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This article was published on April 9, 2008

Ubervu: participating in communities from one place

Ubervu: participating in communities from one place
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
Story by

Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

Five Questions for Start-upsEvery week we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views. Well, actually six questions, since we also ask the start-up to who he or she is passing the mic to.

This time we’re interviewing Dragos Ilinca from Ubervu, that’s Romanian startup wants you to manage all your content and conversations in one place: their admin panel. They gave me a live demo at The Next Web conference and I thought it looked really good. Dragos is in charge of ‘marketing and other related stuff‘. I guess ‘stuff’ includes interviews like these. No, seriously, I like their no-nonsense approach to Internet entrepreneurship.


How did you come up with the idea of Ubervu?

Question number“In November 2007 we got tired of the noise that we got in the social platforms we were using. Our company was managing 3 blogs, multiple photo accounts and all of us had about a dozen social network accounts. We considered most of what our friends were sending us in Facebook or MySpace as just uninteresting or even spam. (No offense, guys). We didn’t care that some friend added the Vampire Bites App, or that someone thought we were hot. This was unproductive and just a waste of time. We were, however, interested in having meaningful conversations about what we were interested in: The Web, Marketing, Snowboarding, and so on. Facebook Groups were a pain, we couldn’t really find a cool way to have these kinds of conversations.

So we thought, why not build this app ourselves? Why not have a way to manage our blogs about the Web and Marketing, manage our photo accounts, allow us to remix our data, and be able to connect with only the people that had something meaningful to say, even if we did not know them? We thought that it would be pretty useful to us and we realized that there were many people in our situation. We hadn’t been this excited about project in quite a while, so it made perfect sense to go full throttle and build it.”

What was your biggest challenge during the development process?

Question number“I believe our biggest challenge was to get a clear picture about the scale of the project. We started with some assumptions (such as “Photo sharing site APIs are really similar”, “once you implement Blogger, WordPress will be really easy”, “If you implemented pictures and blogs, making them work together shouldn’t be a hassle”). These assumptions turned out to be wrong. The things we expected to work easily were actually hard to do. And the other way around.

So my advice would be to do some planning and then just do it. No assumptions. Just implement one thing, then implement the other, then build something on top of them. Be optimistic, but don’t have expectations that your next challenge will be really easy. You will break deadlines, you will get frustrated, it’s really normal. I think it’s enough to have a large scale model of what you’re doing and then take care of the details one at a time, without assuming anything. What’s really important is having this big vision of the app, understanding what you are doing on a deep level. This great and optimistic vision will get you through the rough times you’ll have building the details.

Can you describe the Bucharest start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?

Question number“Our dev team is based in Bucharest. I think it’s a great time to start a web company in Bucharest right now. The market is not crowded, most web businesses are copies of international services that are proven (Job sites, ebay, YouTube, Trulia, MySpace). The really original web apps are just starting to appear here and there. So there a great sense of opportunity, of new things just starting to happen. It’s probably as Silicon Valley was at the beginning of the Web 2.0 era (not to mistake this for people being years behind, I’m just referring to the vibe). You can also find good programmers here, and they’re not as expensive as in Europe or the US. There’s not much VC money yet, but funds and business angels are showing interest and are starting to invest. So things are looking up.”

What will be the influence of your start-up on the next web?

Question number“Our startup brings a new concept to the table: distributed communities. I believe this will really influence the way people connect to each other to learn and contribute about their passions. And it will influence the way companies connect to people that are really interested in their domain of expertise (Nike – Running, Football; Nikon – Photography; KLM – travel to exotic destinations). In a non intrusive way, and for the better, we hope.”

You can make up this question yourself!

Question numberHow are you different from the lifestreaming guys (FriendFeed, SocialThing!, etc)?

“I think we are a great complement to the lifestreaming guys. I don’t thing we’re doing the same things.

First of all, they aggregate existing friends, so you can see what they do in a single place. We don’t aggregate existing friends without discrimination, we connect you to people that share your interests even if they’re not part of your social graph.

Secondly, they aggregate. Our system is two-ways, meaning that we also let you post. And we have strong blogging, picture sharing and video support. That means we’re a publishing/conversational platform. You don’t just follow people around, you contribute to the community by writing on your blog or by uploading and sharing some picture. All from a central location.

Also, don’t feel offended by the name. We wanted to find a way to express what we do, and uberVU came to mind. We’re using ‘uber’ as Americans use it when they say Scoble is an ‘uber blogger’, or an ‘uber geek’. Or when they say that something is ‘uber cool’. It has nothing to do with discrimination, and we’re not trying to get you to make any connection to that. We’re just using the word as people use it daily.”