pop App, thinks he can do it. The model of most social media networks is unfair, he argues, because the users and content creators that drive their success are not properly rewarded. Pop App, he suggests, will prosper by treating people more equitably.

“Social media platforms profit from both the ads and the content, but creators are left without earning opportunities,” Shen argues. “That’s why we created Pop – to disrupt the entire creator economy and to become an equaliser offering earning opportunities to all users.”

Clearly, there’s plenty of market to go at. The existing social media networks collectively boast 4 billion users worldwide, with the average user spending almost two-and-a-half an hours a day on the platforms. Pop App only needs to claim a small number of those eyeballs in order to make a big impact.

Shen’s strategy is to lure people on to the platform with rewards. Creators, for example, will earn Pop tokens from the moment they start posting content on Pop App, with no need to meet follower thresholds; the blockchain-enabled tokens will allow creators to develop new types of engagement with followers – NFT launches, perhaps – or they can be converted into fiat currency.

Users will also be rewarded – early adopters are also receiving tokens, but in the longer term, Shen envisages a platform built on revenue sharing via smart contracts. “Every user who creates content, data or intellectual property can become a beneficiary of Pop,” he says.

More broadly, Shen says Pop App is determined to offer more support and rewards to the people who drive its success. The platform’s algorithms are designed to promote interesting content from even very small creators, so that influencers with huge follower counts don’t dominate. Creators will continue to maintain control over their content. Users will be entitled to participate in the platform’s success. By contrast, on existing networks, Shen argues, “content consumers are left behind and do not earn anything”.

It’s an ambitious project – the question is whether people, both users and creators, will find the rewards on offer significantly attractive to start using Pop App in larger numbers. “We have the cold start problem that faces any new platform, with the chicken and egg issue of needing creators to post content and users to view it,” concedes Shen. “However, we think tokenisation will act as a huge catalyst for adoption.”

His targets are certainly confident ones. Pop App currently has around 18,000 users, who have helped the team develop early iterations of the platform during its beta phase. However, Shen thinks reaching 1 million users by the end of the year is realistic. “Our ultimate goal is to bring 1 billion users to Web3,” he says.

It’s an important point. Pop App sees itself as a platform of the Web3 internet, in which the power of the net is decentralised – with individuals retaining greater control of their data and content, and becoming far less dependent on giant technology businesses.

“Our aim is not only to reimagine traditional models applying blockchain technology but to reinvent and fast-track mass Web3 adoption,” Shen says. “We want to disrupt the current social media industry and beyond in the same way that Apple challenged Nokia.”

These are bold goals for a company just starting out – and which is entirely bootstrapped to date. However, Pop App is currently talking to investors – it will need funding to get its tokenisation plans off the ground – and puts its current market value at around $20 million, based on user adoption and growth. Social finance fundraisings such as Phaver and SoCol have attracted similar valuations, Shen points out.

Indeed, he insists his confidence is not misplaced, with a number of big-name venture capital firms interested in the platform's potential. “We think we can start monetising the business once we reach 100,000 users,” he says. “And we will grow quickly – Facebook took almost 10 years to reach 1 billion users, while TikTok got there in about half that time; we think we’ll get there even quicker.”