Facebook Killer? Why Mobile Social Networks Are the Future: Path CEO
While Facebook continues to face troublein translating the success it has had on its website to the mobile platform, other social networks are simply ignoring websites all together and focusing their companies entirely in the mobile realm.
Path, a social networking company founded by Dave Morin, a former Facebook employee, is one company that is keeping its focus on mobile and for good reason, Morin said.
How did you come up with the idea to start Path?
Morin: I was inspired to build a company built for mobile after seeing Mary Meeker's mobile report in 2010 about the growth of mobile. There are 5 billion mobile subscribers and only 1 billion desktops in the world. The mobile era is here.
What were some lessons learned from your time at Apple and Facebook that you applied to Path?
Morin: Design is key. It's so incredibly important to the user experience and even more so on mobile. Great products start with great design, but it's hard to design a good interface for a small phone screen.
For example, Path fits all in one screen and is managed through one button for simplicity. Our designers and engineers have worked together from the very beginning to create a product that delights through design, information and communication.
How does Path provide an innovative experience for users vs. other social networks? How can you stay connected on Path in a way that is unique?
Morin: One aspect that people love most about Path is that it's personal, like a journal. We’ve created a simple, beautifully designed mobile experience where you share your most personal moments with only your loved ones.
Path gives people an intimate network to post the moments that matter and journal their lives — things you wouldn't necessarily share on larger social networks. Path also limits the number of friends to 150. This is based on research by Oxford University professor and anthropologist Robin Dunbar whose findings delve into the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. He concluded our brain can only handle 150.
What was the appeal in creating a strictly mobile site?
Morin: The mobile era is here. As I mentioned previously, in 2010, Mary Meeker presented her Mobile Internet Report predicting that within the next five years more people would connect to the Internet over mobile devices than over desktop PCs.
There are already over 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, far surpassing the number of desktops worldwide. We designed Path as a mobile journal in anticipation of and in response to that shift.
How many users do you currently have?
Morin: We have over 3 million users.
Is Path still growing fastest in Asia? What other regions are experiencing rapid growth?
Morin: The top growing countries are the U.S., Indonesia, Thailand, the UK, Germany, France, Japan and Korea.
How many employees currently work at Path? Do you find that there is a lot of competition over finding technical talent in Silicon Valley given the recent burst in activity there?
Morin: We have 35 employees. We're proud of the team we've built, and with the recent funding we announced, we'll be looking to bring more great people on board.
What steps have you taken to ensure that a privacy breach like the one that occurred in February does not happen again? What have you been doing to regain the trust of Path users? (In February 2012, a blogger discovered that Path was copying address book information from users’ iPhones without notifying them. Morin issued an apology and the information was erased from Path’s servers).
Morin: One thing to clarify is that there was never a security breach on Path.
We hadn't yet added a user prompt asking people if they wanted to share their address books with Path in order to make the experience more seamless by letting people know when someone close to them joined Path. That was our mistake.
We were already working on adding the user prompt and submitted it to Apple right away. We take the storage and transmission of personal information very, very seriously.
The first thing we did was delete all the data from our servers. We've always stored information via SSL encryption, but took this one step further by hashing all of the data.
We're also working with TRUSTe to become certified. We did what we thought was the best thing to do — be transparent, apologize and make changes as quickly as we could. We're still growing at the same rate we were when Path 2 was announced in November 2011.
What is Path’s monetization strategy?
Morin: We’re thinking about this and obviously have ideas about profitability. Right now we’re staying focused on the product. We feel blessed that people have really embraced Path 2 and we’ll continue to design and develop to make Path the best it can be.
Path recently raised $40 million in a Series B round of funding. Are you on the sidelines right now or is additional fundraising on your horizon?
Morin: We're in a good place. Our focus is 100 percent on the people who use Path. To do that, we're focused on iterating on our product and hiring world class employees who will help us build it.
Some of Path’s investors include other Facebook alumni. How important is this “social network” in Silicon Valley in terms of fostering new companies?
Morin: Many of us are here because we're driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. At Path we think of it in terms of craftsmanship and place the highest importance on quality in everything we build and design. When we see that in other companies and products we're definitely supportive.
Have you thought about a timeline for going public? Has Facebook’s IPO experience made you reconsider that timeline or made you think twice about going public anytime soon?
Morin: We started Path with the goal to build for the long-term, that's still the case. We have a lot of in the works for Path. Stay tuned.
Amy Pack is a producer for CNBC's Squawk on the Street.