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!

25: Question-and-Answer Online Community – Interview with Assaf Levy from yes.no

Yes.no is an online community where users can “crowd interview their heroes”. So today we ask Levy himself a few questions!


Tell us about yourself and your background!

I’m Assaf Levy, the co-founder and CEO of yes.no – a new crowd interviewing network. I’ve spent the best part of my career working in internet marketing and advertising management, and previously founded the digital marketing agency Web Pals. I was lucky enough to build a great team there, and we sold the company (now XLMedia) in 2012 and took it public on the LSE in 2014. Now I am able to work on my passion project yes.no!

What inspired you to start yes.no?

Most of us have questions that we’d love to be able to ask our heroes (and get answered), but there isn’t always a simple way to do so. I myself had a question for a musical hero of mine, Samy Birnbach (Minimal Compact vocalist and lyricist), about a song that was dear to me, and I dedicated a lot of time and effort to get my answer. After that experience, I realized that a lot of people likely had the same problem, that many others would also benefit if this interaction had been in the public realm, and that my hero himself also enjoyed engaging in meaningful, respectful Q&A. And so yes.no was born!

Assaf Levi Photo

What makes yes.no unique?

yes.no is all about connecting people; experts with their audiences, influencers with their fans, the interesting with the interested. It’s a place where good quality in-depth conversations can take place without getting lost in the noise, through the age-old format of questions and answers. Our platform is person-centric, so rather than being a forum for you to ask your question to the community, everything is focused around the person being asked. These aren’t time-sensitive AMA sessions either; once you open a profile people can continue to ask you questions. And all this is built in a social network format, with a personalised feed.

What is your daily routine? What habits would you say an entrepreneur needs to have?

In the mornings I help out with the kids at home before arriving at the office reasonably early (9.30 is early in the start-up scene). Every day is different; as usual a CEO’s duties span the entire company. I tend to eat a quick bite in the office or go out for a lunch meeting. I try to set themes for each week to focus myself and my tasks. But as for general habits, something I know now that I wish I’d known earlier is that it’s important to get good rest, not burn the candle at both ends, and enjoy what you’re doing. Not all entrepreneurs share this philosophy, but for me it’s the most important thing.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

“Hooked” by Nir Eyal is a great book that focuses on creating a product, and one that ensures its users form habits around your product and get ‘hooked’. I loved it. And I am very grateful that Nir himself is answering questions on yes.no!

What is the best way to find employees?

I don’t think there is a magic answer here. I have people on my team that I’ve worked with at previous companies, that I’ve been introduced to through friends, and that I’ve found by posting in job-seeking Facebook groups. No method is foolproof, it’s about making sure you click with the people and can imagine yourselves working together.

What critical part do start-ups often get wrong?

I think they often underestimate the importance of building a strong team of good people that will work together towards a common goal. So often important work is outsourced, or the wrong people are hired just to fill immediate gaps, and it can end up costing the startup a lot in the long run.

What do you do to relax?

I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two great young kids, so I enjoy family time at home. I also enjoy volleyball and mixed martial arts, plus I’m a massive music fan! I have a large record collection, and listen to a lot of new wave.

To start asking a question yourself sign up at Yes.no!