Walking among shiny booths filled with gizmos and robots, drones and VR headsets galore, we wander aimlessly. It’s SXSW’s tech expo and it’s almost too much for even the biggest nerd.
As we bounce from an autonomous videobot to a 3D video screen, we see free smoothies and dig in. “Raul Gomez,” I hear from behind me. Standing at the side of the booth is Matt Wein, former Fargoan, web developer, promoter and one-time sales associate for HPR.
After we exchanged all the small world bits, Matt filled us in on what’s been going on for the last 8 or so years. He’s a VP in a startup called Holonis now, and as luck would have it, we missed their launch the night before, with performances by Warren G, Lil Bow Wow and Mario Lopez. Bummer.
Shouldn’t there be an app for that?
So, we need to take a step back to the root of the problem, which is kind of the reason I missed the Holonis release party.
See, the problem is social media, there’s just too much of it.
In the last few years, time has begun stretching out. Wasn’t it only a decade ago we got smartphones and a decade before that when we got affordable mobile phones?
Remember the first time you saw Facebook? For some of us it would be hard to imagine the world without it now. You needed to watch hours and hours of TV to get your news, figure out what’s cool and what you should think about the latest celebrity break-up. Isn’t it way easier now? Wasn’t it supposed to be?
Lately, keeping up with social media is like a part-time job. It’s actually geared to keep us coming back for more or else be hit with massive FOMO (google it). So how do we juggle it all, and keep our sanity and not miss a thing or use an old meme that god forbid our parents are using? There’s got to be a better way.
Enter Holonis. It’s basically everything you didn’t know you were missing.
“So, could you show us,” I say. He flips open his laptop and says, “Yeah, let me give you a demo.” Still feeling bewildered I say, “I’m not sure I quite understand.”
Matt’s a cheerful easygoing sort with a decent beard. “Essentially anyone anywhere can create what we call holospace. It’s kinda like a Facebook profile and you can connect all the things that you use.” He pulls up a clean-looking profile page on the screen.
You can create a page, said Matt, “You can bind any cloud services, [Google] drive, Box, One Bow whatever, as well as bind any of your Facebook, social, Instagram, twitter accounts, so what you end up with is a central media repository for anything that you do online. And then you can take all that media drag and drop edit it into pages. Then in those pages you can also add products and basically imbed e-commerce into multimedia pages and multimedia experiences and then share and syndicate them across the web to all your connected channels, pull all that data and analytics back.”
I’m like isn’t there already something like that out there? “So is it kind of like Hootsuite where I’ll post something in Holonis and it will and then it will post all of my social media?”
“There’s a scheduling tool in it. So that’s part of it for sure. So, here’s the crazy thing about this. The revolutionary thing about this is not that it has a social scheduling tool, or that it has a content creation engine, or that it has e-commerce, or that it has SEO (search engine optimization). All those thing already exist. No big deal.” He says. “It has all those things, connects all those things and it’s all driven on API, so if there are other tools you use, you just connect it.
“Our goal is not to be competitive with anything, it’s to be collaborative with everything. It centralizes. It becomes like a homebase for everything that you do online for anyone. Whether you’re a college kid, a creative, an artist, an influencer, a business, whatever you are.
“I actually run our media group division so we work with a bunch of like celebrity and social influencers.”
“Like youtubers?” I say.
“Yeah,” he nods. “So, they’re walking up now, but we have a few people with us. They’re social influencers. Here they come. Like Ricegum is here, he’s like a youtuber.”
I interrupt. “Ricegum is here?” If you don’t know, Ricegum is part of the top-tier tubers and influencers on the nets right now. Matt points at him as he casually strolls by. I’m surprised. “You have Ricegum here in your booth”
“Yeah, he’s our boy, he’s walking to us, I think. You know him, of him?” Matt says.
