SNW INTERVIEW -- Nov 22 -- Multiply is doing rather well. I talked with Peter Pezaris, the founder and CEO of Multiply.com, about the site’s internationalism, their deal with MSN, and about Facebook being inspired by some of their features. - Mark Brooks
What is the founding story of Multiply.com?
We started the company back in late 2003 when Friendster was the king of the social networking landscape. But Friendster and most of the social networking sites were really glorified dating sites.
Myself and my founding partners were at a stage in our lives where meeting cute girls and dating wasn’t really relevant to us. We were kind of moving on to the next stage in our lives. But the idea of 6 degrees of separation and leveraging an online representation of your social network was a very compelling one to us. We just wanted to find something that was more relevant to where we were in our lives and what we hit upon was the idea of communications, leveraging your social network as an audience for publishing your personal content. That is really what led us to found Multiply and we’ve kind of been on that path ever since. When we launched the site in August of 2004.
Who would you say is Multiply’s target audience? How international is the site at this stage?
Our target audience is anybody who wants to share their personal media with friends and family, which extensively could be anyone. But with that said we’re probably most focused on the soccer mom. So getting passed the teenagers and early 20 something who are on a lot of the other social networks and really getting to late 20’s, 30’s and even beyond. As you get older on Multiply you get more active. Our active users are much older than on some of the other sites because its focused on sharing within your personal networks and not meeting new people.
We are extremely international. We’ve got pockets of users all over the world. Our biggest ones are probably in Southeast Asia and Brazil. The nice thing is that unlike on some of the other sites where taking on a lot of international users can kind of diminish the experience for US users, on Multiply that’s really not the case at all because there is no pervasive culture to the site.
So you’re getting all kinds of run for their money in Brazil?
No I wouldn’t claim we’re getting near Orkut in Brazil but they’re a good example of the other model. Their huge success in Brazil came at the expense of their huge success elsewhere. When somebody from the US went to visit Orkut they started seeing all Brazilians and all Portuguese content and that gives them the strong message that hey this site isn’t for me. This is the site for Brazilians. We don’t have to worry about that because your experience is completely dictated by your own personal social network.
What single feature would you say is unique to Multiply and you’re most proud of?
I’m going to say news feed and you might be surprised by that. I’m most proud of it because that’s been the heart and soul of Multiply since we launched back in 2004. Even though you’re probably saying to yourself all sorts of sites have news feeds now I still think ours is very unique because it’s the only one out there that really focuses on driving communication as opposed to just being a different flavor of an RSS feed, that tells you here is sort of things that happened and they scroll off the bottom and they go away and you never see them again.
Have you noticed FaceBook is copying much of some of Multiply’s features over the years?
You know what they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Clearly and its obviously not just Facebook. It’s a different type of experience on Facebook then it is on Multiply. To a large degree we’re kind of email on steroids whereas I Facebook is still fundamentally a social network that is aimed to provide an online socializing/entertaining experience and less so kind of true communication.
Congratulations recently on the MSN deal. Tell us more about that.
It was a fantastic opportunity for us. Microsoft is closing down the MSN group service. They’ve got a new Windows Live group service coming out in the future but it’s not going to be out soon enough and it’s also not going to have feature parody with the existing services. So they wanted to look out for their users and find them a good home. And after a nice diligence period they selected us as their migration partner. So Multiply is the only option for those users to migrate their existing groups to.
What were the main reasons for them choosing Multiply would you say?
I think there were two factors; one certainly was our technical chops. The migration process is not a trivial one. The other factor was just the overall service. Multiply again is not a Facebook or MySpace which I think would have been a big turn off for the audience that currently resides on MSN groups.
How do make money?
We currently have 3 revenue streams, advertising is the biggest. We introduced a premium service about 3 months ago and it’s focused on the permanent archival of high res digital media. If you’re a premium user on Multiply you get to view all of the high res content both yours and the other users. The third revenue stream is photo printing. Right now that is done through a partnership but we expect to grow that business significantly in the future.
How much are you charging for the archive service right now?
It’s only $20 a year.
Is there a cap on the amount of video that someone can upload?
They can upload 5 files up to 200MB in size or 20 minutes in length compared to 100MB or 10 minutes for a free service.
What do you see on the horizon of the next couple of years?
Looking into the future we view ourselves as an end to end media solution. So we want to be there for you to transfer that media from your computer to an online service through the sharing and discussion period, through the archive and storage period to the printed goods period where you make it into a photo print, a photo book, a calendar or a card. So we want to be that sort of full spectrum provider where anything related to your digital media can happen on Multiply. So both in terms of revenue streams and future design decisions I think everything is going to be steered by that overall philosophy.