Catherine Tan says Vancouver is a great city for Internet startups. Indeed, it’s such an ideal location that her firm, Notey, is moving here from Hong Kong.
Tan is a 31-year-old former investment banker. Along with her husband and Notey cofounder Kevin Lepsoe, Tan relocated in July and now lives in downtown Vancouver. They’re developing what they describe as an “interest network”.
Earlier this year, Notey gained feedback from students and bloggers during a closed alpha. On October 29, it was one of the featured startups at a Girls Raising event. Now, they’re gearing up to launch the Notey app and website this fall.
Tan stopped by the Georgia Straight offices for an interview.
What is Notey?
Notey is an Internet startup, and we have a website and an awesome iPhone app that brings people together through their common interests. Our system is based on topics, not people, so we bring together people through communities of interests. What’s really cool about Notey is we focus on the things you love and your interest area. Let’s say you only like food and Vancouver, in your news feed you only see food and Vancouver. If I go crazy about cats, you won’t see that content. It makes us see the interesting side of our friends and community.
How does Notey fit in alongside existing social networks like Pinterest and Instagram?
When you have “me time” on the Internet, normal behaviour is you go to Facebook and you check out what your friends are doing. Then you go everywhere else to cultivate your passion and to find your interests. If you’re into photography, you go to photography sites. If you’re into travel, you go to travel sites. We want to amalgamate all these sites into one and also add a social element to it, so you can find out what your friends are really into.
If I’m really into, let’s say, technologies, but the friends that I grew up with aren’t into it, they’ll just think I’m really annoying on Facebook. But now I can go crazy about technology on Notey, and I know that people on the receiving end share the same interest in technology.
How will Notey make money?
Because Notey is centred around topics and not on people, every topic is essentially an e-commerce portal. For example, if you’re really into yoga, we can have a button that goes into an area that talks about all the yoga studios in Vancouver. If it’s a camera, for example, there would be a “buy now” button. If it’s a hotel, then there’s a “reserve now” button. Because it’s an interest network and we don’t want to compromise the user experience, we’ve asked our users whether they would mind that. The feedback that we’ve gotten is that they actually would like that “buy now” button, because it’s part of the entire experience. So, that’s our main monetization strategy, but at the same time we could also provide brands with data analytics.
What kind of people would like Notey?
I think we bring the greatest value proposition to bloggers, who are constantly trying to reach out to their audience. The normal behaviour for bloggers is they’ll start a blog and then start a Facebook page—and then they don’t know where else to go to find people who are really into their stuff. Bloggers want to be recognized for their expertise and interest in their area. I think, first and foremost, we provide them with a really great, beautiful platform to bring their content into Notey. We also streamline and categorize all the topics they talk about.
Where does Notey go from here?
Next week, we’re actually going with the mayor and the City of Vancouver to China on a trade delegation trip, which is really exciting. The city and the mayor have been extremely supportive, as well as the Vancouver Economic Commission, of a Hong Kong startup moving to Vancouver as a base to deploy into North America. When we come back, we’re going to close our round of fundraising, set up shop here, and launch. We’re very excited.