Imagine an online environment where you can instant message and video chat with anyone in the world live, create a forum around a sporting event or news broadcast and purchase an assortment of goods—all on a single website.
A team of Ravenscroft High School
grads wants to make this concept a reality with a new social media network called HangBee.
HangBee, as described by founder Will Christman, is an organic, living social interface where users can interact in multiple ways beyond what is available through today’s social networks.
Christman, a 2014 graduate of the private school in North Raleigh, first thought up the concept during his freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder. He was frustrated by the lack of real time interaction and privacy offered by major social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A fan of role-playing video games like the Fallout series or World of Warcraft, which allow players to interact in real time, Christman wanted a social media platform that bridged the gap between social networking and the gaming sphere.
“I thought it would be cool to get online and instantly be with people, which is not like anything you can currently do,” Christman says. “I think other people want this kind of interaction, and social networking is going to morph into this real time space eventually.”
It took a year for Christman to move forward with his idea. Last year, he shared the idea with high school friend and Brown University student Max Haensel, and along with other Ravenscroft alumni Bailey McNeill (UNC-Chapel Hill), Clare Zaytoun (Brown University) and Andrew Ziperski (Stanford University), they mapped out their ideal social media network.
Creating a completely new social networking site is a daunting task, Christman admits. Nearly 30,000 companies are listed under social media industry in AngelList
alone. But enthusiasm for HangBee has stayed strong among the team, even when meetings were virtual throughout the year while the members were away at different schools.
They’ve regularly sought business advice and strategy help from informal advisors like Scot Wingo
, Thomas Kenna
, a real estate broker at Colliers International
specializing in startups and growth companies, and Christopher Poe,
a startup attorney at Wyrick Robbins.
Now the team is ready to bring HangBee fruition, but it’s all pending a successful Kickstarter campaign
meant to raise funds and generate buzz. Ongoing through July 1, they’ve set a goal to raise $20,000. 107 backers have pooled nearly $5,000 so far.
“It’s really all or nothing for us with this campaign,” says Haensel. “We want people to be excited about HangBee because we are building it for them, not us.”
Explaining the "living user interface"
The key to HangBee’s platform is flexibility. The vision is to constantly evolve with its users, and based on what content is trending.
The site will be organized around nine “hives”: Hangout, Exposé, Fun, News, Help, Meeting, Change, Event and Marketplace.
Instead of scrolling through data feeds that only show content from the past, like on Facebook and Twitter, users can explore these hives and create new ones as they discover content and meet new people on the platform.
An artist, for example, could create an Exposé hive to showcase a 3D printed project she is working on and receive candid feedback. In a Meeting hive, an entrepreneurial group with members around the world could outline a marketing plan. Whatever a user does, spontaneity is encouraged.
So is privacy. A founding principle of HangBee is to allow users to interact and share in a safe and secure way.
“We don’t like how content that you post on social media currently is so permanent. If you want it taken down, you have to log in and physically delete it,” says Haensel.
On HangBee, the content is “inherently private,” meaning that nothing—besides listings on the Marketplace—is ever saved. Even the transactions will be private since the site plans to collect Bitcoin as its sole form of currency. Bitcoin is digital currency that utilizes a peer-to-peer transaction that does not stem from a central source or bank.
Not only will HangBee offer its users privacy, but the entire space will be ad-free. Ads that follow you around due to tracking algorithms can damage the user experience, Christman says.
To keep ads off the site and cover costs, HangBee will charge a 1% transaction fee to sellers in the marketplace.
“We feel very strongly that by not storing information, we can have a much lower operating cost,” says Christman.
The team believes the Bitcoin and gaming communities, along with online privacy advocates will be the first to join HangBee, and it will catch on from there as mobile users look for other ways to communicate and transact virtually.
They also recognize they’ll have to be open minded about the way users want to interact on the site. Christman believes his team’s open-mindedness to change will help them overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.
If the campaign is successful, the first course of action will be to apply for a business license and process all required permits. Once all of the legal processes are complete, Christman will hire two software engineers to begin building the backend of the site.
So when will Kickstarter supporters get access? Christman says we can expect a beta in spring of 2017 and full launch next summer.