Sporting events can get heated — every so often a referee will make a call that sets the stadium on fire as fans loudly complain. John York was amidst that situation; he had jumped on Facebook to unload his own opinions, only to see his thoughts get lost in the algorithm. No one on his feed was interested in the game.
York paired up with Robert Hartsfield to co-found SpokeHub, a social engagement platform where people can have meaningful discussions in a modern take of earlier Internet forums and chat rooms, and engage in interests or trending topics within ‘hubs’. No need to scroll through others’ vacation photos or follow endless hashtags.
“Our on-demand platform allows businesses to have four things: real-time feedback, data on-demand, augmented reality capabilities and revenue stream program,” says now-CEO Hartsfield. “They can now bring customers to one place and learn how these customers feel about their product, their past purchases or their brand through one of our hubs.”
After downloading, the user can set his or her preferences and the home feed will populate with similar ‘hubs’, which resemble an iPhone group text message screen.
SpokeHub became part of the Google for Entrepreneurs program hosted by Durham’s American Underground in 2016 with the idea and built the product from there. After a launch in 2017, the app now boasts over 10,000 users, and the team is in talks with more influential brands to come on board.
While the social engagement component targets those looking to discuss specific topics, brands benefit from the app itself as well. The app is able to give real-time feedback and data analytics on user content engagement. For example, the Durham Chamber of Commerce, an early adopter, used the app to obtain feedback from the community and promote local events.
The retail, events and entertainment industry also constitute their main demographic — actor/comedian George Lopez is one example of someone already using the app to incite discussion among fans.
“We’ve got a data engine built in the background that allows them to aggregate the data and have a true understanding of behavior analysis, real-time sentiment and understanding how their customers actually feel,” says Hartsfield about the focus group-like feature.
The SpokeHub team offers support in the augmented reality arena to help brands and influencers looking to add the cutting-edge technology to their marketing for product releases, and instant feedback on upcoming services and products polls. The ‘hubs’ can be shared across other social media platforms as well to obtain relevant feedback and acquire new customers.
“We’re excited about the augmented reality portion — we’re now allowing businesses to launch products in a fun way. Now, their logo, whether it’s on a wall or on a computer screen, can show newly-released products via augmented reality to customers. With their hub, influencers can push through sponsored content and participate in our revenue stream program,” says Hartsfield.
After raising $500,000 to move product development forward, the team, including other co-founders Richard Berryman III, John McAdory, and Terry Johnson, plans to close a seed round of $1.5 million this month.