Can a new social network stand out against established competitors like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok? The Octi startup launched today has high hopes.
The team at the Los Angeles-based tech company sees an opportunity with Facebook’s parent company Meta, which recently faced criticism over the damage done by the social network and Instagram. Lawmakers have also questioned TikTok, SnapChat and YouTube about concerns about targeted advertising, privacy and other safety concerns for young users.
The teen-focused networking Octi app, which is on the Apple App Store now, doesn’t have ads like those of the well-established sites. Instead, it relies on Likes, which can earn users Octi coins to buy digital goods — and real products from brands like Funko, Nike, and Reebok.
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“If you think about it, what we’re dealing with today on social media is just an extension of TV advertising,” said Justin Vois, co-founder and CEO of Octi. “With this model, you can kind of get away with that…to bring this back to a safer, more creative place.”
Currently more than 1,000 are testing the Octi app, which has been running for two months. But Octi has been working on augmented reality and the integration of shareable video and digital objects for more than three years.
Users can beautify TikTok-like videos by adding 3D digital objects or placing themselves in virtual landscapes. When they get likes, they stack coins. Coins can be spent on digital things that a limited number of Octi users can own. All users can post objects in their video creations, but owners earn coins when using objects and earn likes.
Coins can also be used to get a discount on purchases of sports shoes, clothes, and other products.
Octi has already created the ability for users to sell their digital objects and upload NFTs for use on the platform as well. At some point, users will be able to purchase Octi Coins, but currently they are free and earned through participation.
But how does Octi plan to prevent hate speech, bullying and other issues that plague current social networks? For starters, the lack of reliance on ads—and the need for users to see those ads—changes the paradigm, Vuys says.
Moreover, the platform’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning monitors activity for alarming signs. “We have all the systems in place to keep this situation intact from the start,” said Octi COO and co-founder Brian Biggott.
“If someone came along and just wanted to do something horrible, they would be caught very quickly and out of circulation very quickly,” Viwes said.
To date, Octi has raised $20 million in funding from investors including live music promoter Live Nation Entertainment, co-founder of Beats Electronics, and music CEO Jimmy Iovine.
said Rich Greenfield, partner, media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners and a funded investor in the company.
Launching a new app, he said, “is never easy. It’s really hard.” However, as more companies invest in the future of connectivity, Octi strives to create a “unique experience where (users) can hang out with friends, buy things, share content, and interact in a fun mobile-first world.”
With all the interest around the metaverse concept, Octi sees itself in a good position. Vis said the newly launched app is an “exciting vision and version of the metaverse” that connects people. And the platform can evolve along with new technology like augmented reality glasses etc.
But for now, “it’s very different from what you know, sitting in your basement with your Oculus (virtual reality headset) on and running,” Fuisz said.
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