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Next-generation social media app YouClap targets engagement over reach

Portugal · Sep 02, 2019· By Gareth Gardiner Jones

YouClap's CEO and co-founder José Alberto Rocha © CompassList

Already valued at €5m one year after launching, the YouClap platform for online challenges will seek Series A investment before the end of 2019 

With the online challenges trend providing opportunities for new forms of user engagement, Portuguese social media startup YouClap has come up with a way for businesses to engage directly with consumers in a way traditional social media platforms have failed to do so far. 

“We are the first platform specifically for challenges anywhere," CEO and co-founder José Alberto Rocha told CompassList at this year's Lisbon Investment Conference. "Social media [like] Facebook, YouTube, Instagram are made for reach but not engagement, so I decided to create an app.

"People want to do crazy stunts, there are many showoffs and this engagement, you can only do [it] on YouClap. That's why we found ourselves in the space of engagement not reach: there is no other site like ours.”

Launched in May 2018, Rocha came up with the idea for YouClap when he began studying a Master's in IT Management Systems at the University of Aveiro (UA) and was engaging more with his childhood friends on social media.

“I have always been a really competitive guy since childhood, and my friends and I were all apart but doing challenges on WhatsApp [even] though it was not suitable for that kind of interaction or engagement, [so] thought I would create my own platform,” he said. “Challenges are everywhere, between friends, CrossFit fanatics and especially influencers. They are all doing challenges because it allows them to engage more.”

YouClap's development was inspired by the global successes of the Mannequin Challenge and Pokemon Go's immersive capabilities, said Rocha. Prior to YouClap, people or businesses issuing social media challenges mainly used hashtags to attract users. For Rocha, this is a "failed system" because challenges, including those for advertising or product placement, appear on private profiles ill-designed for interaction. The fact that a search for the word "challenge" on YouTube brings up over 100,000 results made it clear to Rocha that there was a market opening for a dedicated challenges app.

Incubating the challenge

YouClap features all manner of challenges such as joke-telling and memes, competitive sports, or users' best sunset photographs. Users can create public challenges or keep them private among groups of friends. Users, who must be aged 16 or over, can use the "Explore" function to view the latest and trending challenges. Inspired by Pokemon Go, some challenges are localized and must be unlocked in person on site. Users applaud challenge posts by "clapping" once or twice to vote for favorites, with the challenge winner decided by who gets the most claps. 

Rocha attributes the assistance received from UA's incubator program IERA as a defining element in the successful development of YouClap. Together with a team of university colleagues experienced in software development, programming and design, the development of YouClap took just over a year from 2016 to completion in early 2018. Today, the app has more than 80,000 users.

“The fact that each of us was a student at the University of Aveiro attests to its business culture," said Rocha of the startup's founding team. "Its incubator is one of the best in Portugal. They really push you and have excellent access to investors.” 

Valued at €5m, YouClap has received €450,000 in pre-seed and seed round funding in 2016 and 2017 from Portuguese investors including angel investor network REDangels, VC LC Ventures, and a private investor.

“When we started on the B2C route, lots of people were skeptical. In Portugal almost every startup is B2B and there are no social media companies here worth €5m like us,” Rocha commented, adding that company decision-making is resolutely driven by data. “We are quite confident with our model of B2B2C and B2C because of our market valuation. That is what really counts for a B2C.”

Available on Google Play and Apple Store, YouClap is available in Portuguese and Spanish. To date, the company has focused mainly on Brazil and Portugal as key markets. The company plans to seek Series A investment at the end of this year following a renewed marketing marketing push, and is keen to enter the United States and Asian markets, especially China and India. 

Influencer power

Adoption of YouClap by internet influencers will be critical to growing the platform's user base, said Rocha. The site already counts two of Portugal's most popular influencers as users: Wuant with 3.7m YouTube followers and Windoh with 1.7m.

“When we ask influencers why they use YouClap they all say it's because for the first time I am seeing the faces of the people that follow me and the people watching become more involved,” Rocha said. “On Instagram, we are talking about 0.2% of an influencer's followers doing challenges but in YouClap we have influencers who have between 7% and 12% engagement levels, which is 50 or 100 times the engagement on Instagram.” 

Irrespective of geographical location, Rocha has identified two target user groups: "Those who do public challenges and want to appear in public [and] are usually aged from 16 to 23. [The other group]of older users are more likely to use a private group and dedicate themselves to fitness challenges like CrossFit."

YouClap's business model relies on display advertising targeted by demographic and location, in addition to enabling businesses to purchase space in  Explore and to set challenges. A restaurant, for example, might host a promotional challenge on its premises. Gym suppliers BoxPT are a customer and Rocha also wants to target charities and sports teams.

The word “engagement is really important, because people when they can see each other doing stuff and can reciprocate, feel part of something, care more, they empathize," said Rocha.

“Imagine a soccer team challenging its fans to send in their videos in real-time of a goal in return for a prize – the amount of content generated from different cameras around the stadium is very valuable to brands like a soccer team.”  




Edited by Sophie Douez