Frrole, the social news from Twitter app was recently reviewed by us. If you have not checked it yet then you can find the review here. As promised, we got in touch with Amarpreet Kalkat, Co-Founder and CTO at Ciafo. Amarpreet was quite quick in responding to our email interview that is shared below:
1. Can you share your story, your team and how Frrole came into existence?
It started rather innocuously. At Ciafo (the parent company behind Frrole, Travelomy and Wayr), we were working on our travel portal Travelomy and decided to build in ‘real-time social information streams’ as one of the features. When we looked around, all we could find at localized level was trends. Surprised, we just decided to build curated streams of our own.
But as we started looking into the data available on social media platforms, it started becoming clear that while the amount of information available online through social media sources was increasing at a tremendous pace, there were hardly any good products that were able to make good sense of it. The signals were getting so mixed up with noise that nobody really was able to make much sense of it.
This was pretty much the point where we decided to jump in. We could see that real-time social information was missing not only in travel guides, but on a much wider level. Specifically, there was a gap at local level where people were either consuming pretty static information from websites, or limited information from professional media corporations. So that was the first gap that we decided to take a shot at.
By this point, we were absolutely clear that this could be an independent product by itself. Giving ourselves a 30% chance of success, we set out to build this product, with an aim to analyze hundreds of millions of social data packets that move around on the web.
We started with Twitter and today, we analyze close to 5 million tweets everyday, using one slice of a server and covering 20 cities. And we are literally just getting started.
Frrole team itself consists of three people – Abhishek Gayakwad, Srinivas Subramanya and Amarpreet Kalkat. All three of us were teammates at Nokia.
Kalkat plays the product owner, primarily taking care of product & algorithm design. He also doubles up as the front-end developer. The Frrole back-end, which really is the core of the whole system, has been developed by Abhishek. The work was initially aided by our third teammate Srinivas, who could not continue because of personal reasons.
2. Curating content from Twitter has been done by others too. So what is the USP of Frrole?
Huge majority of other products have taken a personalized approach, where they curate the stream that comes from people you follow. Maybe they see more value in doing that, or maybe it is just easier to do given that a typical user will follow just a few hundred people at max.
We see an opportunity in the non-personalized approach, what we refer to as “democratized” curation. The fact that this means analyzing feeds from millions of people (instead of hundreds in the personalized mode) makes it a pretty daunting task. Daunting ends up meaning tons of fun the way we see it, and hence Frrole…
There are also some other very popular products (like Tweetmeme) that do the same “democratized” curation and do it very well. But they do it only at a global level, local and national levels are clearly a gap and that is the gap we hope Frrole can fill.
3. How has been the response so far for Frrole in terms of active users and what does the future look like in terms of new features?
The response to Frrole has been exciting. The fact that we did not have to approach you for Frrole review should speak for itselfJ. We have heard comments like “freaking addictive”, “replaced newspaper headlines page”, “my morning newspaper” from our early adopter community. One person called it “the reason people should start using twitter”, but we would like to think that is too big a claim for us to make. Yet at least 🙂
4. I know it’s too early but any plan for monetization?
It is never too early if it does not hurt your users! We are looking at opening up Frrole APIs on subscription basis to developers who want to add curated real time streams to their applications, and we have had a handful of responses from the only presentation we have made yet. We are going to eat our own dogfood and showcase this value by adding Frrole powered streams to Travelomy which would make it the world’s first travel guide with curated real-time social info streams. Compare the twitter stream(in lower right corner) for New York at Gogobot, a company Wall Street calls an IPO candidate with that of New York Travel stream on Frrole at and you can see the value that Frrole could possibly add.
We have some other interesting plans over a longer term given our ability to intelligently dig information, but we are still some distance from doing those things commercially.
5. How is Wayr, your location sharing app performing? Are you only on Nokia or plan to go on other mobile OS too?
Wayr is not doing too bad for an “experiment” product with zero marketing on a has-been platform. It has had around 2500 downloads since its launch in July. We are now adding language support to it given that Nokia sells heavily in countries with strong native language use (China for example), and that should perk it up a little bit.
The primary objective of Wayr was to learn the app lifecycle and how the app business really works. On that point, we have done well. I have in fact shared some of the learnings from Wayr on our blog which could be useful for budding entrepreneurs.
6. Travelomy is also an interesting concept, can you share a bit about it and do you plan to have a mobile app for it?
What you currently see with Travelomy is just the tip of the iceberg, and that is not just a statement for the heck of it. We decided on building the information guide part first and that is what we are at this point of time. From showing what all is right around you, to 100s of meta-tagged places (try top travel destinations in India) to 1000s of photos and videos, to intelligent directions, we have been building some useful, simple, easy to use features into Travelomy.
Next, starting with the ‘curated real-time social streams’ that I mentioned above, Travelomy has some very interesting features (in fact sets of features) coming up. We are tempted to call the approach absolutely innovative, but the right words probably are ‘just the right packaging’. We hope it makes the right connect with travelers, but only time would tell.
At the end of the day however, we have an equally lofty objective in mind for Travelomy as we do for Frrole. We want to build products for the global market, products that are THE best at what they do, products that become THE HOME for whatever problem they aim to solve for our users. It might be a really big dream, but as somebody has said, you do not do great things by dreaming to do mediocre things, so at the minimum, we are dreaming right! 😉
Amarpreet, thanks for sharing your thoughts and let me tell you you guys are dreaming and implementing too 🙂 Wish you all the best and hope our readers have more fun in the coming future with Frrole, Wayr and Travelomy.
The future of Frrole looks quite exciting at the moment!
P.S. If you want us to review any of your social media related apps/products then drop a note at connect[at]lighthouseinsights[dot]in