30: Online Community – Interview with James from Social Savanna

Today we feature James from Social Savanna who runs an Internet community.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I’m 30 and from the UK. I’ve been running my own software company since I was 22 but before that I worked in call centers, retail and fast food. I failed at school, didn’t go to university and started working at 13 part time but full time as soon as I left school at 16, working my way up to management in several jobs. When I was about 21/22 I was working for a call center and got the opportunity to buy laptop salvage from insurance companies at a good price. My boss at the time was an inspiration to me so I thought *beep* it and took the leap. As the supply ran dry and legislation changed I fell back to my love for programming (something I’d been doing since I was 8) and started picking up work from freelance sites where I’ve grown my main business ever since.

How did you come up with the name?

This was actually the community, I held a poll for a name. We took all the suggestions and combined them until we had “Awkward Savanna” but the community hated it, so quick change of plan and made it “Social Savanna”.

What are the main features of the site?

– Chat (think MSN but pumped up)
– Discussions
– Video chat
– Private messaging
– Micro Feed (Feed of imgur, reddit and site activity)
– Kitty cam 🙂

What did you do at the beginning to achieve a critical mass of users?

I didn’t really do anything directly. The site was originally intended for the imgur.com community. In Dec 2013 I asked them if they wanted the site (after other people had failed to deliver) It was a resounding yes and as I made the designs and developed the site I kept the community informed by posting about it. When we finally launched we got thousands of people flood to the site, I stayed up making changes until the early hours of the mornings and gave mod powers to people I trusted within the community. After that, aside from a few front page imgur posts, it’s been members talking about the site and inviting their friends.

What is your strategy to keep users coming back?

I hate the word strategy, it sounds like the members are just a number to me which is far from the truth. They’re like a family to me and like a family to each other. People come back because of the friendly, fun and relaxed environment the community provides. It’s all about being social, they chat, play and even meet each in real life. I just focus on making that a reality, engaging people and always having an open door to anyone who wants it.

What inspired you to start this business?

I always struggled with the idea that there was a wage ceiling. There came a point where I would work 48 hour straight shifts of my own accord to meet targets and to my mind, it didn’t make sense that no matter how hard I worked – I’d only get paid what I’m paid. I couldn’t work harder and get paid more but I could always be paid less. It made no sense, so I decided to try things my way.

Does your business generate enough money to support you?

Right now, no. I’m looking at contract work to re-invest into the business and myself.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I’m not a big reader, but I have read Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way it’s truly inspirational. I also recommend Everything That Happens to Me is Good by Geoff Thompson, it’s a collection of his older blog posts but there is some great material in there.

What are your future plans for the company?

I want Social Savanna to be a bridge between online socializing, gaming, chatting etc and the real world with regular global meetups and events. I want to create something truly social in a world where we’re all content to stare at our phones and ignore the people around us.

Outside of business what do you enjoy doing? How do you recharge your batteries?

Mostly I game, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of developing so I work outside of work 🙂 usually developing features for Social Savanna or fixing small bugs, winding up people in the community etc. Most of my friends are married or with families now so I see them when I can and we’ll go pub / bar / club. Occasionally I’ll go to the cinema but I prefer watching movies at home.

To start chatting head over to Socialsavanna.com!

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