Sacha Lazimi is the co-founder and CEO of Yubo – a social platform designed for users under 25 to make friends via the medium of live-streaming.
Now with over 40 million users, Yubo has gone through a period of significant growth in the past 18 months. We chat with Sacha about his motivation for starting the company, his predictions for the future of social, and how Yubo is protecting its young user-base.
Can you explain a little about Yubo, and the motivation behind starting the company?
Gen Z are the first truly digital natives, they have never known a world without the internet and have grown up around digital devices. To them, socialising online is no different to socialising offline. However, traditional social media networks can be a passive experience that involves a lot of scrolling and liking, but very few meaningful interactions. Over the last few years, we have seen a shift in demand towards more meaningful and authentic ways to interact online.
My co-founders and I created Yubo to provide a safe space for younger generations to make meaningful friendships online without the pressure of influencers and ads. Yubo is a space where young people can hang out, communicate in real-time via livestreams and find out about the world and themselves. We are going back to the basics of social networking and enabling our users to make genuine connections and friendships online by bringing people together who have shared passions and interests in the digital world.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend a lot of my time on Yubo ensuring everything is working correctly and the user experience is the best it possibly can be. It’s important to get constant feedback from users and listen to the people actually using the platform. It allows us on the daily to better understand their needs in terms of new features, but also to detect any technical issues more quickly. First thing I like to do in the morning is to look at our metrics as well, so I can identify what works, what does not and how to increase our results.
Pre and post pandemic I will be in the office with the team – we work collaboratively and bounce ideas off each other. Some of our most creative ideas will be during brainstorms with the whole team, every department comes together to feed into Yubo’s strategy and our campaigns.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
You have to accept there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to work/life balance and you need to find a routine that suits you – whether that’s rising early, ensuring your day has scheduled breaks or implementing an end of day routine.
My advice would be to make sure that you strategically utilise the hours when you are at your most productive, cut down on meetings and calls and don’t be afraid to unplug and take time to reset at other times in the day. I think it’s really important to work smarter, not harder.
In my down time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and that helps me to value the hard work I put in. It’s important to me to not let work override everything. I really value those special moments at the end of the working day where I can be around those closest to me.
How has the pandemic impacted Yubo, both in terms of internal strategy and user behaviour?
We have seen explosive growth during the pandemic – in fact, we saw the time spent on live streams increase 550% globally over 2020, averaging 130,000 livestreams a day, each lasting around 2 hours. Our user base grew very quickly too, we’ve reached over 45M users world wide, with 5M based in the UK alone.
With school closures and lockdown measures affecting many Gen Z’s globally, this generation turned to social media to socialise with each other. I believe it’s our unique live streaming business model that has contributed to our growth – as Yubo is built to encourage genuine conversation via live streams or messaging rather than focusing on content or scrolling, our users can make meaningful connections, socialise in real time as well as support and engage with each about shared passions.
We’ve seen this upwards trend continue into 2021 as well. In the first two months of 2021, daily streaming increased by over 17%. Our insights show us that our users are activity engaging with each other in streams, too – hand raising in lives increased by over a quarter and live screen sharing is up by a fifth.
Of course, internally, this huge growth meant that we had to scale our technology very quickly to keep up with user demand and expectation. In the last quarter of 2020, we completed a large Series C funding round of $47.5m, taking us to just over $60m raised in less than a year. We also invested in growing our internal talent to ensure we had the right team to help us continue to scale. This remains an ongoing investment for us and we plan to multiply our workforce by 10 throughout 2021.
What do you think the future of social media will look like?
The way we consume content has changed – social media users now value real time and authentic interactions, and it’s clear that social platforms have evolved from a tool for seeking entertainment to social lifelines that have allowed people to remain digitally connected. Smaller social communities are emerging and everyone is finding their own ‘groove’ as to how they want to socialise online. The pandemic has played a massive part in that and there is an emergence of new platforms that put people, not content, at the heart.
One thing we know for certain is that actively participating in online culture is far better than passively consuming it. Our digital tools should be used in positive ways and I think there will be a huge shift in using them for the reason they were originally intended – to connect people. For example, at Yubo our goal is to help Gen Z make friends online. Live streaming plays a massive part in this and it’s only going to continue to grow in popularity and shape how we all connect and develop relationships for years to come.
How is Yubo protecting young users, particularly when it comes to online bullying?
As a social platform we know it’s our duty to protect our users – our user base is predominantly Gen Z and this generation and young people need a safe and stimulating environment when they are online.
Our priority is to proactively educate users about responsible online behaviour through real time alerts as well as blocking content that goes against our community guidelines. We use a combination of sophisticated AI technology and human moderation to do this.
Our new safety features prevent the sharing of personal information or inappropriate messages by intervening in real-time – for example, if a user is about to share sensitive information, such as a personal number or an address they’ll receive a pop up from Yubo highlighting the implications that could arise from sharing this information. The user will then have to confirm they want to proceed before they are allowed to do so. Additionally, if users attempt to share revealing images or send an inappropriate or harmful message, Yubo will block that content from being shared with the intended recipient.
We are actively educating our users not only about the risks associated with sharing personal information but also prompting them to rethink their actions before participating in activities that could have negative consequences for themselves or others. We are committed to providing a safe place for Gen Z to connect and socialise – we know our user base is of an age where if we can educate them around online dangers and best practices now then we can mould their behaviours in a positive way for the future.
What can we hope to see from Yubo in future?
It’s a really exciting time for Yubo, we have just launched our ‘Friends not Followers’ campaign, which we created to urge our users not be a follower but instead socialise online in an authentic way and enjoy genuine online interactions without the pressure of ‘how many followers or likes’ they have. We will continue to use our platform and campaigns to raise awareness about important issues that Gen Z may face and keep people connected around the globe with our live streaming technology.
Anyone can watch or join in on conversations but the nature of the platforms means there is likely something for every conceivable niche interest. Combine that with the intimacy engendered by the direct-to-camera style of the platform and users are able to create online friendship groups that they want to return to and engage with regularly. We will continue to release new features and updates that make online socialising more enjoyable and easy for our users – so watch this space.
In terms of growth, we have ambitious international growth plans. Our aim is to open offices in every key region, in particular strengthening our presence in the US and continuing to grow our UK team. We already started a large recruiting process with more than 20 new members joining the Yubo team since January 2021. In terms of revenues, we’re aiming to double our 2020 yearly revenues ($17M) by the end of 2021.
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