An early investor in Facebook and Twitter, social media maven Gary Vaynerchuk, says marketers have one year before they are "late to the party" on the next platform destined to be a household name.
"People don't want to understand SnapChat, because it's another thing to understand," the founder of digital agency VaynerMedia told The Australian Financial Review on a visit to Sydney in March.
Where to start when you've got a big idea
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Where to start when you've got a big idea
Stephane Ibos, co-founder of successful start up Maestrano, gives some advice to would-be entrepreneurs that he learned the hard way.
"It goes left to right instead of up and down. The filters look weird. Ninety-five per cent of marketers have never tried SnapChat, just like they've been reluctant to try every new app, and they'll spend a fortune scrambling to catch up once it goes mainstream."
If an entrepreneur wants to reach a 35 to 44 year old next year, they have 2016 to learn Snapchat because by 2017 that cohort will have joined the millennials on the platform, Vaynerchuk predicts.
"And by 2018, the over 55s will be on there too. It happens every time. The youth open up the community centre and their elders flock to it."
"You pay dearly if you let your prejudices get in the way and don't market to the year you live in," he says. "I paid 10¢ for 'wine' as a Google AdWord when I took my dad's liquor business online in 1997. Today that's a $US14 word."
Vaynerchuk discloses he became an investor in SnapChat last year through his venture capital fund, VaynerRSE.
"But I own, like, 0.00001 per cent, so it's not colouring my advice," he says. "I'm an investor in [live video-streaming app] Meerkat too, and I don't go around telling people to market on that."
Trick to pick winners
Vaynerchuk is loath to predict the social network millennials will flock to next.
He has heard of Bomb'd, founded by Australian digital marketers Jayson Hornibrook and Markie Bryant, which just raised a $1.5 million seed round from the likes of Wall Street titan Ken Moelis and former Hills chief executive Ted Pretty. Its app allows users to request an impromptu video from their contacts. The founders claim that half the 22,000 attendees of last year's Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast signed up, and 74 per cent are still active users. They are hoping a current campaign to the 150,000 students attending Spring Break events in the US achieves similar retention.
The founders of Bomb'd have compared themselves favourably to SnapChat, boasting that Evan Spiegel's start-up only hit 3000 users in its first week. But Vaynerchuk isn't seeing it.
You pay dearly if you let your prejudices get in the way and don't market to the year you live in.Gary Vaynerchuk, investor
"I'm not getting any buzz on [Bomb'd] in the US and that's what I look for. To even get into that Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat conversation you need at least 100 million active, passionate users and Bomb'd probably doesn't have one. No disrespect to them. Most apps don't because even one is hard to get."
Vaynerchuk admits he "has an eye" on musical.ly, a community based around posting amateur music videos that he estimates has 30-50 million active users.
"It's probably the closest right now. The next superstar will be whatever comes along that makes SnapChat feel like it's old," he says.
Good eye for a unicorn
Vaynerchuk has a track record of identifying companies that go on to become unicorns. He bought Twitter stock in 2007 from a disgruntled employee (after trying to talk them out of it), got a sweat-for-equity deal in Tumblr's 2008 Series D round, five years before the blogging platform was acquired by Yahoo! for $US1.1 billion, and bought Facebook shares from a member of Mark Zuckerberg's family the same year.
A regular visitor to Australia's vineyards during his years running the family wine business, which he renamed WineLibrary.com, it took until 2015 for Vaynerchuk to invest in an Australian start-up.
"Canva is actually a warehouse deal for my next fund, Vayner Capital," Vaynerchuk says of his participation in the graphic design platform's October Series A round.
"[Vayner Capital co-founder] Chloe Heckman was really passionate about it, and then when I saw they hired my friend Guy Kawasaki, I got more interested. Then I met the team and fell in love with them," he says.
Such personal connections are top priority for Vaynerchuk since he passed on the 2010 angel round for the start-up of a trusted friend Travis Kalanick.
"I missed out on Uber because I couldn't see the jockey for my concerns about the horse," Vaynerchuk says. "Suffice to say I won't make that mistake again."
Vaynerchuk was brought to Australia for a seminar hosted by real estate agent trainer Glenn Twiddle.
With Aman Talwar