Gaption wants to deliver what behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have not done, which is to share profits with those who post on the platform.

“People today are being treated as products by advertising platforms like Facebook and Twitter. They don’t receive compensation for the content they publish. Gaption aims to change that by giving back some of the revenue we earn to the users who contribute to our success,” co-founder Kenneth Ho tells Tech in Asia.

Users don’t need to do anything different – they share updates, photos, and links, except they’re monetizing the time they spend on the social network.

How does it all work? Gaption has a proprietary technology that allows it to track which user content or activities are responsible for an advertisement click or in other words, which activities kept other users on the platform long enough to discover and click on an ad.

The calculation is based on many factors such as quality of content, the amount of engagement the content received, and the size of the user’s following.

It is hard to determine how much a user will earn, but it typically ranges from a couple of cents to a couple of dollars per week, sometimes higher depending on how popular the user is. The premise is: the larger the user’s following, the larger the distribution of the content and higher the potential to earn.
The system was designed to automatically work without the users having to change their social networking habits. Not only is the experience nearly the same, it is more appealing since they gain monetary rewards. And because they are unable to determine how much they earn, they don’t try to exploit the system.

Social network cum marketplace

This model seems to be working well for Gaption as its registered users have reached about 20,000 since its launch in June. But this isn’t all what the company is about.
Gaption is also an online marketplace. Anyone can post a product and purchase one right from the news feed.

Kenneth says the idea makes sense since social media has been an underlying driver of ecommerce.

“At Gaption, we want to make it possible for anybody to do business without the need for any technical knowledge or having to spend excessive amounts of money,” he explains. “We think one of the gaps that Gaption will eventually fill are on demand-related services. Many creatives are on the platform today, and it allows them to showcase their work and gain more potential customers.”

Similar to ads, Gaption also rewards users that enable a sale. The commission ranges from two to five percent of the purchase price.

Users can withdraw the money they earn in cash or use it to pay for stuff on the platform. Other payment options for buyers on Gaption include PayPal and credit cards.

To protect users against fraud, Gaption uses an escrow payment system that holds the money until the buyer receives the product and marks the transaction as complete.

To keep the network from getting spammed with product offers, Kenneth says they’ve put a filter in place to ensure a user doesn’t publish more than a certain number of posts, comments, or likes per day.

He adds Gaption learns users’ preferences so only relevant content make it to their news feed. “Spamming doesn’t increase the likelihood of a content going out much, hence it is almost a pointless endeavor when people spam.”

Growth potential 

Gaption’s uniqueness gives it more revenue streams. So apart from banner and in-stream ads, it also earns by getting cuts of subscriptions, where users can create groups or communities and charge for memberships; through affiliate marketing; and transaction fees.

The company charges 3.4 percent plus US$0.40 per ecommerce transaction, and 15 percent for subscriptions.

Kenneth says he doesn’t know of any direct rival, if you’re talking about a social network that integrates ecommerce. However, there are social networks like Tsu doing something similar in the area of rewards.

Tsu also shares advertising revenue with users, but its model is akin to multi-level marketing (MLM). For instance, if user A brings in user B, and then user C, he can tap into income from the activities of B’s and C’s followers. The network is fixed and users are required to build a network to make money.

“Gaption does not adopt an MLM approach. If a new user with only five followers posts some really, really good content and it goes viral, his monetary rewards potential would also go up. He is also not required to recruit anyone to tap into any social rewards. But of course, if he has a bigger following, the potential increases by default,” explains Kenneth.

What the future holds

Kenneth, 29, is not a first-time entrepreneur. He started his first company, a training solutions firm, at the age of 23 then sold it off at age 25. He moved on and put up a digital agency shortly after.

In 2013, he founded Gaption with Wallace Ho and Benjamin Tan, who both have businesses of their own. The team received US$50,000 seed funding from Malaysian government’s Cradle Fund to develop the social network.

Gaption launched on iOS just last June. Within two months, the company has been able to register 20,000 users, 40 percent of whom are active monthly. Surprisingly, only 30 percent of users are from Asia, while the rest are spread across the world, mostly US and Europe.

While the co-founders aren’t new in the startup game, it’s never easy. Some of the major challenges for them are scaling the platform and deploying it for as many devices as possible (iPad, web, and Android).

“As our platform is large, scaling can be really costly; it is also technically complicated. It requires a lot of monitoring, which is time consuming, especially for a small team. And if something were to break, fixing it could incur additional costs or downtime. Other challenges include users’ behavior such as spamming, harassment, and posting of restricted content,” says Kenneth.

Nevertheless, he’s optimistic about their prospects. Since its rollout, Gaption has generated over US$10,000 in revenue, which it has shared with its users.

“We’re looking to raise more funds to scale the platform and accommodate a greater number of users before deciding what the best ways to monetize the platform are. We do not want to go down the road of a news feed filled with advertisements, but monetize from the success of our users,” Kenneth points out.

As in any industry, he says innovation is key in staying ahead. Gaption has more features in the pipeline and among them are brand profiles where merchants can post more products. Merchants availing of this new feature may “broadcast” posts to users who opt to receive notifications from them.

Over the next two years, Gaption targets 10 million to 15 million users and an average revenue of US$900,000 per month. It’s setting its sights on Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines as its next markets.