Okay, so the use of influencers is nothing new. Nike has been paying top athletes to sport the iconic swoosh forever. However, this new breed of social media influencers are making a killing driving traffic for brands and websites. Some, like Ricegum, get millions of views almost every video they post. He even has a Vevo channel for his bad but inexplicably popular rapping.
“He’s walking up, in the flannel, oh sh*t, there he goes, okay, later,” Matt flips around and continues. “It’s really hard to monetize the work they do, right? They’re at the mercy of the their platform that they’re on. Most people focus on a single platform. If they’re a youtuber, they were a viner, they’re not anymore, they’re on Facebook they’re on instagram they’re on twitter, one of those things, maybe a couple.
“But what this allows them to do is be sort of omnipresent in all those channels and actually monetize the asset here. So, right now like we have a pretty good relationship with Twitter and Amplify which is their video monetization program. Facebook has a video monetization program that’s in beta, been in beta for a while. So we do that and we help those influencers monetize on their platforms, but we’re at the mercy of Facebook,” he continues.
One of the great mysteries of the internet has been monetization, and this could be a game changer for some of these platform celebs.
“You can actually sell visibility. So one of the things that influencers do is they drive traffic to other websites and get paid for it. Well, now they can create content about themselves on a single platform like Holonis, and actually monetize that content and drive traffic to their own presence instead of sending it to someone else and getting paid pennies on the dollar. They can cut out the middleman and monetize it all themselves.”
“And then the other side of it is just the creator man, like the photographer, the college kid who has like a wordpress site or squarespace. Holonis is making it simple for creators to make their own stores. Photographers and artists can sell their work, band can sell merch that they can make on the fly using RageOn through Holonis.
The big picture, big data, and you
After walking us through the demo, Matt smiles. “So I’ll go…This doesn’t have to be on the record.”
I’m instantly intrigued. He goes on. “The big picture of this is that when you as a person on a daily basis do things, you go online, you buy things, you shop, you eat, you interact, you go to the doctor, you do all these things. You make decisions, you don’t make them based on data, you make them based on a hunch.
“So by connecting all the things that you do, you transact and you consume media and you read and you like and share. You’re already doing it on facebook and they’re taking that data and selling it.
“Our goal long term is to take that data that you create for yourself and compile it for you, and then provide an algorithm or algorithms to make sense of that data for you. So now you can make decisions in real time based on what you’ve already done. So you’re creating a digital genome of your own self. You can start your own predictive analytics against your accumulated history.”
The idea of being influenced by an algorithm to simplify all the mundane tasks we do is fascinating and simultaneously reminiscent of the beginning of a sci-fi novel, ending with our enslavement to our computer overlords. But these days AI is all the rage: IBM’s Watson, Apple's Siri, Google has Alpha Go, Samsung has Bixby.
“It’s just pattern recognition, which is really all AI is, so computational learning is just looking at patterns that have already happened, connecting the dots and seeing patterns, saying that there's a good likelihood that this is going to happen again based on what happened back there.
“And that’s all this really is,” says Matt Wein, “is collecting the data, so right now you’re generating data all day, everyday. You’re just not collecting it, it just disappears, well some of it goes on facebook.”
This all starts, of course, by collecting massive amounts of data from all these social networks. “It’s all about big data...” He says. It’s basically a large unique data set like the one facebook collects as you stalk your X or watch food videos at 2am.
That Big Data is the product, companies are tripping over themselves to harvest it. “Data is the new oil.”
“So data is being collected, the safety net is there, the database exists, it’s a flat database structure that can hold massive amounts of data, but again keep in mind that we’re only keeping that data for you the user, we don’t use your data against you. So, we’re collecting the data and we’re developing those algorithms with data scientists.
“It can take some of the guesswork out, if you’re like I don’t know what to do, what should I do? And then there’s the superficial element, like it can shop for you.
It can order your groceries because it knows exactly what you order and when you consume it for the most part. I mean, it gets weird. It’s limitless.”
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