The internet was pioneered by independent enthusiasts and inspired by the possibility of connecting people and enhancing culture. Though much of its promise came to fruition, it’s fair to say a great deal of it has been corrupted.
Central to these issues is how our personal information is traded, sold, and utilized for marketing purposes. This matters a great deal to Mark Weinstein, who founded one of the first social media platforms, Supergroups, in 1998.
Today he’s trying to take the internet back from the data miners with his new social media platform, MeWe. On this edition of Founders Journey, Mark discusses what motivated him to reenter the social media space, and why he believes his work is so crucial for this moment in history.
More information: https://mewe.com/
Mark Weinstein is the Founder and Chief Evangelist of MeWe. Mark is world renowned as a leading privacy advocate and one of the visionary inventors of social networking. Mark’s TED Talk in March 2020: “The Rise of Surveillance Capitalism”.show more
Mark is ranked one of the “Top 8 Minds in Online Privacy,” and was named “Privacy by Design Ambassador” by The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada. Mark’s articles about privacy and social media have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, NY Post, The Mirror (UK), HuffPost, USA Today, and many others. He has been interviewed on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, BBC, PBS, etc.
Mark has been a featured speaker and social media/privacy expert on the stage at many conferences around the globe, including EY’s Strategic Growth Forum, KNOW Identity Conference, Global Security Conference, GMIC New York, Security BSides Vancouver, and Customer Experience Asia.
Back in 1998, Mark created SuperFamily.com and SuperFriends.com, which were ranked by PC Magazine as “Top 100” sites 3 years in a row. Mark sold those companies in the early 2000s and then built an executive coaching company, also giving keynotes and authoring books on personal and professional greatness, titled “Habitually Great”, which won 2 Indie Book awards and were endorsed by Stephen Covey.
A decade later, as Facebook began to dominate social media, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Privacy is a social norm of the past,” and that statement made Mark Weinstein’s jaw drop. With guidance from MeWe Advisor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Web), Mark endeavored to build the next-generation social media experience that gives people all the great features of social media while eliminating spying, targeting, newsfeed manipulation, and undermining democracy.
MeWe launched officially in 2016 at SXSW where it was named SXSW Start-Up of the Year Finalist. Today, MeWe is the new mainstream social network with millions of members worldwide, data privacy, no ads, and no newsfeed manipulation. MeWe is social done right!
Mark received his MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. He resides in Colorado.show less
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Mark Weinstein 0:00
And remember, you know, you know, really no matter what age you are, don’t think that this is it. Because life continues to unfold. So just keep your eyes and your ears open. You know, I wasn’t a tech guy in 1998. And I became one. Now my friends think I’m a nerd.
Alexander Ferguson 0:29
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our founders journey series. I’m excited to be joined by my guest, Mark Weinstein. He’s the founder and chief evangelist at MeWe, great to have you on Mark.
Mark Weinstein 0:40
Thank you. Thanks, Alexander. Great to be here. And let’s have a great chat.
Alexander Ferguson 0:44
So you are definitely not new to the social media world already back with supergroups. That was in 1997, that you started that? Can you help me understand how that how you began that one, which now led to already now this second social media network meeting?
