Culture

Pheed CEO O.D. Kobo On How He Made His Mark on the Social Media Landscape

Culture

Pheed CEO O.D. Kobo On How He Made His Mark on the Social Media Landscape

In the social media world, there’s the adult table, and the kids table. At the adult table, we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. At the kid’s table, we have everyone else. But every once in a while, a new platform comes along that has grown up so much, so quickly, that the adults have no choice but to make some room. (Was Pinterest even a thing one year ago?) In comes Pheed, a new platform that combines everything we hold dear about social media. Pheed allows users to share and create everything from photos to audio on one simple app. With multiple innovative qualities that benefit those looking to share personal work and material, like the ability to charge for and/or copyright content, we’re wondering what took Pheed so long? After closing its sign up to new users on December 31st in the interest of maintaining its core user base, Pheed reopened on February 1st and climbed to the number one spot on Apple’s Top Charts Top Apps list, beating out our beloved Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We sat down with Pheed CEO OD Kobo who talked to us about improving the lives of social media users, world domination, and the skate ramp we all wish resided in our offices.

What was your motivation behind creating a new social media platform? What’s the need for Pheed?
Well I’m an Internet developer so I’ve been doing this since I was eighteen or seventeen. I’ve been developing web stuff for kind of my whole life. I used to own one of the largest websites in China and we used to have over 90 million people on our platforms out in China. So when I left China in like 2009 or 2010, I was looking at the West. I’m American, so when I came back I wanted to do something that I thought was needed from a user standpoint. Something that gives you the ability to share photos, sound, live broadcast, video—pretty much everything that I like to use—but on one platform, instead of downloading twenty-three apps. So that’s kind of where it came from.

What’s your biggest problem with current social media networks—what is it you want to change in the world of social networking?
If you think about it, the internet has only been around since like 1994, when Time magazine actually ran a cover that said, “Will this last?” So it hasn’t been around that long. And social networks have only been around for nine or ten years. So it’s still relatively new. I think Facebook is the ultimate for connecting with your friends but for me, the web is no longer about my friends. And I think maybe for the past seven or eight years we went online pretty much to search, listen to music, and chat with our friends. And then I felt kind of limited with the stuff that I was able to do on Twitter. I really love Twitter but, you know, it’s not all about text. Seven years ago when it came out and we all had Blackberrys it was cool. But today everything is much more multi-media. And I kind of see that as a shift going around. It’s all new, it’s all changing. Twitter’s been around for seven years, that’s really nothing. And I think there’s always room. Two and a half years ago we didn’t even know what Instagram was.

So who does Pheed cater to? I know a lot of celebrities are getting into it.
I think the reason people in the media have been writing about celebrities is because, I guess if you walked into a room with a thousand people but there was Miley Cyrus, your eyes would go only to Miley and you wouldn’t notice the nine hundred ninety nine other people. So I think some people in the media choose to write about that because we do have celebrities. But so does Facebook, and so does Instagram and Twitter. So I don’t really call us a celebrity website no more than I would call Twitter one. But because we’re based in L.A., and we’re, I guess, loud, we have some friends in the music and movie community. But it’s purely a friendship kind of thing. We don’t like to have any business dealings with anything. So we just get a lot of support from the L.A. community.

Users have the option to copyright their images, right?
You can copyright, yes. We don’t own any of the content that people upload. So anything that’s uploaded—if someone uploads a live broadcast, a song, a video, anything—we don’t own any right or claims to it. People have the option to copyright the content so it’s always owned and distributed by them. We also offer a monetization feature, which makes us the first of our kind. Users have the option to monetize. They can do a pay-per-view type broadcast. So if I was in a band and I wanted to just go in my garage and do a track and play it to my audience and charge them a buck for it I could. You can also place a monthly fee on your Pheed channel if you want, maybe you do webisodes or something. Basically we believe in options. Seven years ago we all got jipped. A lot of big platforms, they own your stuff. They make all the money. I think today people are getting a bit smarter and they deserve a product that gives them the ability, if they want, to monetize. Hopefully to incentivize them to create good content.

Do you have a goal for Pheed? What do you want it to achieve for its users?
World domination. No, I’m just joking. To be honest, we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re a team of developers and friends. We already made, you know, money. We do this because we dig it. We put our own buck and our own time in it. We’ve already sold companies for a hundred million bucks. We’ve done that. We do this because we dig it, because we like coming back home to the states, seeing what’s wrong for the user, what’s happening, what’s social. And we enjoy just playing together. And that’s really the truth. Where do we see this going and all that? I don’t know.

Word on the street is you built a skate ramp at your Mulholland Drive mansion turned office. Can you tell me more about the “office”?
Well we all skate, too. We have an eclectic kind of bunch. So we have a skate ramp. And we have a lot of skaters on Pheed as well, like over two hundred pro skaters or something on Pheed. There’s a lot. And for us it’s not like we’re just somebody who hangs with that demographic. It’s who we are. It’s our community, it’s what we’re part of. So we skate. We go work then we skate a little bit. And some of our friends come and skate with us. We also have a basketball hoop and a Ping-Pong table, so it’s just kind of like a stress relief thing.

What’s the best part of creating and being involved with a start up company? And the worst?
The worst, fighting with your co-founders. For me, I always enjoy the beginning times. When you build a product and launch it. It’s kind of like when you build a ship. It’s never fully done until it’s on the water. You can design it and do everything and play with it, but until it’s on the water then it becomes alive. And I think on the creative side, on the web aspect, the best part is when you build it and see people use it. And then when you see things that you did wrong and you have the ability to change it. I think, for me, it’d have to be that ability to mold it and change it and move it and just see it free.