Communities have long been an integral part of the Internet, online places where people can connect and share their passions and interests. And communities can have great network dynamics, where they increase in value as participants join and share more. Union Square Ventures has a long history of funding these types of businesses.
These communities are mature on the web, but less so on mobile. And in a mobile-native, or “mobile-first”, world, some questions about communities arise, such as – what do these communities look like, how do they work, and how do they interoperate? Additionally, we’ve wondered out loud about how a mobile app developer competes in an environment where it feels like there is consolidation and maybe even market domination, where a few companies are concentrated at the top of the app leaderboards.
Then we met Amino (and Ben Anderson and Yin Wang, the founders behind it) – a series of mobile-only apps each useful for a single niche interest community to share those specialized interests. Using the same technology platform, they’ve already launched communities for Whovians, Anime (Manga, Cosplay, Otaku, Vocaloid), K-Pop, Minecraft, and over 10 more. Each community is a separate app (iOS now, Android shortly), that collectively have been downloaded over 500,000 times. At the same time all the communities are networked together internally (which has real user benefits, such as single log in and deep linking across all the apps) and the platform itself is architected for easy and rapid deployment of new ones (the goal over time to have dozens, maybe even hundreds or more app communities).
This mobile architecture – app constellations, if you will – is an important part of the Amino thesis: that for communities on mobile devices, hyper specific is of more value than general; that a series of apps is of more value than one; and that people are looking to build online relationships through the phone now, not just on the computer. We are pleased to be investing in them as part of their Series A round, along with Google Ventures, SV Angel, Box Group, Kal Vepuri and Slow Ventures.