It’s different because it’s not about scraping data or selling ads; it’s about authentic connection between people, founder says.
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Marc Kaplan, founder of ChekMarc, a social media platform, about why he created the app and why it’s different from other platforms. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Karen Roby: We’re going to expand on your online global platform called ChekMarc. This is a place that people can go when they need help. When they’re looking to connect with someone that may be able to help them with really just about anything. I’m going to let you expand on that here in just a second, but just tell us what’s involved here. If you had to give a 30-second overview of what ChekMarc is, how do you describe it?
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Marc Kaplan: I think you did a nice job of it Karen. ChekMarc really, it’s a global platform. It’s in 35 languages. The purpose of it is to build a global community that facilitates connections between people who are looking to achieve something in life that’s impactful for them and people who are looking to provide help to them to achieve those things. And as you said, it’s really on anything that’s important to you. We don’t define what it is. It could be career, it could be fitness, it could be travel, it could be hobbies, it could be pretty much anything as long as you’re 18 and above and have access to the internet or your iPhone or your Android, you can be on ChekMarc and you can achieve things in life and help others achieve things in life.
Karen Roby: Marc, let’s just say I want to say, “Hey. I have a goal, a dream, of running a marathon,” or “I’m going to take my family,” we talked about this earlier, “On safari, possibly in Africa.” Going to Facebook, I could put that out there. What’s the difference? What’s the premise behind this, of what separates this from things like other social media platforms?
Marc Kaplan: I think there’s some pretty big differences and appreciate you asking that question. A lot of the things you can do on the internet is to connect people to information to get help. But very few things actually connect people to people for help. So a lot of the sites out there connect you to information, whether it’s Google or Quora or Reddit, Yahoo answers, which I think is shutting down I heard, and other things. Then you have Facebooks of the world that largely facilitate things in groups. And it’s more known as a social media site. It tends to be more about sharing, sharing things about you with the world versus sharing yourself with others to get help for things. Our purpose is really focused on facilitating that one-on-one connection.
We also do it with some principles that are pretty different. Privacy is huge for us. We don’t sell ads, therefore you’re a member of our community, you’re not a user of our community. We’re not running algorithms, scraping data to try and keep you on the site or to sell the data about you. Our intent is purely to bring people together for connections to do good for each other, full stop. Unlike other places where you could request help or provide help, we don’t allow exchanges of money. It is a free service for people to use. If you want to raise money for yourself, that’s great, but GoFundMe is a better platform for you. If you want to get paid for your services, that’s great, but Angie’s list or Craigslist or Yelp is a better service for you than ours. Privacy is very important to us, and the purity of the connection is important to us.
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We also have a very trusted community and identity verification is something that we offer, unlike a lot of the other platforms where it’s difficult to get that. We offer that to everybody who wants it because we believe that having you as a verified member will help build trust in our community. That’s another really important component of our community. And then along with privacy, we allow you to be anonymous, even when you’re verified. We allow you to post anonymously up until the point when you and somebody else are willing to connect. You can be anonymous. At a certain point we facilitate an introduction, but up until then you can be anonymous and also nobody can bother you.
People can’t randomly direct message you or contact outside of the request that you are placing to the community. So, at its heart privacy, safety, trust, kindness are part of our community. And lastly, it’s a very positive community. We moderate our content. We don’t apologize for that. Whether it’s the artificial intelligence that we use for that or the self-regulation of the community and the manual process, we want to keep the discussion positive and we want to bring people to the community where they do their good. So, it’s a place really to get help, to give help, not so much a place to be heard.
Karen Roby: When you talk about there’s no advertising on this, what was your inspiration for this? How did this come together? Was it from a certain experience? You were looking for help, couldn’t find it, or how did it all come together?
Marc Kaplan: I’ve thought about that. What sparked that for me? Because the idea came to us a while back and candidly, for me, it was I was working at a big company, big well-known global consulting company. Had a very successful career, very stable, doing very well. And I just stepped back and said, “There’s a bigger impact I want to make in the world,” number one. And then I asked myself, “What do I really enjoy doing over the years? What’s the one thing I’ve really enjoyed doing the most?” And it was changing people’s lives for the better. Digging in and making a difference in their lives personally or professionally. I said, “How can I scale that? There’s a kazillion Marc Kaplan’s out there that can provide that to people. And so how can I scale that?” I wasn’t on social media other than LinkedIn, which I use professionally.
I didn’t have Facebook account. I didn’t have Instagram account. I didn’t even know barely what Twitter was. So, I wasn’t a big social media consumer. I just knew that I wanted to create a platform for people to connect and all of the things that I talked about that we built it wasn’t because I saw them lacking somewhere else. They were just consistent with our own value system and what we wanted to build. Only later on did I realize that that actually solved some problems for people, but it was that simple. And it started with that kernel of an idea. And we said, “Let’s use technology to enable people to connect in different ways.”
Karen Roby: And how do people find you Marc? How do you get the word out there about what you’re trying to do here?
Marc Kaplan: Hopefully through conversations like this. We haven’t done any proactive marketing yet quite frankly. We released our first product on Feb. 23 I think it was. And we wanted to learn. And so since that time, we’ve kind of let it grow organically and through word of mouth and through people seeing a couple snippets on it, but we haven’t put any marketing behind it proactively because we really focus on listening to the community.
So if you go on and you join, we want to hear from you. Text me, email me, email my co-founder, give us feedback on the site. We’ve made so many changes to it based on what people want to see. And in fact, we have a new release that we talked about a little bit earlier, that should come out on three, four weeks from now that’ll greatly expand this scope, all consistent with what we just talked about today, but expand the scope because that’s what people wanted on the site. We’re hoping that people spread it word of mouth and it gets out there that way and at some point we’ll start to put a little bit more proactive marketing around it when we feel comfortable. We want our community to grow slowly right now.
Karen Roby: You mentioned this, but 18 and over, that’s really the only requirement and just people that are looking to get help about really anything, looking to connect.
Marc Kaplan: Yeah. Impactful things. It could be I want to run a marathon. I love to connect with somebody one-on-one about that. I want to write a novel. I want to go on a safari to Africa, and my parent is in a wheelchair and I want to connect this so I can plan a great vacation. I’m stuck in my career. Could really connect to somebody about it. For a lot of people, you can get information, but it’s hard to get to somebody and that’s what we do. For a lot of people we can see the doors and ChekMarc will have opened that door. And then there’s a whole group of people in this world that can’t even see a door. They’re just stuck because of their situation and ChekMarc will build that door for them.