Mark Weinstein 1:00
Well, you know, let’s start by talking about social media. Because when I started supergroups, and the brands that were known to the public to the consumer, we’re super family calm, and Super Friends calm, we also did have super familiar and super teams and some other brands, but those are the big ones. And this is 1998. Back in the day, you know, web 1.0. And it just seemed to me that this was the best way to use technology to get away from email, you know, we’re still trying to get away from me my email, right? 23 years later, it’s so ridiculous. Email is such an archaic system of social media that need to connect
Alexander Ferguson 1:39
your like Internet’s got a great place opportunities that for us as individuals outside of email to connect those people
Mark Weinstein 1:45
And use the tools which are far beyond what an email, you know, you still can’t put a voice message on an email. It’s just so stupid, right? So and, you know, everybody hates it, and it’s just oh my god. And we’re still suffering with anyways. But social networking was really invented by a whole group of people. I was one of the early entrepreneurs starting a social media social networking company, one of the very first and and but the premise was to connect us better because you know, our families and our friends now we’re all living around the world. We’re living around the country. And you know, email, yuck, phone, okay, you know, that that’s another sort of, you know, monolith technology. But using everything that social networking could offer the tech the web could offer. And, you know, our company is advised by the inventor of the worldwide web, Sir Tim berners. Lee, our new company. Yeah. So anyway, you know, and the reason I bring this up is like, what social networking about why did I do it then. And it was just really so much fun to be Imagineering, one of the first social networks in the world and building it out and then becoming we were PC Magazine, top 100 company three years in a row back in, you know, what, 99 2000 2001. And so then we fast forward to Mimi, because this is really today’s conversation. Why did I start me? And I started me, we. And we announced MeWe in 2016. and South by Southwest, by the way, we want a lovely award, startup of the year finalist for innovative world technology. But the reason I started MeWe is because over the years, social networking got away from what it was supposed to be, what it was invented to be and what its purpose was. Facebook changed. And now you know, and even snap and all, you know, Instagram, they changed the meaning of social networking. Because social networking today with those large companies really means their data companies.
Alexander Ferguson 4:02
And what am i tracking every night?
Mark Weinstein 4:05
Right, and I have a TED talk about this. You know, they’re watching and monetizing, and manipulating us, our votes, our opinions, our purchase decisions, our emotions, everything. This is well documented, they’ve been fine countless times. We’ve got to get away from this, because that doesn’t serve humanity. And now recently, Facebook announced something called Instagram for kids for six to 12 year olds, they already have messenger for kids for 612 year olds, these you know, cradle to grave theater systems into their system, data gathering, manipulating, I mean, can you imagine how a kid it’s gonna, you know, their content, you know, their brain, their ideas, everything is going to be manipulated by Facebook. So this is out of control. And so I came back in created MeWe, we took several years to engineer it. We launched it in 2016. We haven’t marketed it, we’ve continued to engineer it. You know, we have now at this point many times been a number one training site, we have nearly 20 million registered members. We have no ads on the platform, we have a privacy bill of rights for our members, because you know, your content is yours. It’s not ours. We don’t use facial recognition, your faces your business, not ours. I mean, you know what those other guys do? You know, that’s off the wall. It’s a bunch of BS. And in fact, one of our part of our tagline is no BS, and me. So like,
Alexander Ferguson 5:36
fundamentally different outlook and perspective on what social media should be is us one to one or our family or connections, without the data mining of knowing everything about us. That’s been your root desire. So you, your engineer, took several years to engineer this whole solution and launched again, and now I’ve grown to 20 million members without without really marketing it. Did I hear that correctly? Well, organic growth.
Mark Weinstein 5:59
So this is a couple unprecedented things here. And first of all, you know, it is social networking. So it’s just that your data is yours, your face is yours. But you know, it’s great. All the tools you love disappearing content, stories, journals, a great custom camera, a great dual camera that nobody else has voice mastering across the platform, custom names, custom custom gifts, custom emoji sets, I mean, everything, everything. And, you know, one of things we want to make sure we talk about his muse free. It’s a freemium model. How can we do this? How can we do this? It’s freemium. So about 95% of our members use the free version of MeWe, and 5% of our members are very gracious, and they upgrade to me, we premium for $4.99 a month. And they get some extra features. They get journals for their stories, they get live voice, and video, they get 100 gigs of storage instead of eight, they get free access to our custom emoji, custom sticker and custom custom theme store. You know, a whole bunch of fun stuff, they get a great badge, and really mean we as members supported. So what you know our members are doing and supporting me, we this is capitalism the right way. This is cat one of my advisors also is Raj sisodia, who founded this worldwide movement called conscious capitalism. And Raj is very well known. He’s coached The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, he wrote the book with john Mackey, on how Whole Foods did it, you know, so we have these great thought leaders as our guideposts and we have all the features people love, and none of the BS
Alexander Ferguson 7:40
question for growing a social network for the first time. And now how do you get that initial buzz? How do you get people to for the network effect to actually start taking effect?
