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How Yapert Puts All Your Interests In One Mobile App, With Phil Kelly

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo

 

How do you keep up with everything that's happening with your favorite interests, brands, and personalities on your mobile phone? Right now, that's a jumble of different social services, websites, and more--which is the problem that Yapert (www.yapert.com) thinks it has solved. Yapert raised a funding round a few weeks ago from the Tech Coast Angels, Desert Angeles, and Pasadena Angels for its mobile apps, which consolidates news and information about your favorite interests. We caught up with CEO Phil Kelly to better understand what the company is working on.

Explain exactly what Yapert is all about?

Phil Kelly: We're an interactive, mobile magazine, which I think is probably the best way to describe it. What we're doing, is curating the most popular interests, brands, and entertainers, which comprise the interest in the social web, and putting in on one platform. For example, if you have a favorite sports team, like Tesla Motors, and are a fan of Aerosmith, right now you have to go to multiple apps and websites just to keep up to date on what those particular brands are doing. Or, you can go to Yapert. We're available on iOS today, and have an Android app in private beta, which we're probably release in the next three weeks. You can go to your particular interests, pick your favorite brands and entertainers, and favorite them. No matter where they post, whether that's Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you can get it all inside one app.

How did the company start?

Phil Kelly: I started the company early last year. It came about from a couple of areas. One, was I have been using Flipboard and Zite every day. I liked that all of the news was in one particular place, but I was really frustrated with being able to keep up with other interests, because websites on smart phones are very difficulty. Facebook's ranking algorithm doesn't necessarily get you all that you want to see, and it's difficult to use Twitter's lists to get to what you're interested in. There is a lot of searching and sorting just to find out, for example, what the USC Trojans or Tesla Motors might be doing. That's where the company started from. I knew I wasn't the only one facing those issues, so I started talking to other people, and started doing focus groups with fans.

Everyone is a fan of something, even if they don't consider themselves a fan of something. We all have likes and interests. We went out and validated this, and found out that the biggest people who dominate social media are clearly from the entertainment industry and sports, what you call stars. We then started talking to management companies, record labels, and others to see what issues they were having connecting with their fans. Once you go through that, and see all of the inefficiency, it just made sense to start a company to fix that.

Your background isn't in celebrity/brand marketing--how'd you end up here?

Phil Kelly: It's kind of interesting. When we were first starting with this hypothesis, we realized that there must be a better way to connect people around their interests. We really started to study the current generation of smartphones and what people do with them. We found that social was obviously very big, aside from gaming. It took a process of four months, multiple MBAs, and we had mapped out everyone who had more than 50,000 Facebook fans or Twitter followers globally. Everybody. When you add that all up, and pareto them out, you come up with the entertainment industry, and music dominates. That's followed by sports, followed by brands in general. As you start to see what's going on in social, who's most active, and who is creating and sharing content, you find that it's the entertainment industry and music.

Your background was in telecom, wasn't it?

Phil Kelly: Before Yapert, I was angel investing. Before that, I started a company called Vsource, which we took public on the NASDAQ. Before that, I spend five years in Asia with Dell, and before that spent fourteen years at Motorola. I spent a lot of time outside of the country, running technology companies. I've both been an entrepreneur, as well as the head of the division of a public company.

As someone who was an angel investor, why did you decide to jump back into running a company?

Phil Kelly: That's an interesting one. One you've done a startup, and taken them through an exit, public or whatever, you realize they're so time consuming and so draining. I think you have to have your head examined to do another one. But, when you're an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur. As I started to study this particular problem, I saw that social has to be more mobile, and has to be far more integrated, so that people and fans have the ability to get the information they want, in a way they want to be able to receive it, without spending an ungodly amount of time to find it. The appetite for content from the younger demographic, from 13-17, from 17-25, is ridiculous. We found that there wasn't anyone doing this well, and being an entrepreneur, decided to startup up one more company to fix the problem.

What kind of challenges have you run into so far with the startup?

Phil Kelly: I think that 18 or 24 months ago, lots of people would come out in the mobile world with iOS first, then, over some period of time, started developing with Android. Today, those time periods have really collapsed. We developed our software for iOS, and we've had to work on Android development much quicker than companies would have 24 months ago. That means you've got to have a bigger development team, and more complexity.

The other challenge, is there's just a ridiculous amount of noise out there. It's difficult to be heard, and get noticed in the multiple stores in multiple websites out there. That's the marketing side. Fortunately, in San Diego, we're able to attract some really good people to work on this. We also found many stars and artists who are interested in contributing content, and that's gone very well.

Thanks, and good luck!