Dysco co-founders Mishal Shah (L) and Khrisha Shah

These days, it is a shame to not have a Facebook account — your friends will laugh at you. This social networking platform has now become an inevitable part of our lives, which we use to chat with friends, wish them happy birthday, invite them to events, and upload pictures of our vacations.

But other than these trivial things, does Facebook really add something meaningful to our lives?

Not really, believes this Indian entrepreneur.

Also Read: 15 Asia-based social media startups you need to know

“Facebook is first and foremost a social networking platform,” said Khrisha Shah, who is working on a hyperlocal professional social networking platform but with a different spin. “While it grows bigger and bigger, its ability to provide value and efficient solution to on-ground problems becomes smaller. The sheer size and number of people on Facebook makes it difficult to filter content and people for specific purposes.”

She throws some very pertinent questions at the billions of people hooked to Facebook:

“What if we want to find a high-quality work and talented people to work with? How do we go about finding them? Imagine you need to hire a good agency for your branding, digital marketing, or development work. How do you know what your options are? Now, if you’re trying to break into a new industry, where do you go to figure out the local players in the market?”

“This is where our app Dysco comes into play,” Khrisha said. “Dysco is not just a hyperlocal social networking app, but a platform for people to discover inspiring people, innovative places to work in, interesting content, and to be discovered themselves. The app enables anyone to create a profile on the app, upload their work, browse industries that are listed, or search for people with the skills they’re looking for.

Run by Mumbai-based startup Numinously Notorious LLP, Dysco was co-developed by Khrisha (CEO) with her brother Mishal Shah (COO) in 2016. The app is meant for collaboration between talented people. It utilises Artificial Intelligece tools to ensure relevant and efficient search results that are personalised to users’ preferences. Users can create interactive multimedia profiles that are reflective of their best work, by sharing audio clips, video links, blog posts, photos, and articles.

The app, currently in beta, is intended for people of all backgrounds: entrepreneurs, developers, designers, freelancers, etc. It operates across 18 different industries, including tech & innovation, food & beverage, architecture & interiors, blogging & styling, fitness & health, photography & film, fashion & jewellery, and art & design.

The channel to Dyscovery

Before developing Dysco, the siblings had worked on a different app. But the duo had no tech experience or background. They needed a local web developer, a UI/UX designer, a marketing expert and a photographer to get started but they didn’t know where to start or where to look or where to find the right people to work with and guide them. The Shahs went to LinkedIn, browsed Facebook groups, stalked people on Instagram, did a million Google searches and found a multiple options of people to work with, but they didn’t know how to choose amongst them. They ended up asking friends, and friends of friends and somewhere along the way, using a combination of these methods, they got a team together.

“We realised that finding people to work with is a pretty big problem. It is not just us who were facing it, but our  friends seemed to be facing the same issue in their respective fields — finding clients, finding vendors, and finding talent in general is an enormous challenge,” said Mishal. “Dysco was born out of the desire for a more efficient way to discover and be discovered.”

Also Read: The battle of social networks in Asia: Who is winning?

Mishal observed that most reliable source of information today is word of mouth, but that limits your options despite there being an abundance of talent around you. People rely on using social media platforms (like Facebook and Instagram) for professional purposes, which is inefficient because they weren’t built for professional networking. Similarly, existing professional networks are too corporate-oriented and not easy or fun to use every day. “We then realised that there must be a more effective and efficient way to discover and network professionally, but in a simple, fun, social and mobile manner,” Khrisha went on.

Dysco is ‘social’ meets ‘professional’

Dysco’s features don’t end just with networking and discovery. Everything you interact with on Dysco is geared to what is around you (in your city, in your country). The content, people and job opportunities are ones that you have a high likelihood of interacting and engaging with. Whereas, on other platforms, the content you engage with is worldwide, and not specific to where you are, making the chances of finding relevant opportunities more limited.

“Dysco is basically ‘social’ meets ‘professional’. There are platforms like LinkedIn, which take a very serious, professional approach to networking and is geared much more towards enterprise recruitment or formal job applications. On the other hand, Dysco replicates the way in which millennials interact and advertise themselves today. It’s not ‘corporaty’ and limiting, but is a place where you can be creative and innovative like on Instagram, but still with the goal of professional networking. It’s basically for collaboration and conversation, as well as job searching,” said Mishal describing the features of the app.

More over, Dysco is multidimensional. While LinkedIn profiles are primarily one- or two-dimensional CVs that you might send to a recruiter. On Dysco, your profile is a multidimensional portfolio, that allows you to share all sorts of content (audio, video, soundcloud clips, YouTube videos, PDFs, PowerPoints and more). You can also link up your website, your Facebook page, your Tumblr account and whatever other social channels you have.

