Ben Anderson, AMD ’12, and Yin Wang
The new year is slated to be an exciting one for CAMD alumnus Ben Anderson ’12, who was recently featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Consumer Technology list. He is the co-founder and CEO of Amino Apps, a startup that builds mobile communities for fans of a shared topic – from anime to Doctor Who to motorcycles and vegan diets. As 2016 came to a close, the company reached $19.2 million in Series B funding and launched a new, all-purpose Amino app that allows anyone to launch a community. With these recent milestones in funding and accessibility, Amino Apps looks forward to expanding its reach in the new year.
Ben, along with fellow Northeastern University alumnus Yin Wang, launched Amino Apps in 2013 after finding inspiration when passing through the annual Anime Boston event held in the Hynes Convention Center. They witnessed droves of people coming together to build meaningful friendships and share boundless excitement over a single common interest, and started to consider ways to bring this sense of community to people any day of the year, any time of day.
“The inspiration from the convention, combined with my interest in robotics and Yin’s interest in anime, was the foundation of Amino Apps,” explained Ben. “We wanted to bring the level of energy and passion you experience at a convention to the everyday lives of anyone with a mobile device.”
While the start-up was originally inspired by “nerdy” topics like anime and Doctor Who, the breadth of available communities has grown dramatically since its founding. Some popular topics trending on Amino Apps now are BTS (the South Korean boy band), Clash of Clans, Twenty-One Pilots, and Steven Universe. More general interest topics include art (young artists can share their own work and offer feedback) and LGBTQ+ issues and awareness. Users are largely Americans between the ages of 14-24, but popularity in the Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic markets is growing rapidly.
Although launching a successful start-up is complex and challenging, Ben breaks it down into a few steps: discover an idea you are passionate about, start exploring and working on it, and master how to sell your vision. “Don’t think too much about where to start or get caught up in the planning,” Ben advises. “Just hop in and you’ll figure out the path.”
In order for a venture to be successful, however, the CEO and founders must truly love what they are doing, and want to spend any and all free time working on it. This genuine love is a crucial foundation, since key aspects of leadership include building excitement and selling your vision to prospective staff members, partners, and investors – feats that must be fueled by passion.
Attracting investors is obviously a goal for any startup, and coming off the recent news of raising $19.2 million, Ben offers a few pointers about successfully securing funding based on his own experience.
“Funding starts with pitching an investor, who you can meet through networking,” said Ben. “Then, start thinking about how to give them FOMO (fear of missing out). You want them to say to themselves by the end of your pitch, ‘if I don’t invest now, someone else is going to snatch up the opportunity in a heartbeat.’ To create that feeling requires a lot of preparation, and the first step is convincing yourself that you have a million-dollar idea. If you have a strategy and vision that gets you genuinely excited, that shines through and is appealing to investors.”
Of course, practice makes perfect, and each pitch is an opportunity to re-work talking points and fill in the holes that you may have missed the first time. Luckily for Ben, his involvement with Northeastern’s IDEA, a student-led venture accelerator that supports entrepreneurs in the school’s community, helped him feel confident and prepared to make an effective pitch before he was out in the field. IDEA challenged Ben, as well as other students with promising startup ideas, to prove himself through different stages, reflective of what an entrepreneur must do in the real world.
Despite its success so far, Amino Apps is just at the beginning of its journey. As more people discover the app, the startup will adjust to trends in real-time to accommodate new communities while also supporting its already popular communities as they grow.
“Looking back to where we started is really rewarding,” explained Ben. “When we closed this round of funding, I announced the news to our now 30-person team by walking them through a timeline starting back from the day I met our co-founder Yin. Thinking through all the changes we have made as an organization is really rewarding and puts things into perspective. We are all excited to see what our continued hard work and dedication will bring for Amino Apps this year and beyond.”
Check out some screenshots and reviews of Amino Apps here.