Zurker – The Social Network That You Can Own

Unless you’ve been hiding on the dark side of the moon, you know about Facebook’s IPO filing on Wednesday last week. Facebook shares are expected to sell like dim sum, and the latest figures from Wall Street put the company’s valuation at $94 billion. That’s some serious money!

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, will come out of the IPO with a net worth of about $24 billion, and he won’t be the only one to gain billions.

Clearly, being the top dog in the social network niche is not a bad way to make money online. Not surprisingly, a number of challengers have come along and tried to unseat Facebook. You know about Buzz and Google+. Maybe you also remember Unthink and their sassy video. Despite causing a media stir, six months later the star of the clip remains firmly entrenched on Facebook, and Unthink barely gets any traffic.

Despite its anti-Facebook message, Unthink was based on exactly the same business model as Facebook: get venture capital funding ($2.5 million to be precise), use the funding to grow a userbase, and leverage that userbase into ad dollars.

In other words, business as usual.

ZurkerIf you’re competing with Facebook, business as usual doesn’t cut the mustard. You’ll need something totally fresh – a brand new, innovative approach. This is why I’m keeping an eye on a brash new startup called Zurker. These guys received no funding at all from VC’s. All their funding comes from their members who invest small amounts, typically less than $100. In exchange, the members get equity in the form of “virtual shares” or vShares.

Members can also gain vShares by referring their friends to the project, and that is pretty clever.

Given the opportunity to own a slice of Facebook in 2004, who wouldn’t jump at the chance? It’s too late for that, but plenty of Zurker’s members seem to be buying the proposition that Zurker could become the next Facebook, and are enthusiastically evangelizing Zurker’s benefits on their blogs in an effort to amass more vShares. The energy from the member-owners has translated into growth and it shows in their traffic graph. But can a small startup, coming out of nowhere, seriously challenge a $94 billion behemoth?

Right now, that’s unlikely. Zurker has no mobile app, no web widgets, and no developer API. The interface is unique and smart, but a little clunky and unsophisticated. Zurker still has less than 5,000 members worldwide.

But Zurker founders – they call themselves custodians – make an intriguing point: back in 2004, MySpace was the dominant social network, and Facebook was an unknown little startup that came out of nowhere. Facebook had a deviously clever strategy for growth, namely exclusivity: Facebook became tres chic and desirable by restricting access to the elite at Harvard only, then to the Ivy League, then to US colleges in general, followed by US high schools and finally the masses. Zurker, meanwhile, have a completely different deviously clever strategy of their own: give members equity.

Zurker came out of private alpha testing on January 22, 2012. You still need an invite to get in, so here’s one from me.

I don’t know if these guys will really follow through and eat Facebook’s lunch. But if they do, remember you read it about it here first.

25 thoughts on “Zurker – The Social Network That You Can Own”

  1. LOL “Facebook shares are expected to sell like dim sum” – Thanks for the info on Zurker. Will check it out. Unthink had promise, but had a terrible premise and a bad name. “Unthink”? WTF. and their pitch was how they were “not like facebook” but yet they were… and in that, they failed to show how they did anything better than FB.

  2. Andrea Hypno says:

    Very interesting John. I’m one of those who think that Facebook will go the way of MySpace as well as Google will go the way of Yahoo, at the end it’s pretty clear that FB only goal is to make money for the founder and not much else. Imho they are not at all interested in providing a service to people, and their usefulness is completely to be demonstrated beside being an enormous time-sucker. I mean a lot of people talks about making money with Facebook but from what I’ve understood up to now the only one who is really making money with Facebook is Zuckerberg. Plus a couple of others maybe.

    Thanks for the hint and now I’ll go checking Zurker. 🙂

  3. Pawel Reszka says:

    LOL John, I signed up but why do I have a feeling they are going to fail like Agloco? 😉

    1. John Chow says:

      @Pawel Reszka Before for ever startup that hit it big like Facebook, 100’s of other fail? 🙂

      1. Pawel Reszka says:

        @John Chow True, but whenever there is a monetary incentive for users to join it usually collapses. Time will tell. I guess you never know ….what if right?

        1. John Chow says:

          @Pawel Reszka That’s right. You never know. Since it won’t cost anything to join, it can’t hurt.

  4. BradNordstrom says:

    Zurker feels to me like it will be a great social network when it is released to the public in April 2012.Good article I have to because many people don’t write about this.Thumbs Up!

    Thanks For Sharing John,

    Bradley Nordstrom

  5. Dzulhelmee says:

    Great ! Certainly will give it a try. I accept your invitation John. Thank you.

  6. Kenny Boger says:

    another new competitor for facebook, not bad for a healthy competition. going to try out Zurker!

  7. VCBeat says:

    A really fresh concept!

  8. KeithOng says:

    why is the domain name ending with .net? i dun trust domain names that end with this. sorry.

  9. Reminds me a little about the idea 1 million pixes for $ 1, which lots of different people tried to copy after their success. It takes a lot of millions dollar of today to be successful with a large socia media website. it is not enough with $ 100 from a few thousand members.

  10. Interesting. Can’t wait to try them out. Thanks foe the invite @John Chow

  11. I have no idea about it. Thanks for the info!!

  12. heatherdavis1474 says:

    “Food product choice is overwhelming as well as TV commercials and print advertisements that want to sell their food products. Who to believe? How to choose? Do you trust what is shown to you? Obviously, it’s up to each of us to decide what we eat but if we’re constantly bombarded with images of food every time we pick up a magazine then we’re going to be swayed in what we choose But http://www.gourmandia.com is the only one site that really gives the satisfaction of parent like me. I trust this site and as well other sites that are related on Gourmandia.com, one of this are: http://www.everything-bread.com http://www.coffeefashion.com http://www.learnaboutpizza.com http://www.everything-cake.com http://www.milkdelight.com http://www.fishlogy.com http://www.soupssimo.com http://www.aboutpeas.com http://www.bananapedia.com http://www.wikichicken.com http://www.allthemeat.com http://www.everything-corn.com http://www.ibeefrecipes.com http://www.everthinglemon.com http://www.thesaladsite.com http://www.pepperecipes.com http://www.knowallwines.com http://www.chocolarious.com http://www.gourmetrecipe.com

  13. fas says:

    I never heard about them till now.

  14. Enstine Muki says:

    Sure! Me too I’m jumping to try them out. Looks like the next big thing

  15. locris says:

    ZURKER UK currently has only 486 members: http://tinyurl.com/about-ZURKER

  16. Curious… another one to battle out Facebook and Google+. Will try this out =)

  17. AjarnDonald says:

    I believe Zurker is going to end the year 2012 with Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg scratching their head, thinking about their new strategy for 2013 to make up for lost territory:)


  18. prabhat says:

    join zurker by visiting this link because zurker accepts only through referal program


  19. botipton says:

    John it is like you say. If it works this will be very good. If it doesn’t it does not cost anything but a few minutes to find out. I am looking forward to following Zurker to see how it does.

  20. stani456 says:

    zurker so far is a little awkward, but it has enormous potential for ordinary people who want to earn

  21. not chow says:

    Zurker is not unique and is not likely to be a success for as long as the focus is on vshares. Owning and earning them is first and foremost. social networking comes a very distant second. 

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