If Pokémon Go is not enough to satisfy your inner nerd, you can take it up a notch with the wildly active Pokémon Amino app, which has been downloaded more than 250,000 times.
We’re not kidding – it’s even geekier than the Pokémon subreddit. But unless you’re a teenager, you likely have no idea what we’re talking about. Amino Apps is the New York-based startup behind 90 super-specific mobile communities centered on interests ranging from Pokémon to Anime to K-Pop. Think of it as a cooler, sleeker version of the antiquated online forum – full of photos, videos, gifs and emojis.
The ultra-niche mobile communities are gaining serious traction with American users between the ages of 16 to 24. Co-founder and CEO Ben Anderson, 26, calls this crowd “mobile-natives with extraordinary domain knowledge about a certain topic.” Eighty percent of these mobile-natives are based in North America, and the company is now starting to focus on international expansion. Users are reportedly spending an average of 40 minutes per day on any given app. For context, an average person spends about 13 minutes on Reddit, 40 minutes on YouTube and 50 minutes on Facebook.
The company has monitored interest levels and accepted user recommendations for topic channels, which it then approves and turns into standalone apps available in the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. Anderson boasts millions of app downloads since the company’s inception in 2013.
Today, Amino is opening the floodgates, allowing anyone to create an interest community within one central “community incubator” app. The “Amino Platform” app network will have designated curators who build and moderate each close-knit community.
Amino will then only spin off the most active and engaging channels into individual apps. Anderson sees a business opportunity in making this pivot. “From a business perspective, this rapidly accelerates the number of standalone community apps that we can create,” he says. “When we were running the communities ourselves, we had to do research on topics we weren’t familiar with. This allows us to plant thousands of seeds at once.”
Not just thousands – tens of thousands. In the two weeks that Amino began beta testing the new incubator app, existing users have reportedly launched more than 10,000 new communities. If existing growth is any indicator, this new change could bring explosive growth to Amino in terms of number of active users. Anderson did not disclose how many users have joined the communities, but he said the average community has about 40,000 members. Assuming that’s the case with the existing 90 communities, it means Amino could have roughly over 3 million users. (Note that one user could be a member of multiple communities.)
With $8.15 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, Venrock, Google Ventures and BoxGroup, Amino has reportedly grown its user base 3X in the last six months. But it’s unclear how (or if) the company is generating revenue. Anderson says the startup hasn’t committed to any one form of monetization – some options include e-commerce, brand partnerships and advertising. As of now, community curators are non-paid volunteers. Down the road though, Anderson says he’s considering a revenue-share program similar to YouTube’s creator model. In other words, the creator of a hyper-engaged community would get the bulk of the generated revenue, while Amino takes a percentage.
For now, it’s clear the company is after user acquisition. Amino has paid some niche interest fan pages and influencers to promote the Amino apps on their networks and help get communities off the ground. Anderson is hopeful that the user-created communities will take off and turn passive users into loyal members.
“A quarter of the things you care about are about your friends and family. Another quarter is about your work life and your work friends,” Anderson says. “Facebook and LinkedIn have those two areas covered, but there’s room for all of those other little interests you have. We want Amino to be the place to go for those 10 to 20 other things you really, really care about.”