Amino wants to be the go-to place for your interest — whether that’s paranormal activities, motorcycles, or Harry Potter. The startup’s broad goal — create communities around topics — is very similar to Reddit, but its execution is aimed at mobile natives. Reddit was built in the desktop era and only recently launched a fairly bare-bones mobile app. Amino believes it can capture a younger generation.
The startup announced today that it has raised $19.2 million in Series B funding. It’s planning to use that cash for international expansion, adding new languages, hiring regional staffers, and curating communities tailored to specific countries. It also has its eye on ways it might monetize, and new features optimized for mobile-native demographics who don’t like to use Facebook or desktop computers.
Until the summer of 2016, Amino used to be a network of standalone apps, totaling about 4 million users and about 90 communities. But they soon realized that it wasn’t the fastest way to grow. “We realized pretty quickly that we had become the bottleneck,” remarks Ben Anderson, Amino’s CEO and co-founder. “Managing 90 communities is really challenging because you have to have a lot of domain knowledge and understanding of the topic in order to be a good manager in that community.”
So Anderson and his team opted to create one master app, Amino and handed the community creation responsibility to its users. The Amino creator and manager lets the users build a group, appoint leaders, and manage members. They can then apply to be a “listed” community, which essentially means Amino’s stamp of approval. The Amino team then rejects or approves their request based on criteria like membership numbers and volume of content.
Since the launch, the number of communities has increased from 90 to more than 250,000, with versions now available in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. Niche fandom groups like K-pop, Anime, Pokémon Go, and Minecraft make up a large chunk of the communities in the app, but you will also find groups titled “science and technology,” where scientists have debates about the constellations, or “school life can be tough,” where students console each other about receiving a bad grade and send supportive messages about studying for finals.
The vibe in the app is like an old-school chatroom meets Reddit with some Tumblr posts thrown in — but specifically for mobile. “I’m a firm believer in things that are built from the ground up to be mobile,” says M.G. Siegler, a partner at GV who invested in Amino during its seed round and also led the Series B round. “There’s a lot of talks of mobile slowing down in terms of sales, but the reality is, it’s still growing.”
Siegler expects that with Amino’s growing popularity, more and more newcomers will try to enter the market. But he isn’t worried about how Amino will fare. “I think that’s a healthy thing. If you look back at all the successful product that we see, they basically have all have some level of competition that pushes them.” A potential competitor might be Korean-based BAND, though judging by their marketing materials, their targeted demographic seems to skew a little older than Amino’s.
Anderson does want to broaden his reach beyond mobile-obsessed teenagers though, saying that his ultimate goal is for people to turn to Amino for “anything you can possibly do that’s related to your interest.” The company is still in the pre-revenue stage, but Anderson expects that the app will make money in the future through a combination of selling digital goods, advertisement, and having an e-commerce store.
Anderson is also adamant that Amino will not suffer the same fate as the Yik Yaks and Yos of the app world, saying that people’s interests and passions will never go away. “So as long as we can keep up with the technology and be on the platforms that people want to be on, and have the best experience for your interests and passion, I think that this is a very long-term plan.”