April 9, 2019

I built a social network based on contacts, on my own, without any funding. Would love feedback and solo founder advice!

Hey IH! Very excited and proud to announce my first startup Cardbox.

Cardbox is the one central place to digitally connect to the people in your life. It combines contacts and social networking in a way that, in hindsight, just makes so much sense (in my opinion).

I've had the idea for the app since 2014, and have attempted to build it with various co-founders since then. It didn't work out since we all volunteered, and people had to leave the project due to work and college.

Since I truly believed in the idea, I decided to try the Elon Musk route and just do everything myself. As a Product Designer with lots of web (JS and PHP) dev experience, but barely any mobile dev experience, I decided to start learning React Native in January last year.

I think I'll write more about that part of the journey later, since I'd like to recommend it to everyone. As a designer, being able to build your ideas without being dependent on others is so empowering!

Anyway, a little over a year later and the app is live! Check it out: https://cardbox.app/

Fellow solo founders: any good advice? I would be lying if I said that doing everything alone isn't a bit scary. Any feedback to the app is also very appreciated. Thanks!

#product-feedback-request #winning

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    Great work! This reminds me of a question I asked here a couple of days ago: Have you made or do you know and use a good "life management system?"

    I would love to hear your thoughts.

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    This is very interesting. I think the premise of building a form of social network on the basis of one's personal contact book is great. I would be happy to see you pull this off.

    That said, I am not sure the assumptions and product configurations you make are the most optimal. I think your greatest challenge will be adoption and achieving a network effect that gets your user base over a critical mass stage. How are you going to achieve this? How does the product give me as a user worthwhile value when none or few of my friends are yet using it?

    The fact that you are transparent about how you aim to make money is great, but how you define your tiers gives me some pause. Group permissions I would consider a given even at the free stage. Making that a pro feature will restrain adoption. Commoditize your complements, not the core feature set.

    Is it given that groups should be defined individually, and not collectively? This choice has a lot of implications for what kind of services you can associate with the groups construct.

    You make a point of how it's an improvement that the users themselves are in control of their contact cards. However if other users - as my contacts - suddenly revoke their card, that means I lose their contact info. That is not an improvement for me but a deterioration in terms of the integrity of my contacts collection as a whole.

    Finally, it's 2019 and we have seen a lot of social digital products come and go, even when they promise to be part of your life forever when they launch. How can I trust that the effort I put into curating my contact book in this way is not wasted if your product is deprecated? Or if I ever decide to quit your product, can I bring my contacts with me?

    Again, I think this concept has great potential, but I will honestly be surprised if you get significant growth with the current product configuration. If you do, great. If you don't, niche down to a specific set of users, find a value proposition they love, and build a beachhead with that. (What specific features would brokers - or any other specific group of users who use their contacts a lot in a professional setting - love to have?)

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      Hey, thanks for the extensive thoughts!

      Of course, the beginning is the hardest part for any new social network. I think it’s unfair to judge every new attempt at one for its adoption rate; that would mean we’d have to just accept the existing social networks as the only ones, now and forever.

      I think word-of-mouth will have to achieve the network effect in this case. Unlike social media apps that only provide value if you have connections actively posting content, Cardbox is a social network providing you value for every person you connect with; it’s one more contact you’ll never have to manage again. If you can just convince your close circles to get the app, or e.g. people that change numbers or addresses often because they travel a lot, the app already saves you time and effort.

      It starts out as a utility that complements your old address book with new features, until adoption and availability on other platforms perhaps make it a replacement in the future. Baby steps.

      “How you define your tiers gives me some pause”

      Why is this?

      I think the way I did Permissions is very fair; you can set them individually for free, or tied to Groups with Pro. Same functionality if you don’t pay (core features), but it’s faster and more efficient if you do (complements).

      “Is it given that groups should be defined individually, and not collectively?”

      Could you elaborate what you mean by this?

      “If other users - as my contacts - suddenly revoke their card, that means I lose their contact info”

      This would be similar to blocking your phone number, or deleting you on Facebook; they’d basically be saying “I don’t want you to be able to contact me anymore”. It’s a different perspective; you should see their contact information as theirs, and they decide at any point if you have consent to access it.

      “How can I trust that the effort I put into curating my contact book in this way is not wasted if your product is deprecated? Or if I ever decide to quit your product, can I bring my contacts with me?”

      Again, feel free to use it complementary at first. If the service ends it would obviously be appropriate for Cardbox to announce it in advance and offer an option to download all contacts. This is currently not a feature, but I’m sure there are tools allowing you to backup all your remote contacts.

      Again thanks. I absolutely plan business cards and other business features in the future, so those will further strengthen the value and reach of the platform.

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    Marketing this as a social network or "social network like" is confusing to me.

    My instant reaction to it is that i don't need another social network.

    But now that I've looked at it, it's actually really a great idea and the way contacts should be.

    It won't be easy to get traction on this, but I wish you good luck.

    1. 1

      Fair feedback. Social networks have a bad connotation right now; I hope Cardbox will feel like a breath of fresh air in the space.

      I do think that explaining the combination of contacts and social networking makes people understand the idea really fast.

      I agree, although I have no issues with growing slowly but steadily. Thanks so much!

  4. 1

    Great looking homepage and app! You've done really well

    Have you thought about how you plan to market this?

    From reading the homepage and looking at the screenshots of your app, one avenue might be to "partner" with local conferences and networking events

    1. 1

      Thank you! I think this app benefits most from word-of-mouth marketing, but those partnerships are no bad idea :)

  5. 1

    It's a cool idea but you should launch it on Google play in beta first. You're going to get roasted in the reviews starting out if there are technical bugs

    1. 1

      Definitely will launch the Android version in beta first. Are Android users that unforgiving? :P

  6. 1

    Elon Musk route is funny :D

    On a serious note, I'm checking this out as I've long been wanting to have my own social network.

    1. 1

      Haha, hope you and your circles like it!

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