Mark Weinstein 7:51
You know, it’s hard to describe because, you know, I mean, there have been literally 1000s of social network companies that have started in failed, and there have been 1000s of companies, so social network companies that started to compete with Facebook and failed. So for us, we focus on building great group technology so MeWe is also a place where you connect with like minded people around the world. And here’s the beautiful thing is like, we’ve got, I don’t know, hundreds of 1000s of open groups, you create a group you become your own thought leader for a group that you open up for anybody on MeWe to find, or you create, selected they have to apply to get in or anybody can join it. And our group technology, really, in addition, this is the MeWe write MeWe means me, right? Just me and the we, cuz this is how our life is it’s me my personal private arena, but it’s also my we so so the name fits it perfectly. And then it’s just word of mouth, we’re translated into 20 languages and people start talking you know, they start talking to each other, you know, you find people constituencies, groups of people, common interest people, and they can be any anybody from you know, somebody interested in cooking or or, you know, alternative health or you know, mainstream like, you know, a marathon group or Music Entertainment. We have, you know, tons of music and entertainment, foodies sports, and of course, then there’s politics on all sides. At first Bernie Sanders people came recently we had a bad Russia conservatives, because I’m a libertarian, and my politics don’t matter on me, we we have a strict Terms of Service and no double standards. So just keep it clean everybody and then talk about whatever you want. You know, so it’s really we just call social media done right.
Alexander Ferguson 9:48
At this, this concept of you, one of the things you mentioned early on is focusing on groups. It’s like if you’re, I guess creating a space where people feel like they can come together easily connect. That’s that’s where they The network effect starts to take place Speak up, because people say, Well, I see the tools, is it? Is it a tool set? Is it the features? Like what draws someone initially? Do you think to tos on social network or to a Community
Mark Weinstein 10:12
Trust, troll, you know, first of all, mu E is, is probably the most trusted social network in the world. Because it’s social done, right, because we have a member privacy Bill of Rights, because your newsfeed is 100% timeline order, who you’re connected to your family, your friend, your contacts, your close friends, the groups, the pages, it’s all timeline order is no BS, there’s no algorithm studying what you’re thinking and manipulating, you know, as we talked about, like the other guys do know. And so there’s an immediate trusting bond. And then when constituent groups and any kind, you know, they want to actually really reach their followers and reach their members and really communicate, you know, it’s documented that Facebook, if you have a page or group, generally, when you post to reach about five to 10% Max, because their algorithm is actually deciding what every member of Facebook sees at any time, and it’s all based on their money machine, everything you see is based on where they think they can engage you. And they can think they can distract you to click on that to make a purchase to do you know, they get money just for the clicks, all that stuff. So with me reasons, we have no ads, you know, and there’s no way for an advertiser, a marketer or any new remember either to target you, you know, to pay, there’s no pay to boost, there’s no amplification. So it’s actually very natural, authentic, using the greatest communication tools available.
Alexander Ferguson 11:48
For you being able to make this possible part of this building right team, when it comes to the lessons learned to be thinking back, even both the first multiple social networks you started, and now with me, we, what were some of the key hires the first hires that you made on the team to make it possible.
Mark Weinstein 12:06
You know, that’s an interesting business question. You know, with any company, you’re always gonna have churn, you know, and, you know, luckily, over the years, we’ve been able to hire the right people that, you know, the key really is to hire the right people. And, you know, make sure that if you brought in the wrong people that you know, they do select on their own, or you help them do select, because when you want to build a superstar team, or a team that really feels like their dream team together, then you want to make sure that you know, the bar is always higher, higher, higher, and you don’t have anybody on your team pulling you down. It’s standard, you know, just like a sports team, really, this, this is a sprint, right. But it can be this is a sprint, this is also a marathon. So you know that that’s how we see it, and you take your best shot, Listen, my first 1998 I’m running ads in a local newspaper, hiring people at my kitchen table, hiring designers that didn’t know how to design a page that would load on dial up, right? Because people forget 1998, here I am, you know, founding a social network company, putting all these tools together, and it all has to work on dial up. That’s how we got to the web, that’s our internet access, dial up. So, you know, the challenges today, I mean, look, there is no more bandwidth challenge. There is there are some for companies that want to make sure that they serve properly, in weak internet areas, you know, in India and parts of India and places like that. But, you know, it’s so you learn as you learn as
Alexander Ferguson 13:47
you go, often, when someone wants to start something, so I’m just thinking of other entrepreneurs out there, that they’ll begin it, but then it kind of gets into a plateau. What advice would you give to kind of break a kind of status quo and kind of reinvigorate a business to be able to take it to the next level? Any, any thoughts?
