What you need to know
Q&A with the Australian founder of Taiwan-based ReCactus.
People nowadays interact on social media platforms through texts, pictures, likes, GIFs and emojis. But what if video reactions were added to the mix?
Bernard Tan has always tried to make sense of the world through human connections. The Australian designer, writer, photographer and traveler imagined a social platform that could connect people globally through videos.
This is why ReCactus was created. The News Lens talked with Tan, CEO of the social media app company, to learn more about developing the app in Taiwan.
The News Lens International (TNLI): What is ReCactus and what does it do?
Bernard Tan: You can think of ReCactus like Instagram for reaction videos. A platform you can watch, share, create and explore reaction videos.
If you want to react to a video, all you need to do is to search the video, when the video pops up, the camera will automatically turn on. You can react to any videos anytime and anywhere.
TNL: What inspired you to create the app?
Tan: Back in 2015, there was no such app to record people’s reactions. If you want to react to certain videos, you had to first download the video and record your reaction, then re-upload it onto YouTube. At the time I figured, wouldn’t it be cool if you can do it on your phone and just stream it through YouTube? All you need to do is record it and play back.
The reason I turned my idea into a product is that I care very much about human connection. I noticed that when people tweet or blog, they try to express what they think, but in fact, people want more than that.
For me, I just see my product as the next step. Instead of just liking or commenting, people need something new. That’s why Facebook added the reacting emoji because people have different emotions in different situations. That is, engaging and interactive — to actually see people’s expressions. I was trying to solve a problem, so I created this product for everybody to change the way they interact on social media.
TNL: What’s the core value of your company?
Tan: People first.
TNL: What is your user profile?
Tan: At first we are targeting millennials because it’s where they can shine. But because of the fact that everyone can use it, our users are from all ages.
TNL: What is ReCactus’ current status? How big is your team?
Tan: Right now we only have four. We just launched the app two months ago, but it's growing like crazy. ReCactus already has thousands of users. We haven't spent any money on advertising, so it’s all organic growth. Many investors have expressed interest, and we might close a deal soon.
TNL: How are you funding ReCactus?
Tan: There's no funding right now. Everything right now is our passion. We just put our hearts in it.
TNL: What are your strategies to maintain users?
Tan: For me, it is the engagement. When people feel engaged, people care and want to see others’ opinions. I also found out that ReCactushas this special magic for people to keep coming back because it fits human nature.
TNL: How so?
Tan: For example, sometimes it takes time to get to know what a person really feels about something. When you hear a song, you are not sure if you like it, but when you read others’ feedback, you start to come up with your own thoughts. This is how humans work; we process information by understanding how everyone feels about things.
ReCactus helps perceive one’s own thoughts better to fully understand something. This is how the whole world works now.
TNL: You are from Australia. Why did you decide to launch the startup in Taiwan? What do you think of the local startup environment?
Tan: We started here because my friends and I joined an accelerator program in Taiwan. The engineers here in Taiwan are really good.
The startup environment in Taiwan is very cool. I had little understanding of launching a startup before we came to Taiwan, but people here from larger or established companies mentored us and provided help. To be honest, I wouldn't be here at this stage right now without their help.
TNL: What is your biggest challenge?
Tan: The challenge now is how to achieve scale. We are growing more quickly than I thought, so I am trying out new things, like how we can bring ReCactus to other countries, such as Southeast Asia, Europe, and potentially non-English speaking countries.
TNL: Any future ideas for ReCactus?
Tan: We actually are going to launch a new feature — the chain reaction.
Let’s say "A" reacts to Donald Trump's election, I can react to A, and A can react to B, C, D, and it can all become a chain. This is actually the first thing that came to my mind when I came up with the idea, but we still haven't implemented it yet. If I react to someone, someone can react to me reacting to that. Whether he or she agrees or disagrees with me, it opens up the discussion. What I really love about this feature is that people will start to collaborate and spark some interesting vibes in the discussions.
TNL: In the TV series "Black Mirror," there’s an episode in which people use the influence of social media to kill people. If ReCactus becomes a huge hit in the future, how will you deal with moral issues? Do you have concerns that cyber bullying will become more serious once it goes from text to visuals?
Tan: I am very anti-bullying. Free speech and constructive reactions are good, but any maliciousness should be removed from my platform.
From my observation, when people write online, they tend to hide behind the screen. The best thing about ReCactus is when you use your face in response to others’ faces, it is going to to be less malicious.
I believe in humanity, people are inherently good, that’s why even when everyone can write on Wikipedia, people will not mess up the content. I know there are still negative users, but it will always be my priority to make sure everyone feels safe on our platform. The day Taiwan’s top court ruled in favor of same sex marriage, our team made footage of the event our "suggested video."
We have the mentality of building a good community, so when our platform grows, it grows from a good foundation. From there, I believe we can build a warm community.
Editor: Olivia Yang