SpectrumDNA and Social Media Engines

SpectrumDNA is a really neat company based in Park City, Utah that has developed substantial IP around delivering “social media engines” that are essentially branded applications that companies can use to deepen their connection with constituent groups.

Jim Banister, long time friend and all around really smart guy, has been at this for a while, long before other people started articulating these concepts, and he started the company to realize a vision that companies could engage their audiences in smart and compelling ways instead of trying to trick them into clicking on ad or into giving their personal information away. I have always been inspired by his unique blend of creative energy, industry contacts, a nose for products, and a willingness to not follow what others are doing.

When I met the rest of his team I was duly impressed with their productivity as represented by the amount of product they could churn out, support a growing roster of clients, and do it all with what would be considered a small team. When I learned more about their latest engine I was really blown away that they could build something that is both substantial and complex while at the same time growing their core business.

The first product, Addictionary, enables brands, publishers, and community owners to build and manage the lexicon that grows around successful companies and cultural themes. It’s not surprising that when given the opportunity to engage a community around language that companies can be pretty successful doing it, case in point is the Ellen Degeneres Dictionary.

The growth of Addictionary has been nothing short of impressive and not just with the quantity of user generated content being achieved but also the marquee nature of the brands lining up as clients.

It was that new product that really captured my imagination. PlanetTagger is at its core a location-based social network and the right question to ask next is “why the hell does the world need the 151st location-based social network?”. It’s a good question but not the right question, which is “why have their been no breakout success in LBSN and based on the learnings from what the other products are doing, how do you build something disruptive?”.

Jim and his team made a key observation, which is that almost all of the LBSN offerings are built around a few pivot points, the first being they are consumer grade services and the last two being somewhat connected in that they use location services for friend finding and local search. PlanetTagger is fundamentally different because it is brandable, which is consistent with broader mission of the company to build social media engines, and it uses location to facilitate affinity groups.

This gets a little complex to describe but it’s really a simple concept; everyone has 2-3 deep passions or pursuits that they engage in outside of professional and family activities. The ability to connect online with other people interested in the same pursuits is not new and if you look at forums dedicated to hobbies and interests you will see a lot of message traffic that is essentially location based, like connecting at events, or posting pictures, or “hey I’m here” messages.

I ride my motorcycle every week, summer and winter, and regularly check into the Indian Community Forum where I see message about what other Indian riders are doing… what events they are going to, pictures from rides they took, online friends that they connected with, locations for parts, service facilities, and so on. This is exactly what a location based social network should be enabling and that is what PlanetTagger is aimed at.

My friendship and respect for Jim, the capabilities of the team, the caliber of the board of directors, and the products all conspired to make for an easy decision to join Spectrum’s board of directors. I am really looking forward to seeing them develop and hope that my contributions are additive.