We all need a place where we feel safe to express our views or opinions, a place where we feel seen and heard. And sometimes, one has to take the route of anonymity to be oneself without the fear of being misunderstood or attacked.
A platform that is providing a space for more democratic conversations is the Hood app. Founded in 2021 by Jasveer Singh, Abhishek Asthana, and Deepak Kumar, the Gurugram-based start-up became popular after appearing on the second season of the business reality show, Shark Tank India.
The app, formerly called Zorro, has been funded by prominent names within the start-up ecosystem including Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Founder of Paytm), Ashneer Grover (Former Managing Director of BharatPe), and Kunal Shah (Founder of CRED), among others.
An anonymous platform is not a new concept. Orkut, Quora, Reddit, Sarahah, and others are some that have been there, done that. However, the co-founders are confident that this start-up will stand out. “Anonymity apps are not new but the idea is to create multiple interest groups. This is a platform where freer discussions can happen,” Asthana told Business Today.
It is interesting to note that Asthana is not new to the social media world. He also runs the famous Twitter handle Gabbar which has 1.4 million followers. While anonymity does allow room for a lot of discussions, there is a flipside where people communicating are wearing a mask.
A study by Demos has shown that male celebrities, female journalists, and male politicians and women face a lot of hostility online. What is Hood doing to solve this problem?
The company has partnered with law firm Ikigai Law to implement stringent laws and policies. Cases of online harassment also put the spotlight on the responsible use of technology.
Asthana says the company is working towards implementing responsible AI in the bigger sense. But they are not there yet. “We are a work-in-progress. Responsible implementation of technology is something that even the industry bigwigs are working on.”
Asthana also says that when the content of a user lands up on the Hood app, it goes through some filters that are built into the app. The filters are meant to ensure that comments that hurt the sentiments of a particular community, race, or gender are filtered out.
The app has seen over 500,000 downloads since its inception on Google Play Store
The Shark Tank experience
For the unversed, the co-founders of the Hood app who featured on the reality show did not receive a positive response from the sharks at the beginning of the pitch. They were criticised for coming on the show as a marketing gimmick. Their numbers, including their ask for a Rs 600-crore valuation, were also questioned.
Asthana recalls his experience and says that “life inside the tank is tough.” “They aim to create drama on the show. Heightened emotions, whether positive or negative, generate TRPs.”
He also says that there is barely any room for cross-questioning. “The five sharks are very thick. When you start cross-questioning, the other one jumps to defend him or her,” he says.
The founder’s ask was Rs 1.2 crore for 0.2 per cent equity. They closed the deal with Aman Gupta (co-founder of boAt) and Peyush Bansal (co-founder of Lenskart) for Rs 60 lakh in debt (at 12 per cent interest) and Rs 60 lakh in equity at a valuation of Rs 112 crore.
This deal, however, has not been closed as yet, BT has learned. Negotiations are on, but the deal is yet to be finalised, says Asthana.
The entrepreneur says the company is focused on global expansion, particularly, the US. “The US market is good because people are early adopters of technology. There is curiosity around trying out new products. If you don’t venture there, we will be missing out on a very big market,” Asthana aka Gabbar concludes.
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