This Startup Wants You to Make Money by Advertising to Your Friends on Facebook

This Startup Wants You to Make Money by Advertising to Your Friends on Facebook
Photo Credit:Reuters/達志影像
What you need to know

‘It’s like instant happiness.’ Or so says the entrepreneur behind an app that pays people to post adverts or advertise e-commerce deals on social media.

It’s often interesting to parse the pitches you see or hear at startup roadshows from the perspective of a potential investor. What would you look for? The strongest grasp of numbers and potential for monetization? The most enticing and complete product? Or, just a gut feeling for the entrepreneur themselves?

Last week’s Mobile Only Accelerator (MOX) Demo Day, held in Taipei, was interesting not least for the opportunity to analyze the entrepreneurs’ presentation styles. Of course, you are never going to receive the level of detail required to make an investment decision in the 10 minutes or less most startups have to present their offerings – you can follow up for that – but a good pitch or presenter should at least pique your interest.

The MOX entrepreneurs were cut from a wide variety of cloth, including sharp-suited data miners, smooth-talking serial entrepreneurs and well-rehearsed younger speakers nailing their presentations in a second language, but of the eight speakers one stood out: Everyday People chief executive and co-founder Sarun Vichayabhai.

The native Singaporean’s yoga-style outfit and presentation style bordered on nonchalant, but his deck carried the powerful simplicity of a good idea – and Everyday People appears a very good idea indeed. The premise is disarmingly simple: an app that pays people to post adverts or advertise e-commerce deals on social media, or just download apps. Users don't even have to open the app to generate income.

“I was meditating and I saw visions of this app, of what I am supposed to do to help the world. I saw three pictures, drew them down in two minutes,” Vichayabhai told The News Lens. “Within two minutes I had the app done. I went online to find a freelance guy to do the wireframe, and that took him two days.”

In two weeks, and with a team of four people, the app has handled US$10,000 worth of transactions, secured a product distribution and deal-matching arrangement with Lazada (the Singapore-based Southeast Asian e-commerce group) and is the number one app in the social section of India’s Google Play store.

But just how social is it to badger your friends with advertising on Facebook? “I like to see it as helping people earn lunch money,” Vichayabhai said, appearing as relaxed in conversation as he did while pitching for US$2 million in investment. “Who doesn’t like money? In people’s every day, money is the greatest source of stress. This is what we’re trying to solve.”

It’s hard to argue with such a frank and unassuming line of thinking, but Everyday People’s revenue model raises moral questions as to whether artificially bumping download numbers is something you want to be a party to, whether friends will accept you using them as a means to generate income from advertising, or indeed whether you have qualms about allowing the app’s matching function to dig deep into your preferences to serve you deals that fit your lifestyle and interests.

But such concerns betray a very Western way of thinking. Offer someone near or on the breadline, as many of Everyday People’s target market of South and Southeast Asian users are, a means of leveraging their contacts to make US$2 or so at the click of a button, and such hypotheticals become just that. “We are resonating with people,” Vichayabhai said. “People are hungry for something like this. It’s like instant happiness.”

As for pushback from publishers like Facebook, who might take umbrage at this neat shortcutting of their advertising ecosystem? “Not yet. It’s possible but we limit the frequency of posts and we have other channels where they can make money like the app store and selling products.”

In the longer run, Everyday People has very obvious monetization potential when picked up by key opinion leaders, whose outsized social networks are ripe for product placement and deal matching. “Imagine having 100,000 followers and going wild everyday selling to your friends, you know what your fan base likes and you can really monetize your relationships,” Vichayabhai said. “You have to work at it; we just give you the tools to do it.”

In conclusion, do I entirely agree with the way Everyday People works? No. Would I bet it’s going to make a lot of money for its investors? Yes. At least until it gets too big to ignore.

Editor: Edward White