State is a social network aiming to promote healthy debate with its opinion network.
Opinions network State is the latest start-up that we think has the potential to shake up the industry, solving consumer and business problems with fresh and unique ideas. Rather than disrupt a truly traditional or older industry, State is solving the problems brought on by social media. The over-personalisation of digital content and opinion, a theory popularised by State advisory board member and Upworthy founder Eli Pariser, is a key purpose in State’s existence. It seeks to be a place where people can find opposing opinion, as well as the content suited to their interests. State VP of business development Chris Salmanpour spoke to 12ahead to introduce State and how it plans to disrupt social media.
What is the idea behind the business?
In 2007, Co-founder Alex Asseily realized that there are implicit groups of people everywhere holding the same view but who are unable to leverage that fact for a common purpose or for the sake of self- knowledge. This was a massive lost potential. Current communications systems, including social networks, were limited by a process of highly asymmetric distribution, with one party choosing to share something with many. This placed undue influence to establish an (biased) agenda in the hands of governments, media companies, and the society’s elite. It also missed the opportunity to harness the world’s collective views for social progress. Alex imagined a new type of communication organized around meaning, rather than people, through which anyone could contribute a point of view and can and instantly be connected with like-minded people.
Why does your industry need disrupting?
Social media has brought a huge amount of benefit but it has also brought a lot of constraints. Most of us have an average of around 150 friends and it’s through these people that we share and discover content. Sometimes it’s relevant and sometimes it’s not. The problem is that most of the existing ‘people’ networks that we are all utilising today are geared towards individuals who have amassed a large volume of followers. While we love to hear from them, we think that everyone’s views should have their day in the sun. Everyone’s voice should be incorporated into the zeitgeist. The incumbent social networks can’t deliver on this promise as they aren’t structured to self-organise people’s views. That’s why we think there is ample room for new, emergent networks like State to gain scale, particularly when these networks deliver a totally orthogonal value proposition that meets an enormous opportunity.
What part do you play in this?
State is a network dedicated to and built around opinions. State empowers connections based on what people think, not just who they know. As soon as you state an opinion, you instantly see where you stand amongst clusters of like-minded individuals and see who’s with you and against you. We’ve designed the State platform to exist everywhere people state opinions and consume opinions, both on the web or a via mobile app. We are trying to democratise the opinion space and, philosophically speaking, if you want to build a democratic system you need to hear from everyone, not just the influencers. Since we publicly launched our platform on February 2014, our users have not only resonated with this idea but are also enjoying the simplicity of our platform to share their opinions.
What have you learned so far?
1. How many people believe that a platform like State is needed. Self-expression is not dead – people have things to say and want to participate but need to feel like something is happening, or that there is a consequence.
2. There’s always room to keep simplifying products, to remove friction and to make the experience more rewarding and delightful.
What is next for you?
We’re very excited about the next version of the State app which was released recently. We’ve made some great improvements on our existing app. One of the main new features will show a global conversation unfolding in real-time, plotting clusters of like-minded people connected around issues they care about. So for the first time, you will be able to literally see what the world is thinking on around any topic. Also, we’ll allow users to drill down on debates to see the best arguments for each point of view.