Mark Weinstein 14:06
Um, there’s a couple of angles here. Number one is that we’re so busy thinking about how we can take it to the next place in the next place next place, but that’s really a phenomenon of the last 25 years. You know, because what if you What if you run a good business, take a look at it. proton mail is a great example. Okay, proton mail. They’re a more modern encrypted email provider for people that don’t trust, you know, Google and Microsoft and other email providers. proton, it has a model similar to me, we it’s freemium. They have it, you know, upgrade five bucks a month, but they’re not interested in growing aggressively taking, you know, I mean, there’s, they’re smart, they’re growing carefully. They have a good business model. It’s working and making money. So
Alexander Ferguson 15:00
It’s almost like you can you can you don’t. It’s almost like a lifestyle business. That’s not the right word. But it’s the concept of you don’t have to have hyper growth to have a successful business as long as you know, your market, the people that really want what your service is. And you can really just add value. Am I getting that? Right?
Mark Weinstein 15:15
Yeah, think of it as you know, I mean, there, there are great restaurants that are independently owned, that never franchised or went into a chain. And they’re very profitable, and the family does well. And the most important thing of all is very simple. Like you said, you know, KYC, know your customer, serve your customer, and make sure that you’re attracting that you’re replenishing. So you’re identifying market trends, and staying with the appropriate trends. I mean, this is standard, you know, business school stuff, too, right? It’s really the KYC. And just take care of it. I mean, look at these restaurants that have been around for 150 years in this country, you know.
Alexander Ferguson 15:55
But what’s amazing to me is I’ve never guess I’ve thought about it. Software, you always think in in software in tech, there’s only the giant or the only the ones that just go up and then go up forever or disappear completely. But there, there is a space because of way, the way technology is going, there’s gonna be opportunities for businesses, software companies, that don’t have to be billions and billions, but still are very successful are adding value to the people around them.
Mark Weinstein 16:20
Especially if you’re built on trust me, we’ve built on trust. Now, we do have plans to scale significantly, we do believe that we will ultimately be able to achieve somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 million members. Over the next several years. We have grown organically it’s absolute organic growth around the world. We have one guy and marketing on our team. That’s it. So you know, he booked our conversation, right? That’s it we one guy, but around the world look in Hong Kong, we are number one, three months in a row, and you know, suggested in 2020 and 2021. Around the world, you know, because you’re translated and because people hear about it. And even though still, most people have never heard of me, you know, so I like to say this. Let’s say that, right now, maybe 5% of social media users in the world have heard about me. And that’s one out of 20. And so out of the one out of 20 social media users who’ve heard about me, we, we already have almost 20 million registers. So what happens when the other 95% hear about me? So that’s our job now is actually to to fund the company properly to expand the messaging, and then keep knowing our customer keep expanding the service offering keeping it relevant, right, staying relevant for any business
Alexander Ferguson 17:45
is critical. You mentioned the point of Hong Kong or somewhere that is actually you were number one there made me ponder is the United States too. So listen, you know, that’s all right. Yeah, no, no, I’m wondering is like, is there certain cultures that are valuing privacy more than others? I’m curious if you’ve seen that around the world, if there’s certain ones that are just like they really get it and value it more than others. It rotates.
