US boost for Brisbane social network
Nathan Hoad and Mark Cracknell, partners in the start-up website Kondoot, pictured in New York's Times Square.
A first name isn't the only thing Mark Cracknell has in common with Mark Zuckerberg.
Like the Facebook founder, Cracknell is a young man with big dreams and a background in computing. He also has a website, Kondoot, which, like Zuckerberg's famous social network, enables users to share their lives online.
Mark C may not have emulated Mark Z's stratospheric success just yet, but the comparison is already being drawn - by no less than the Wall Street Journal - after the 21-year-old Brisbane-based entrepreneur and partner Nathan Hoad returned from the US with $3.2 million in funding for their site.
Cracknell describes Kondoot as the first social network geared completely around the concept of live video.
Like a mash-up of Facebook, Skype and YouTube, users select who they want to connect with – friends, strangers or the world – and then share their video messages in real time, broadcasting their lives live from fixed lines or mobiles via free Kondoot apps.
Access is available to public brands and private individuals alike, meaning record companies might beam rock concerts live to virtual ticket holders, or advertisers could bypass TV schedules to connect direct with consumers.
Cracknell and Hoad, 25, made the journey to the US in December after a tepid domestic reception to their months-old, Brisbane-born site.
Since their overseas-success, however, Cracknell said local investors had taken a different view, and the pair now hope for a stock market launch by 2015.
“The US is a very interesting place,” Cracknell said. “[Compared to Australia] they're very receptive to the IT start-up concept, but there are a lot of Aussies jumping behind us now.”
Web business start-up expert Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of Pollenizer, said Kondoot had successfully introduced a new angle to social networking.
He said the next step was to manage their audience, deciding between exclusivity or mass distribution.
“When it began, Facebook only went out to Harvard students,” Liubinskas said. “You’ve either got to do that, or reach the masses.
“If they get that and their business model right, there’s every chance a new start-up [like Kondoot] could take on the giants.”
Cracknell put Kondoot's early success - subscribers from 133 countries have signed up - down to the site's simplicity.
“It's just really easy-to-use,” he said.
“There's no set-up time, no set-up costs, you simply register, and away you go.”
Australia's lagging standards of internet service may force Kondoot from home shores; a chunk of their growing team will relocate to America in the coming months, with a view to opening offices in Asia and London down the track.
However Cracknell spoke positively of Brisbane's IT scene, which he said was one of the country's most dynamic, characterised by regular meet-ups and impromptu lectures held over dinner and drinks.
“I really feel that the government and the universities can encourage this sort of thing,” Cracknell said.
“There are a variety of things already in place, but more support is always needed. Still, Brisbane is pretty awesome.”
As for Zuckerberg comparisons, he wasn't getting ahead of himself.
“It’s very funny,” the 21-year-old said, laughing.
“We dreamed big, but there’s a difference between dreaming and doing.”