As Facebook turns ten years old, the next big social network may have been born, not at Harvard, but rather in the heart of Glasgow. 2011 Scottish Asian Woman of the Year, Amina Nabi, is the brains behind Kinnect2, a new social network for brands which is growing at a rapid rate. Glasgow Guardian's Alastair Swatland went to meet her.
Guardian: Tell us a bit about yourself before Kinnect2.
Amina: I did a degree in Technology and Business Studies from the University of Strathclyde and an MSE in Technology Entrepreneurship. I worked as a freelance consultant for about five years and then worked in telecoms for about seven months and hated it! After that I became a wedding planner for about seven months. That was amazing!
I then applied for the Saltire fellowship and very fortunately got a place which meant going to Babson College in America. Afterwards, I came back home, worked for a bicycle company for a year or so and saved up enough money so that I could start Kinnect2!
Guardian: Can tell us about Kinnect2 and what it is?
Amina: I looked at what is happening on social media at the moment and how customers interact with brands. Facebook is not working for these brands. We get invasive adverts on Facebook and we hate it. So I thought, "let’s go about creating a social media site just for brands!"
Guardian: What incentives do companies have to join Kinnect2?
Amina: We’ve got an exclusive community who are opinionated about brands, but we also have the ability to share on a wider social network. It means that companies can get feedback directly from consumers, who will get something in return like a certain percentage off a product or they can enter competitions. Kinnect2 is a platform for companies to connect with their brand followers.
Guardian: What challenges have you faced so far in getting Kinnect2 off the ground?
Amina: There have certainly been failures as well as challenges! I started the company with two other people and believed that they were going to be as enthusiastic as me, but this company requires a lot of time and money and they weren’t willing to commit to that.
Another challenge was getting the right technical team, who we found and who are based in Bangalore, India. I have never actually been because I’m of Pakistani ethnicity and can’t go, but my mentor went out there and helped them develop the site.
Guardian: What has the reception been like so far?
Amina: Since going live in November we’ve had over 1,000 sign-ups. We’ve done one competition so far which garnered 280 responses. That’s a 30% engagement which is unheard of in social media! We’re also getting nine brands onto the site within the next few weeks which will be good.
Guardian: Congratulations on your award as Scottish Asian Business Woman of the Year! Can you tell us a bit about that and how you won it?
Amina: I didn’t even know I was nominated! It’s an RBS-sponsored award, where people from around Scotland nominate you before you are interviewed by a panel of entrepreneurs. I was nominated for the category of "Entrepreneur of the Year" award. When I went on the day, I saw that they’d shifted my name to the category of "Businesswoman of the Year". The award came up and I didn’t win it.
I had taken off my high heels and Chris Sullivan, head of RBS came up and announced that I had won this award that I didn’t even know I was nominated for! I was very overwhelmed, but definitely grateful for it.
Guardian: How do you think growing up in Glasgow affected your entrepreneurial spirit?
Amina: I feel like I’ve been born into entrepreneurship really. My dad came to Glasgow 45 years ago and started a successful accountancy firm called Ahmed Nabi MacMullan. A lot of my family’s friends are self-made, but I also made sure that I worked for small businesses so I wasn’t stuck in a system. The Saltire Foundation was one of the biggest life-changing experiences for me, mainly because of their open-mindedness, something that Glasgow needs I think.
Guardian: Glasgow was recently voted as one of the top 10 UK cities to do business in. Do you think that Glasgow, and even Scotland, is doing well in these tough economic times and are good places for business right now?
Amina: Opportunity grows out of necessity. If there is a situation where you can do nothing more than get by then you will do everything in your power to do that. It’s amazing how people have come together. But they do need to be less cynical and maybe more determined in going forward. There is an entrepreneurial renaissance here, but we need investors who are more willing to get on board.
Guardian: Seeing as you’re a bit of a social media guru, it seems fitting to ask: what do you think about the predictions of Facebook’s demise?
Amina: I think in terms of the number of users they have, when they go forward Facebook need to treat them better. They should get rid of all this advertising and maybe change their pricing structure if they want to be sustainable - and they need to buy Kinnect2!
Guardian: Do you think your social network will see you as famous as Mark Zuckerberg in a decade's time?
Amina: I absolutely believe so. Everything takes time, but I hope that I can create something which can grow to sell - something which is big enough for me to hand over to someone who’s better than me to do it!
Guardian: What are your aims for Kinnect2 in a year’s time?
Amina: I would like backing from an investor to grow the team to about 10, bring out an app and get 100 companies on board. I want Kinnect2 to get to a higher level and I know that we can achieve great things.
Guardian: Any final thoughts?
Amina: Right now it is very difficult to convince people on social media. Somewhere like Glasgow University would be a great community to tap into because students provide great feedback to brands. At Babson, we were told to have a symbol in our heads of what success would look like and after a long time thinking about this, the only thing that came into my head was an arc, like a boat, and I want everyone to be on that arc with me.
It’s cheesy, I know, but it represents how much of a community we can build in Kinnect2.