It’s an ordinary Saturday and you’re strolling through the mall. Suddenly, music blares on the speakers and a few people begin dancing in unison. As you watch, more and more strangers join in, almost as if you stumbled onto the stage of a musical. Then, moments later, they disperse. Everything goes on as if their routine never happened.
Flash mobs like that are the inspiration for Gerome Sapp and his new app, Ginx. The former NFL-player-turned-entrepreneur applies the same concept to social media hashtags–an idea that perked the ears of some big industry players when Ginx was unveiled at South by Southwest.
Once you download the app, you can post a photo and assign it a hashtag, such as #SundayFunday. The hashtag is then live from anywhere between two hours and three days. Other users can follow the hashtag, and post more photos. The flash community votes on the best image, and the owner of the winning image then is awarded the title Star of the Hashtag, similar to a mayor on Foursquare.
“The hashtag is the only social tool that hasn’t grown along with social media,” Sapp says. “It defines an interest, but there’s no curation, connectivity or community.”
If you post a photo of your new Air Jordans with the hashtag #Nike, several unrelated posts could pop up in that feed. Ginx offers a more organized approach, where users can define what is more valuable to the community by voting, and brands could capitalize off the captive audience.
“The hashtag is the only social tool that hasn’t grown along with social media.”
“It’s like Foursquare, where brands can promote a hashtag and reward people for their loyalty,” Sapp says.
One of the key features of the app is its patent-pending technology that allows users to tap in to other social networks. Once you have a Ginx account, you can enable the app to connect with your Instagram. Then you can “ginx” any hashtag and sync it with the app by adding an asterisk before it. Sapp is planning to expand that function to other social media channels later on.
Now, Sapp is focusing on brand partnerships. He came to Downtown Las Vegas in October 2013 after Vegas Tech Fund financed $300,000 for his social platform Fluencr. After the startup folded due to lack of traction, VTF declined funding for Ginx, so Sapp covered his initial costs himself.
After SXSW, Uber and the Baltimore Ravens have expressed interest in the app, according to Sapp. He also hopes to sign on some casinos, like SLS and the Cosmopolitan.
For those who were looking forward to more transportation options in Downtown, bad news hit the wire early this month. Tech blog Pando Daily reported that Shift, the ambitious car-sharing startup headed by Zach Ware, closed its doors.
Shift grabbed headlines when it first launched in 2013, by placing the largest order for Tesla Model S, which would make up part of its fleet. In 2014, they closed a $10 million round of funding, led by the Vegas Tech Fund (the largest amount of funding that VTF gave other than the also-defunct manufacturing startup Factorli).
Ware wrote an email to the Vegas Tech Fund explaining his decision:
“Most importantly making this decision now allows us to wind down our large and complex operations responsibly and take care of our amazing team while we still had a healthy amount of capital.”