Solaborate: Professional Connections | Founder Interview Labinot Bytyqi
Solaborate is a blend of great social network platforms, by taking in all the greatest bits and putting it all into one. Consumers all have access to social networks, but the business-side has never really caught on. Solaborate is bringing professionals and companies from the tech industry together and connect them through a new social media platform. Companies can create profiles and grow a community. Professionals can keep in contact with another, without their personal life getting in the way.
Today is the day Solaborate is publicly launching a beta-version of their platform on the web with an iOS and Android mobile apps for those on the road. Labinot Bytyqi, founder of Solaborate, connects with TechZulu and discusses with us the ideas of Solaborate and the LA startup community.
TechZulu: Where did Solaborate originate from?
Labinot Bytyqi: The whole idea came up when I was working in the corporate world. I was with SAP America for about 7 years heading different roles such as consulting, product management, and sales. The idea here is that I was spending hours, hours, and more hours on trying to get content out to my customers through emails. I was very inefficient at doing my job with the lack of tools. I left the corporate world, to build Solaborate. Our mission is very simple: We want to make sure that all the technology professionals have the tools they need to not only connect, but also to collaborate and become more productive.
What is Solaborate all about?
LB: Solaborate is dedicating a place for the technology industry. Facebook does a really good job on organizing our personal life, but it’s our personal life and not our professional life. On the other hand, you have LinkedIn. It’s a recruiting platform where people can connect, but only for a very short period and that’s about it. There are also internal collaboration tools available, but there really isn’t one to connect and do real-time collaboration.
Companies and professionals have a product or service they provide or support. There are multiple platforms used to get the job done. Each task has a different platform being used. Say you are sending emails from one place, you share files at another, another place for documentation, a different service for recruiting, and another site for uploading videos. It’s all disjointed and very inefficient to get any work done. The idea is to bring all these things together in one place, thus creating new opportunities and being more productive.
Solaborate is similar to Facebook by creating a similar feel for users to instantly recognize and easily use. You can view what is happening within your community, you can post new ideas, follow or be followed by other professionals, list your products and services, and much, much more. There are real-time collaboration tools we provide where you can instantly have a chat or video call with a client, share screen option, and share and view different types of files to help increase productivity. We also provide a recruiting service by allowing professionals and companies to list the products and services they offer and the opportunities waiting for other professionals to grab. Users can view analytics for their profile or company profile (depending if they allow it) to view the information on various activities.
In one line, Solaborate is a social and collaboration platform for the technology industry.
As of now, Solaborate is directed towards more to the technology sector. Are you planning to move to other sectors in the future?
LB: For now, the primary focus we have is on technology. We want to make some progress first in technology before venturing out to other sectors. Obviously our vision and the way we are building Solaborate is allowing us to move onto different sectors. One day, all the people that are not in technology say…people in banking or agriculture, can basically switch from one network to another. Things will change like your profile or picture, but the tools will remain the same because everyone uses them.
Solaborate is a professional social media network. So where do you see social media going in the future?
LB: I think social media has done a very good job in the consumer market. But there is a very large opportunity on the social business-side of the world. Every company’s biggest priority is how to become more social. We are starting with the technology industry, since it’s a big industry, very complex, and relies heavily on the people and community on being successful and getting the job done. We want both companies and individuals to each have their own space and manage their own professional lives in a social way.
You also have a mobile version of Solaborate launching. Where do you see social media and mobile going?
LB: I think the importance of mobile is you want to stay connected. You want to take all your contacts and your job with you wherever you go. The idea is to have all the information you need and be more social by connecting and discovering things on the go. We strongly believe mobile is the future. More things are going to be more tablet and mobile based. Technology professionals are not going to be bounded by their desktops or laptops. Having some of those real-time capabilities helps you keep connected and allows you to be informed at all times.
Going back to what you said earlier about you being inefficient. What other problems are you looking to face and fix with Solaborate?
LB: It’s difficult for people to find and discover what products and services you offer. When I was working for SAP, most of our clients didn’t know what we really offered as a company. Solaborate is where people can discover products and services companies offer through their network. We are also trying to break some of the barriers from a real-time collaboration perspective. Today’s tools like Skype, you need to download and/or install plug-ins to use it. How do you provide common tools across to everybody, so everyone is speaking the same “language”? On Solaborate, there is a social component and a common user interface, which provides the tools to talk or message with your connections and ask questions and share answers with the community as a client, employee, or as a professional.
What are your next steps?
LB: We are definitely looking for more investments. As you know, we already raised around $1 million so far. Our goal is to gain traction. We want to continue developing our network and keep growing our community base. We want to do this quickly and efficiently and have our product out on the market as soon as possible.
How hard was it to market your product and gain investors?
LB: Nothing is hard, it’s really hard. VC’s and angels aren’t giving a lot of money right now. We were lucky to raise money because we believe we are closing a big gap out there in the market. I think because of social media and the laws that were passed recently, now you can do public fundraising, find angel lists, and other social networking in an investor’s perspective. We are definitely looking to reach out to some of those and help us raise some money.
Why LA? Why not Silicon Valley? Why not elsewhere?
LB: This is my home! I truly believe you don’t have to be in a Silicon Valley to build something innovative. Resources are available wherever you go. I want to build and grow something in my community.
What direction do you see the LA startup community is going?
LB: I think it’s growing. I like where it’s going. I think we are proud to call it “Silicon Beach”. I think it’s very healthy. There are different sectors from technology to entertainment startups here. Like I said, Santa Monica and LA are the hotspots for startups.
How hard was it to bring other tech companies to use and view Solaborate? What would you say to all the other tech companies out there to bring them to Solaborate?
LB: We are trying to feature the top 500 tech companies for the initial beta launch. What we did was the initial work ourselves; we helped create companies’ profiles and everything. We are trying to make it easy and social, so they can come and use it. For those companies who aren’t on Solaborate can come join and easily create one. They can collaborate, get the analytics, and contribute to the technology industry with everyone.
We are truly providing not just another social networking platform, but the best practices of hot technology and what people are really looking for. We give you all the tools and services to be successful, to engage and collaborate with the community. It’s dedicated to technology, obviously. If you are in the technology sector, this is the place to be. We truly believe that. We can connect employees and make your company more successful.
What advice would you give to all the new startups out there?
LB: If you really believe that there is a gap out there where you can close it or you can take something and make it better, just focus on that. Don’t listen to the noise around. Just go for it. Build a prototype and put it out on the market. See how the community reacts around your product.
Thank you Labinot for your time.