Ever since German student social network StudiVZ was steamrollered by Facebook five years ago, Germans have stuck to US-based platforms such as Twitter, Instagram WhatsApp and Snapchat. With competition like that, launching a new social network might seem like a fool’s errand. And yet, in a Berlin loft full of young programmers, the first promising German social network for years is taking shape.
“I wouldn’t touch this under any circumstances,” a well-known European investor admitted privately. It’s a chicken and egg problem: no users, no content – no content, no users.
Founder Alessio Borgmeyer sits at a long kitchen table beside a sink overflowing with dirty cups with his startup Jodel’s raccoon logo. One tap of his smartphone reveals that the app’s activity is anything but dead. Under the heading “Berlin” is a timeline of posts from a community overwhelmingly made up of students, starting with the most recent: “I’m in Ikea with my girlfriend. Save me!”
Who is this reluctant shopper? No idea. There are no names or profiles on Jodel. Users are anonymous. You can vote contributions up and down. Every up-vote earns 10 karma points and a more prominent position. Five down votes gets the entry removed. Posts reach everyone in a vicinity of 10 kilometers, as if yodeled from a mountain top.