Dan Swinimer helped gather a tribe to launch a new app he hopes will disrupt the world of social media and websites where things are bought and sold.
Currently beta-tested for public launch, the Trybe platform counts Nickelback singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger among its four “founders/angels,” along with Swinimer, his father Bill and fellow Surrey-area musician/construction company boss Felipe Freig.
“We set out to try and monetize social media, while making it a safer and more positive experience,” said Swinimer, who lives in the Clayton area of Surrey. “We felt it unfair that social media users do all the work, provide all the content but make none of the profits.”
Trybe is based on an award system that sends as little as 10 cents per “like,” coupled with a built-in “win-win” for users, as Swinimer describes it.
“Every time you award someone else’s post, you get exposure for your own post which gives you a better chance of your post being seen and also making money in awards,” he told the Now-Leader.
“It’s turned into a thing, it really has,” added the Ontario-raised Swinimer. “We sold shares and raised almost $2 million, we have head offices in Toronto, a CEO (Thomas Jankowski) and staff of 10 coders. It’s turned into so much more than we originally conceived.”
In the late-2000s, Swinimer and Freig were members of the rock band Jet Black Stare when they met Kroeger, who shared a manager at the time.
A couple of years ago, Frieg told Swinimer about an issue involving his teen son, Jadis, who’d been posting video of his scooter-riding tricks to social media.
“You can’t even believe the tricks that this kid can do on the scooter, it’s amazing,” Swinimer said. “His son didn’t have any sponsors at that point, but he was spending hours and hours every day practicing, getting really, really good, and then he spent his own money buying all this video equipment and editing software. So he’d spend four or five hours a day practicing, learning tricks, videoing them from multiple angles, then he’d edit these videos just so that he could post them on social media. And what does he get for that? The ‘likes,’ and that’s it. He’d been doing this for a while, and we realized that with the social media model, everyone is providing the product and getting nothing in return.”
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After Swinimer and Freig talked some more, they clicked on the idea for Trybe as a way to monetize social media.
“It’s a platform where if you post something, you have a chance to make money on that post,” Swinimer elaborated. “When people post to social media, the most important thing is content, connecting with people and receiving validation from others. So imagine if you mixed in the possibility of making money and also having complete control over how many people will see your posts.… The more people I reward, the more people will see my posts, and the more chance I have of making money on my posts. If the content is good and views-to-engagement ratio is high, it also drives exposure to the post, so that lights a little fire under the post.”
Out of the gate, Kroeger had the level of celebrity pull sought by Swinimer and Freig for Trybe.
“We discussed it with Chad and right away, he was excited about it because he could see how it could transform the music business,” Swinimer recalled. “It could completely disrupt the entire distribution chain, because it’s a pain in the ass going through iTunes, which takes a lot of the proceeds. So what about a world where you post new music on Trybe? You give a download code to anyone who rewards this post with a dollar or more, and now you’re keeping all the money that comes in.”
Right now, to get early access to the app, users join a waitlist by downloading the iOS or Android app from trybe.ly.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Nickelback raved about Trybe’s launch to the band’s 738,000 followers on the rival Twitter platform: “No more giving away your creativity and time to social media giants. The new way — Social. Be yourself, be with your people, get rewards. See you on there.” A day later, Avril Lavigne posted the same message for her 21 million followers on Twitter.
Swinimer says Kroeger is “very involved” in the project, and likes to be in the meetings when and where he can, including the time when the four Trybe founders flew in Kroeger’s private jet to Silicon Valley.
“We didn’t tour with Nickelback (with Jet Black Stare) back then, but toured with a lot of their friends, like 3 Doors Down, Hinder and Staind,” Swinimer recalled. “For someone of his level of recognition, Chad is very accessible to musicians. He’s not hard to find and he’s happy to talk to people. One night he took us out to celebrate our record deal when we first signed it, so that was kind of our first foray. He took us out to the Commodore Ballroom because Kid Rock was doing a special invite-only show there. So we’re in his little VIP section, and then we went to some penthouse suite afterwards to hang out. It was weird, man, because up to that point it was all independent music, never getting anywhere, and all the sudden we’re partying with Kid Rock. It was a wild ride.”
In the decade since those rock-band days, after Jet Black Stare’s record deal with Island Def Jam had collapsed, Swinimer turned his attention to country music and launching the careers of musicians including Madeline Merlo and Jojo Mason. “I’ve been living in Surrey for 20 years,” he noted. “I built my production company here and have written/produced upwards of 40 hit songs since starting.”
As for Trybe, the app’s public release should be in a month or so, he said.
“We’re using a system where we are making it very exclusive and making people excited about it, excited to get in early. We have multiple celebrities on board to get behind this new idea once we are public. It’s very exciting.”