With over 20,000 followers (including YouTube stars and musicians, alike) the latest social media app, Pinyata, is growing fast. College News had the chance to talk business with Pinyata’s founder and CEO, Steven Puri. We discuss what makes Pinyata stand out from the sea of social media outlets and what it takes to be successful.
College News: What inspired you to create Pinyata?
Steven Puri: Basically Facebook was over for us and we needed something new we'd actually use.
My whole group of friends loves going out to do stuff together and we take tons of photos. We wanted one fun, simple place to put everyone's photos & videos, write silly comments, add GIFs and save them all together. We wanted that adventure - whether it was "Imagine Dragons Concert" or "Juli's Birthday Party" or "Road Trip to Austin" - nicely organized on a calendar so we could go back and browse all our fun adventures.
CN- What was missing from social media websites before Pinyata?
SP- We LOVE the pretty photos of Instagram, but we wanted to POST PHOTOS TOGETHER with our friends - keep all of the photos of that adventure grouped together with all our funny comments. We also wanted to post A BUNCH OF PHOTOS without "blowing up everyone's feeds." In Instagram we really can't post all the photos...nor can we group everyone's together.
We LOVE Snapchat but we wanted to save the photos, videos, GIFs and comments.
And let's face it, none of us post on Facebook anymore - it's just creepy ads and reposts of fruitcake recipes from our crazy aunt in Kentucky.
CN- Musicians love Pinyata! With all the other social media sites out there, what makes Pinyata the perfect outlet for musicians?
SP- It really surprised us when in our early days we got so many musicians, YouTubers and actors signing up. It turns out that what we built for friend groups works great for them to engage directly and share exclusive content with their fans. When we asked them and their fans why they were signing up in droves, they all said one thing - Pinyata feels AUTHENTIC. They loved that they can have real conversations back and forth. If you follow Kevin Ghost or Johnnie Guilbert on Instagram and you want to show them YOUR photo...how do you do that? Pinyata makes that interaction feel more real. It's not for everyone - it's for popular artists who actually want to relate to their fans, not just post a #selfie a day to everyone and ignore them until tomorrow's #selfie.
CN- The average age of Pinyata users is 18 years old. Is this the target market? If not, do you have a strategy for attracting an older crowd? Or are teens just the first ones to track down anything and everything cool?
SP- Teens have a great way of sniffing out the next thing and can tell when something feels authentic and real. We built Pinyata because WE wanted to use it and then we put it in the App Store waiting to see who would use it. Would ANYBODY use it?? And yeah, a lot of our early users tell us that they've started checking Pinyata before their Facebook because Pinyata is actually filled with stories from the people you care about - not ads.
CN- I read that there are more categories for the Interests section of Pinyata already in the works (beyond music, entertainment, fashion, nightlife, etc.). What can we look forward to?
SP- There are some surprises in the works, including sports and other interests! More to come...heheheh
CN- What’s in Pinyata’s future? What can we expect to see?
SP- Really, we're just being responsive to our users. They send us tons of thoughts and we basically lay the suggestions out, prioritize them and charge forward. These superfans are like teammates that just don't happen to be in the office and we know that THEY are the reason we are spreading so fast. Next up: short video clips will be in the newest release!
CN- From a business standpoint and in your personal opinion, how do you think social media sites, in general, will transform in the next few years? Are there certain sites you believe will become obsolete? I’ve noticed a shift towards a more visual and personalized online sharing experience, what are you predictions?
SP- Social media is in its infancy. I think that the best way to predict where things are going is to look at thousands of years of human behavior patterns, because we haven't changed all that much - just the details of our lives. One thing driving us in particular is that humans crave and migrate towards meaning. We want to know what things mean and why. We want context.
If you think about language, it evolved from cavemen shouting single words to full sentences conveying meaning through context. Music started with single sounds...and now we have songs with many sounds sequenced together to be more emotional than any one single sound.
I think it's the same with photo-based social media - we crave meaning and the next generation of connection will be more authentic and feel more emotional because it will be stories, not single selfies. Thousands of years show us that we've related to each other by telling stories...and now technology just makes that easier, faster, more fun.
CN- What’s a typical day like for you? What helps you get things accomplished and stay motivated?
I'm up around 6, catch up on my Pinyata stories and emails and try to get to yoga early in the day as I find that always makes my thinking and spirit super sharp and happy. Then during the work day it's a lot of meetings with potential partners (for example we forged a partnership with I Am That Girl, a female empowerment non-profit to tell inspiring stories), meetings with the team, reading user comments, working with engineering on the next release and then catching up on emails at night!
I'm motivated each day by the passion of my teammates and by the beauty and fun of the stories being told. My whole life I've loved bringing people together around stories.
CN- Who inspires you?
SP- I love people who can launch into a story and everyone around the campfire leans in...they know exactly which details to include, when to pause for effect, how to wrap up with a surprise that reveals some great meaning about life. I love that. Growing up in Virginia and in India (my dad's heritage), as a child I got to see and hear so many great storytellers from different traditions.
Every morning before I roll out of bed, I open Pinyata to find surprises waiting for me from our storytellers!
CN- What advice do you have for college students when it comes to pursuing ideas and dreams?
SP- If you want to do ANYTHING that is different, hard or might change the world you will have 99% of the people around you - often even the well-meaning ones - tell you it's impossible. The people who change the world hear that and think, "I will find a way."
Pinyata is my way. What's yours? Come share your story.