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Social Networking Without Boundaries : hi5 CEO Ramu Yalamanchi (Part 3)

Posted on Monday, Jun 9th 2008

SM: What business did you think you were getting into in 2003?

RY: The business we thought we were getting into could broadly be defined as communication. We thought we were providing an option beyond what people were doing with email and instant messaging. Over time, new methods of communication have continually been invented. It just seemed like there was a potential for a more fluid web-based communication.

Another reason we thought it was interesting was that this enabled real life, as it happened in millions of lives, to get published on the web. At the time there was not a single place you could go to and get a relevant stream of content from all the people you know. We saw this as a way to enhance personal communications.

SM: What happened after you launched? Where did you launch and what kind of ramp did you see?

RY: We launched in English for all markets. It took us six months to get our first million members. Today we add a million members a week.

SM: How did you get your first million members?

RY: It was all about the product. We built the product so that for users to get value out of it they needed to bring their friends into the service. In order to see their photos or communicate with them users needed to draw their friends into hi5. This led to entirely organic growth.

SM: What did you learn about the usage patterns of the first million users?

RY: They consumed a lot of photos. In terms of their profiles, there are a large number of categories. There are some who do not necessarily have thousands of friends, but they have a set of friends which numbers in the hundreds and they use hi5 as a way to see what is happening in their lives.

There is another group of folks who are one way in real life but are very different on the social network. It is almost their alter ego. There is a user in Trinidad who has 15,000 friends on hi5. In real life he describes himself as spiritual, conservative, and shy. On hi5 he has a lot of friends and he is using it as a way to find a different personality of his own. He is very social.

There are folks that could be described as expressionists. They are on hi5 and they are using it because they want to put up a lot of photos of themselves. They want the attention and are probably like that in real life as well.

Yet another group use hi5 as a tool. In Portugal we are the number 2 site overall and the number 1 social networking site. Bands and promoters use hi5 to let people know about events.

SM: What was the geographical distribution of your first million users?

RY: About 80% of our users are outside of the US. We saw growth go around the world. One of the first areas that grew fast was the Spanish-speaking markets. That led us to focus more on those markets.

SM: You software was first out in English, right?

RY: It was, but we saw traction in certain markets. The Spanish-speaking markets were adopting the English version of the software.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Social Networking Without Boundaries : hi5 CEO Ramu Yalamanchi
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