Mark Weinstein 18:10
Sometimes we’re hot in Australia, you know, the Australians are really pissed to Facebook, with all the fiascos around their banning fake to Australian news organizations and other nonprofits, all this stuff. And then a couple years ago, Facebook asked every Australian for a nude picture of them, so that they can match it against their database to make sure no one no one else had nude pictures that it was, I mean, these crazy things that Facebook does seriously. You can you can google this, like you can fact check me No problem. So you know, really, it’s it moves in all markets, whether it’s an Asian market, Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, very privacy is very important. You know, and freedom of speech, it’s sort of like this ability to speak your mind, you know, without without being censored, just because you said the sky is green today, and somebody else in disguise is orange. So, you know, that’s what we call civil discourse, of course, which is really remember, the premise of democracy is disagreement. So when you know Facebook and these other companies start to censor and train narrow, you know, this cancel culture stuff. It’s like wait a minute, guys. I mark Weinstein founder MeWe totally believe that we want something that is is a nice experience. But arguing and disagreeing are fundamental to why America works. It’s the whole is the premise of our democracy is the ability to disagree and not get in trouble for it. So I don’t know what’s going on with those other guys. MeWe we have a strict terms just, you know, like, keep it clean, everybody. You know, we don’t want hate. We don’t want violence insiders. You know, we don’t want doxxing and bullying, but we could care less about, you know, what your opinion is about the color of the sky, right? It’s like, you know, and this is what makes our country great.
Alexander Ferguson 20:17
That’s powerful. So, kind of curious. So just as a as a leader, are there any books or podcasts or audio books that you’ve read and enjoyed and would recommend? Well,
Mark Weinstein 20:31
you know, there, there’s so many great books over all the years going back to Geoffrey Moore and his chasm books, and, you know, Jim Collins and his good a great series. And, you know, for coaching, you know, I mean, lencioni, Patrick lencioni has written amazing books on how to run your organization and, and Marshall Goldsmith, you know, the godfather of coaching and jack Canfield, one of my advisors, another godfather of coaching, he wrote all that success principle books, he launched Chicken Soup for the Soul. You know, there’s so many places, so I actually don’t have time for podcast myself. You know, so in fact, I don’t have time for TV either, you know, I’m just so busy. You can see what I’ll do. You know, if I have a minute, you know, I might get on a bicycle, I gotta get get my ex you guys.
Alexander Ferguson 21:26
I love it. I love it. I’m just any closing thoughts for other entrepreneurs and tech leaders that are have desires of building something that you would give a word of wisdom to those out there?
Mark Weinstein 21:39
Yeah, let’s see. Very, you know, straightforward, like you talked about at the beginning, too. It’s, and this is, you know, when we were in formal before we started recording, but, you know, listen, if you think you’re right about something, especially a business idea. And every morning, you wake up, and you believe that your opportunity is as good or greater than it was the day before. No matter who your critics are. Don’t stop. You know, the time to reflect is when you start wondering yourself, if you’re right or not, because you want to really take your own inventory. So and you know, the key there is that, of course, sometimes there’s reality, you know, you got a family, or your life circumstances change. And you know, you need, you know, a different financial situation. You know, I’m one of these guys who spent everything I liquidated my retirement account to build a new company, I spent everything and didn’t take a salary for four years. And maybe, you know, I just was like, this is so important for the world. And we’re right. And now we’re proving it, our revenue model is working. You know, we’ve grown, you know, no one’s ever done this before. Without institutional financing. We’re financed by high net worth individuals, the tune of 23 million that we’ve raised from, you know, lots of people high net worths and now we are our cash flow, you know, breaking even. And we’re generating revenue before institutional capital, no social networks have done that before. So and now it’s time for all the strategic partners, content partners, we’re open to all of it, we want all of you know, because everybody knows the problems that MeWe’s solving. Everybody knows that there’s something seriously wrong. And when they hear about MeWe they love it because MeWe social done, right.
Alexander Ferguson 23:37
But one thing I can definitely tell and feel from you is your passion for this, which seems to have driven you and led this entire time. And so thank you for both sharing a little bit of the your story and the lessons learned. Thank you so much for being on on on the series.
Mark Weinstein 23:53
Alexander. Thank you. And thank you, you know, and best of luck to you. And remember, you know, you know, really, no matter what age you are, don’t think that this is it. Because life continues to unfold. So just keep your eyes and your ears open. You know, I wasn’t a tech guy in 1998 and I became one. Now my friends think I’m a nerd.
Alexander Ferguson 24:20
I love it. Thank you. I guess everyone will see you on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business? Go to UpTech report.com and let us know