While social media platforms like Facebook have come under fire for their harmful impact on mental health, particularly for younger users, the success of one “Made in France” social media platform suggests there’s room for a new approach.
Yubo, the French social media startup that emphasizes the “social” aspects of its teen-focused platform, has drawn 25 million users since it launched in 2015, and recently raised €11 million in a December funding round.
The platform aims to promote meaningful social connections, develop a sense of community, and capture the other beneficial elements of social media, while avoiding the negative impacts for which conventional platforms have become notorious. Yubo steers clear of the passive, competitive, and performative aspects of social media, such as a focus on acquiring the most “likes” and followers.
“The future of social networks is about social discovery. We’re trying to avoid becoming a performance-based network. We don’t want to emphasize likes or views,” co-founder and CEO Sacha Lazimi told TechCrunch.
Yubo focuses primarily on its teenage user base – 80% between 15 and 20. As a result, safety and content moderation is a key piece of the puzzle. In September, we spoke with Annie Mullins, an online safety expert and an advisor to Yubo.
Mullins began advising Yubo following criticism that the site was being used like a dating platform.
Yubo does take cues from dating apps like Tinder, in suggesting potential new friends to users by allowing them to swipe left or right to accept or decline. But the company says most users don’t ever meet up in person, and that the format helps foster long-distance friendships based on shared interests, for the live video chats that are at the heart of the platform.
Once they connect with others, including real-life friends as well those they meet on the platform, users can create livestreaming “rooms,” in which hosts and other users interact through video as well as live chat.
While this allows for more direct social interaction, the format also carries the obvious risk of inappropriate behavior from its teen user base. With help from Mullins, the platform has developed innovative solutions to address this.
“Yubo developed algorithms that can detect people that may be nude or presenting only in their underwear. They intervene live and directly – it can sometimes kill the user stream depending on the gravity of what the algorithm believes it has found. If it’s people in their underwear, the moderators will send them a warning to dress appropriately,” Mullins explained.
She notes that displaying a live notice in the middle of a chat is much more effective than depending on users to read the terms of service. Yubo also partners with Yoti to use algorithms that can verify age and detect fake profiles.
The innovation in both format and safeguards has proven to be a successful formula for Yubo, with tens of thousands of new users joining each day. In 2018, the company started monetizing the platform, offering in-app purchases and the option for a premium account. By the end of last year, they’d earned a gross revenue of about €8.9 million. It’s a key success story among FrenchTech startups, and has been called one of the most successful apps of 2019.
The recent funding round was led by Iris Capital and Idinvest Partners, with participation from existing investors including Alven, Sweet Capital and Village Global.
In 2020, the company plans to launch Yubo Web, which will allow the network to move beyond smartphones. They’ll soon offer screensharing that will enable users to share content on their phones.
The new funding round will be used to hire new staff and expand into new markets. For now, the network is most active in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Australia, and the Nordic countries. They’re planning to focus on Japan and Brazil next.
The funding will also help the company expand their moderation team, continue to fine tune algorithms and other content flagging tools, and improve the innovative safety features that are at the heart of Yubo’s success story.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons