Experience is the best teacher, and learning from others can provide you with critical perspectives and the necessary support while you’re just getting started.
We’ve been talking to founders of successful startups about how they launched their products in order to inspire people who want to start their own businesses.
In this interview, we talked to Zack Anselm, the founder of Therr. He managed to build and launch a brand new social network and event stream that connects users in local communities. It also helps local businesses improve their customers’ experiences and make more sales by offering location marketing and geospatial branding services.
His long-term plan is to expand into AR and create unique experiences across the globe without disconnecting people from the social realities and ecological realities that exist around them.
“We like to think we have a vision for a better world, and we are the protagonists in the modern story of the Metaverse.” he says.
Read the interview to find out all about his achievements, key turning points, and strategies he used to climb the ladder of success.
What is the backstory of Therr? How did you get from an idea to a product?
The idea for Therr came from my own frustration with existing social media platforms and their negative impact on society. I had a background in audio engineering and artist representation, so social media marketing was second nature and music was the driver. I wanted to create a social platform that was focused on connecting local musicians, fans, and music venues through real-life experiences rather than just online interactions. My career led me toward software development, but I always held on to those perfect moments in the music scene during a concert where everything felt like perfect harmony. Eventually, I started putting that passion toward developing a mobile app and building a startup around it.
How did you validate your idea?
Before launching Therr, I conducted extensive market research and customer interviews to validate the idea. I sparked conversations with old friends and brainstormed ideas for the app. I also reached out to local businesses.
What marketing strategies have been successful for Therr so far?
So far, we have had success with targeted social media advertising and partnerships with local influencers, especially food bloggers, also known as “foodies.” Adding audio streaming from the jump was a technical challenge, so we started out with simple content options like sharing photos and messages. That’s why focusing on a niche of food and restaurant experiences just made sense.
We also have implemented referral marketing to increase organic growth. All of this, mixed with a combination of blogging, cold email, DMs, and word of mouth, has helped us grow the user base.
In the “Why” section of your website, you say that the reason you made Therr was because social media can be harmful. Why do you think social media is bad, and how is Therr different from other social media?
We believe that traditional social media platforms have become toxic due to their emphasis on likes, followers, and online validation. Therr is different because it focuses on connecting people and businesses through real-life experiences and personalized content based on the user’s interests.
We don’t have a singular feature that solves this problem; instead, we focus the entire business model around authenticity and local-first interactions. Content discovery is driven by your location as you walk around or travel; the like count is only visible to the content author, and we’re developing a reward system that will be hyper-focused on helping users find local events and connect more in-person.
How did you get your first 100 users?
We acquired our first 100 users through a combination of personal invites to friends, cold DMs on Instagram and Twitter, and participating in various communities on Reddit. We mostly focused on food bloggers and influencers, and we offered partnerships for collaborations.
What acquisition channels worked for you to reach new users?
We have found success with Google ads that point directly to the App Store pages. We also developed a reward system for inviting friends. We are still working on improving the reward system to create a better experience and more personalized options to help find friends who are already on the app. To really gain traction, we’ll need to ramp up these channels and focus more on word-of-mouth marketing.
What do you consider your biggest win so far with Therr?
Our biggest win so far has been the positive feedback we have received from our users and the success of our early marketing efforts. We have also accomplished an incredible amount of tech development without any pre-seed investment. Everything is bootstrapped. Imagine what we could do with even a small investment.
Starting a social media network is very difficult in today’s market. Can you tell us what has been the biggest challenge for you so far and how you have overcome it?
The biggest challenge we have faced so far has been getting our app discovered in a crowded market. Everyone is skeptical about joining a new social platform, especially since it requires creating a network of connections from scratch. We still have to deal with this problem, but we’re making progress by constantly making the first-time user experience better. The biggest hurdle was realizing that we needed to put all the focus on the social users first. Business and advertising are always secondary to the social user experience.
What is your advice to other startup founders who are just starting?
Before launching your product, I would tell other startup founders to do a lot of market research and customer validation. Also, it’s important to focus on building a strong community and partnerships with local businesses. And also be persistent, stay flexible, and be ready to pivot when needed.
Don’t waste your time building a startup unless you are driven and too stubborn to give up or fail. If you consider that you don’t have what it takes for even a second, consider connecting with an existing startup.
There is always something valuable to learn that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
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