A Melbourne based technology start-up that leverages the power of emotional reactions and interaction is experiencing explosive global growth. Vent, an online platform that allows users to express their feelings and connect with people, has already raised over $500k in investment since launching in August 2014. Vent has acquired 1 million global users and expects further user escalation with the roll out of new features.
Co-founder Dean Serroni tells Dynamic Business “When we first started the app it was actually built to vent frustrations. It was around the time when the Gillard government was going through all sorts and the Essendon drug saga was kicking off, and we sat around one lunch break and realised that we’d just spent an hour complaining about things that were happening in the news.” Rather than letting those ‘vents’ play out on a platform like Facebook, Serroni along with business partner, Duncan Turner, decided to come up with a social app where people could express their feelings about issues that were frustrating in society. Turner, Vent’s Head of Product and a digital designer by trade, came up with the concept for a very colourful, vibrant and uplifting platform. “We noticed that rather than people in their 30’s complaining about things like public transport and phone bills we actually had a lot of teenagers gravitating towards our product to express their feelings and to talk about things they were experiencing at school, or personal issues such as coming out with their sexuality. From there, we spent the next 18 months adapting the platform to provide an outlet for a younger demographic to express their feelings and connect with people who can relate to them and support them,” said Serroni.
Vent provides an outlet for teenagers and young adults to build supportive networks in a safe place. “Many of our users share thoughts and feelings they don’t feel they can on their other social media channels or with friends and family in person. We moderate the environment to avoid malicious comments or ‘trolling’ that can be common with other social media and this has allowed it to become a safe outlet for many – particularly for those from the LGBT community or with mental health problems. Our usernames are pseudonym-based so our users can reveal as little or much as they feel comfortable with,” Serroni tells Dynamic Business.
Serroni and Turner have recently brought development onshore to allow for greater control over user experience and to facilitate strong growth plans. “Vent’s millennial target demographic are savvy social media users, if the user experience and product design wasn’t up to their standards, Vent wouldn’t have experienced such rapid growth,” said Turner. “We spend hours talking to our users every day about what they like and don’t like and are using this feedback to create a dedicated environment that is specifically optimised and tailored for our audience”.
Vent is attracting users by the bundle, averaging 20,000 new registrations each week. Three million ‘vents’ are posted per month generating 20 million supportive interactions and comments. Users are spending more time on the app than the market leader, with an average of 60 minutes spent on Vent each day, fifty percent more than the average 40 minutes spent on Facebook. The app has recently been ranked in the top 50 social network apps in the U.S., Australia, Canada, U.K. and New Zealand.
This month Vent have launched a private messaging facility. “Having the capability to privately connect with fellow users has been the most common request so we were excited to launch the feature. Not only will it help out users continue to develop strong and supporting friendships, it will keep them on the platform for longer and help us transition to being a ‘life companion’ to our users,” said Serroni. The New private chat feature enables for mutual followers only to facilitate safe and genuine 1:1 conversations.
The dynamic duo has an ambitious vision, with plans to leverage the initial growth to create a raft of new features and transition to a broader web presence. Plans for raising further funding, Serroni and Turner are determined to see Vent expand. “Further funding will help us enhance our product further, including more sophisticated methods of surfing relevant, interesting and timely content to users to better support the many growing sub communities we have forming,” said Serroni. Vent are planning to move the company to the States in 12 months’ time and focus on growing and scaling the product to become a global leader in the social space, with their core point of difference being that they want to provide millennials with a safe and supportive environment. As Serroni puts it “Vent is a social diary that is there with people as a companion to help them through life.”