Geek Speak: Yaron Bazaz, CEO of CrowdFanatic Online
Yaron Bazaz argues that Facebook and Twitter don’t facilitate the coming together of opposing groups to debate issues. So, his Vancouver-based startup has built what it’s calling the world’s first “online confrontation platform”, which will launch a closed beta next week.
Bazaz is the president and CEO of CrowdFanatic Online. Born in Jerusalem, the 39-year-old entrepreneur moved to Canada in 2006 and founded the company in 2009. Bazaz may appear in the next season of Dragons’ Den. Earlier this month, CrowdFanatic was filmed in Toronto by the CBC reality show.
The Georgia Straight reached Bazaz by phone at CrowdFanatic’s office in Gastown.
What is CrowdFanatic?
CrowdFanatic is the first online confrontation platform. The idea is we create a social-media battleground, and we enable two confronting groups to engage the other directly in order to fight over public debate, to win those debates, and to hammer down the opponent. So, it’s the place for Democrats, for example, to confront Republicans, supporters of Apple versus Google or Microsoft, Canucks versus Boston, and everything in the area of entertainment and reality shows.
Today, there is no online confrontation platform such as CrowdFanatic. The other platforms are all focused on the individual and tie the whole network around him and don’t really refer to his group identity. At CrowdFanatic, we are all about the group identity and about the notion of groups as the real power that motivates us in our lives and shapes the course of history.
The idea of CrowdFanatic is really to create kind of a focal point for major public debates. The reason that we are focused on that is the understanding that, although there is a huge need for such a platform today, the social-media environment doesn’t provide it. Facebook is, again, all about the individual and doesn’t promote A-versus-B, group-oriented confrontations. You can’t find it there. Even with Twitter, people upload their comments, but it’s some kind of misguided soup. It’s not, again, A-versus-B confrontations.
How does it work?
From registration, we get to know the users’ location and the groups and topics they support and oppose. Based on this information, we funnel them to a group area where they pick what groups they support and oppose. From that point on, they are exposed to confrontation topics that relate to their groups. For example, if you become a supporter of a bikes group, you will be introduced to confrontations between the bikers in town and car drivers over the bicycle lanes.
Our confrontation topics are a bold statement. For instance, “I support or I oppose a mosque on Ground Zero.” These confrontations are always within the arrangement of group A versus B, in order to bring the groups into discussion. Then people can support the call or oppose the call by voting. When they are doing that, they are doing that on behalf of the group, so not just as an individual but behalf of groups. So, what we get is a balance of power—which groups support, which groups oppose each side in a major public debate. Voting is one part of the fight for public opinion.
We enable them also to win the fight by spreading out their support or opposition to other social-media platforms. So, with one click, you will be able to send those messages—“I support or I oppose bike lanes in Vancouver”—to other social-media platforms, and we count this. It’s some kind of competitive sharing.
Lastly, their ability to comment and to vote for other comments and to be voted by others the most popular comment, et cetera. Basically, we create a very competitive environment where each side fights with the other side over public debates. This is one side of CrowdFanatic. The other side is you can support or oppose a group, but by doing that you also build your status and your prestige as an opinion leader.
Where did the idea come from?
I come from Israel. So, the concept of group identity and the power of groups in our lives is very prominent. When all the other social-media platforms started to thrive, I really felt the gap. There are no places for Israelis and Palestinians, for example, to come to a single point and to have a dialogue to try to affect each other, try to fight for the public opinion. What we have been doing till now is shooting messages to Twitter or creating groups in Facebook. But where do we actually meet the other side? There is no confrontation platform or a dialogue platform.
What impact do you think a platform like CrowdFanatic would have on a heated debate like that over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
I think the concept of CrowdFanatic is huge. Since there is no online confrontation platform today and we provide that alternative, I think we will be the destination for any major public debate, whether it’s a supporter or opposer of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Democrats or Republicans over abortion or the health plan, Israelis versus Palestinians, and Muslims versus Christians in Europe.
The same for sports. Today, the NHL doesn’t have that kind of arena that can engage the fans of the different groups. Think about the NHL and duplicate it for other leagues. It’s a huge market.
Reality shows are the leading entertainment form of the last 10 to 15 years, and it’s all about competition. It’s all about supporting Idol A versus Idol B. Hundreds of millions of fans want to support their group, want to hammer down their opponents, and have no place to do that. That’s the magnitude I’m talking about. I believe it’s going to be huge.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.