So when someone finds you on Dysco, they can access all your work links in one place. You don’t have to hope that someone stumbles upon your website and work; Rather, if someone is looking for you, they find you and all your work in one place.

“Dysco is also where creative meets professional. You don’t go to LinkedIn to find a local fashion blogger or a photographer for your latest brand shoot. It’s not possible to know which copywriter or graphic designer is currently available and looking to help you with your latest social media content. On Dysco, however, you know a person’s intention, what they’re looking for, and can easily access creative people in your city,” Mishal told me.

If you are a Dysco user, you can pick someone whose portfolio resonates with you, and message them on the platform to see if you can collaborate. People in the creative and non-creative domains can use it. Dysco brings these two segments of the working population together on a neutral platform, to discover, co-create, innovate, and collaborate together.

“Dysco learns who you are and what you like. It takes into account your interests, skills, and professional details to show you relevant companies, people and content that you might find interesting. Our AI learns who is in your social network to enable discovery of people you have a high likelihood of working with. It’s aimed at filling the gap between “word-of-mouth’ and doing a Google search,” Khrisha shared.

Most social networks out there including LinkedIn are designed to help create digital connections for their physical counterparts. This is evidenced in the way Facebook and Instagram identify people you should “friend” most often calling it “people you may know,” Khrisha continued. “However, with Dysco, the objective isn’t just to take physical relationships and provide a digital equivalent, the challenge we have set out to solve is how do we create relationships that start digital and then continue offline.”

While Dysco is free for everyone, there are those who still want personalised assistance and guidance. For that, Dysco offers consultancy services at a premium cost.

Additionally, people are keen on finding innovative ways to engage with new audiences and build their brand presence. Dysco identifies relevant, interesting and inspiring people to collaborate with, and conceptualises ways in which people can work together.

“People are appreciating the content we’re producing. Highlighting and showcasing the abundance of talent in various cities has really worked to get people engaged. There are numerous platforms and publications that produce really amazing content, but these are often niche and specific to industries — like music, fashion, art, tech etc. Dysco is where all of this coalesces, and specifically for professional networking and discovery purposes,” added Mishal.

User acquisition a key challenge

Over the past four to five years, India witnessed the birth of many social networking platforms, but most of these disappeared into oblivion within months of the launch, unable to acquire customers or monetise the product. Mishal also admits user acquisition for Dysco is a challenge, especially for social networks.

“User acquisition is a challenge for any startup, but more so for a platform or a network. In our case, rather than mass market in the hopes of getting hundreds of users at a time, we are focusing on delivering value to small groups of people and winning them over one at a time. We’re building relationships one by one, getting to know people, and getting them to love our platform. By actually hearing what their problems are, even demonstrating that we’re attempting to solve their problems, has taken us a long way. Of course, those for whom we’ve managed to successfully solve their problems and deliver value, we gain one loyal user at a time,” Mishal explained the strategy.

Also Read: VoxWeb, a social network that allows you to add voice caption to pictures, raises US$1M funding

As for revenue streams, Dysco doesn’t believe in monetisation for the sake of monetisation. “Now that we’ve spent (and are spending) time understanding how people want to use Dysco, and what they are willing to pay for, we’ve figured out how to monetise without taking advantage of our users. Dysco is and always will be free for everyone to use; Those who want additional help, services, customisation and tools, and are willing to pay for it, will have the option to do so.”

Some of the revenue streams that Dysco has in its minds are premium profiles, strategic content advertising, consulting, concierge, etc.

Besides monetisation and customer acquisition, some other challenges are also dogging the startup: “Building a social network is a chicken & egg situation. It is challenging because you have to convince people about the value of the platform when there’s (almost) no one on it. The most talented people will use Dysco, only if other talented people are already on Dysco. But to get the first set of high quality users on board is really difficult,” said Khrisha.

“Since we strongly believe in the potential of the platform, we have been focussing on building a brand first, and are using our brand to convince people about the value of the product. By forming personal relationships and delivering actual value to people, we won their trust and are on the way to having a solid initial user base of really talented individuals,” she said.

Bootstrapped to date, Dysco has no plans to go for funding for at least another year. The co-founders want to see its high quality user base grow, and be more assured of how they are using the app before going for funding. “By keeping our team lean, outsourcing as much as possible, and working with freelancers, we can sustain for the foreseeable future. However, guidance and mentorship would be very much appreciated, by experts in hyperlocal, social networking and platforms,” Mishal concluded.


Image Credit: Dysco