27 Oct

Living Junction is a social publishing platform that let’s you drag-and-drop rich media content to the pages of your own gorgeous magazine to bring your favorite topics alive.

Today we have interviewed Mr. ‘Olli Laesvirta‘; Co-Founder & CEO of the Finland (Helsinki)-based start-up “Living Junction” about his company.

“Living Junction” is a social publishing platform that let’s you drag-and-drop rich media content to the pages of your own gorgeous magazine to bring your favorite topics alive.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Laesvirta’ regarding his start-up “Living Junction”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Living Junction” is all about?

Living Junction is a social publishing platform that let’s you drag-and-drop rich media content to the pages of your own gorgeous magazine to bring your favorite topics alive. 

Each magazine you create comes with a set of social features helping you create micro communities of interest around the topics you love.

You can upload your photos from your computer, grab them from your Facebook albums – or search for suitable content using Bing or YouTube right inside the magazine editor. Creativity is not bound by themes or templates – you can rotate, resize, add frames and shadows to make the pages of your magazines look just the way you like.

2. When has “Living Junction” been founded? And what stage is “Living Junction” currently at?

Living Junction was founded in November 2011 in Helsinki, Finland. We released our first MVP in January 2012 for a small group of test users and iterated the concept based on the feedback we received.

We launched the first BETA version of the service with the concept of User Created Social Magazines in March 2012 and ever since then, we’ve been building and perfecting the service with the help from our growing community of enthusiastic users.

3. What is “Living Junction”’s business model and how does it work?

We are looking into implementing two different kind of revenue streams for the service.

First of all, we’re working with brands to allow their online communities build great looking social magazines around the themes of the brand.

In addition, we’re looking into advertising based business model, which would fit naturally into the magazine concept with clear, visual and well targeted ads inside the magazines.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

We’re a team of five guys who have been working together on a different project for a while.

The team consists of three developers working on the platform, one community manager in charge of building and cherishing the community and I as the CEO am focused on building the product vision, building commercial partnerships and taking care of all the financial/operational stuff that comes with the role.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

We’re building a dead simple way for casual users to mashup digital content like pictures, videos, sound, text, etc. from different sources into a social magazine that they can use to express their hobbies and interests.

The magazine not only works as a delivery vehicle for the content, but it’s also a social object which allows building small micro communities around specific topics, bringing together people from all over the world and connecting them through that specific topic that they really enjoy.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Living Junction” achieved so far?

Living Junction is still in an early phase. We’re trying out different things and trying to make the experience as casual as possible for our users.

Our community has been growing at an above 50% month-to-month rate for the last six months, mainly through people inviting their friends and family to check out their creations in the service.

The rest of the year will be huge for us with high user growth, commercial partnerships and new platforms we’re launching.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Living Junction”’s competitive advantage over them?

We’re in the consumer web space with a service that has a social edge, so obviously there’s a lot of players competing for the time and mindshare of the users.

To be more precise, I see the main competition to come from two fronts – the traditional publishing platforms (Blogging platforms), as well as, the newer curated web services like Pinterest, Scoop.it, Paper.li, Storify just to mention a few.

What really sets us apart is the ability to be creative while mashing together curated web content with your own narrative and design.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

When you’re building something new that really tries to utilize the web browser capabilities to the fullest extent you’re bound to come up with technical challenges related to compatibility, performance, etc.

We’ve had to make a lot of tradeoffs between reach/compatibility and functionality.

Other than that, we’ve faced the same obstacles that probably many other startups do – how to communicate your early vision, get people exited about it and get them to hop on board.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

Things that “outsiders” often overlook when thinking about web and mobile applications is the time, effort and iterations required to: 

1.) build a great sales pitch that gets people exited enough to try out the service and, 

2.) build a killer on boarding process that makes people get what you’re trying to achieve with the product and commit to using it, and finally 

3.) continue providing a great and deep user experience which brings the users back and makes them want to tell their friends about the service.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

For us there’s really three building blocks that will define our success; having a great product that people want to use and tell their friends about, offer attractive and engaging content that people are drawn back to over and over again and having strong partnerships that have a clear mutual benefit and a clear value proposition for our users.

We’re dedicated to bringing these pieces together and making it happen.

11. If “Living Junction” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

There is of course a lot of alternative paths that we can take and it’s too early to says which ones will make sense in the future.

One idea I like to play around with is that there’s a big opportunity in being able to offer magazine like coverage and reading experience in all the long tail topics and categories that are not feasible for the current editorial centric publishing companies.

The power of crowds being brought together to create content on their favorite topics fits nicely into this kind of a vision.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Living Junction” based on?

I’ve been looking into different approaches to bring together interest based communities and also been pretty interested in the evolving capabilities of open web standards.

Living Junction really ties these two concepts together – giving users practically unlimited creative power to express themselves around topics that they love and providing tools to form communities, connect with new people and communicate about the shared interest.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

The whole process has been a great learning experience in so many ways.

One of the things that sticks out is how simple your product needs to be get people to try it out.

We’ve put a lot of energy to streamlining the user experience and dropping features that make the content creation complicated so it would be really easy for anyone to pick up and start using the service.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Probably scaling and improving the performance of the service.

Our service has a lot of images and videos which have to be scaled and loaded simultaneously to create a great user experience for the user consuming the content.

This will continue to be one of the biggest technical challenges going forward.

From a business perspective, we’re going to be looking for a scalable and unique value proposition for brands connecting with out platform.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

The reason why our user love the service is that Living Junction gives them a creative outlet to express themselves, create an identity around the topics they can relate to and the possibility to connect with other people, usually outside of their current social graph, who’re interested in the same topic.

All this is packed into a really casual and easy to use platform making it accessible to anyone regardless of their background.

16. How did customers/users find out about you?

We started out with just a few friends and family members testing out the service and giving us feedback on it.

From there we’ve basically just grown through people telling their friends about the service and got some media attention in some industry blogs.

One thing led to another and now we’re seeing traffic from all over the world.

We have been careful not spend money on advertising as we still have some optimization to do in the user on boarding process.

17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?

We’re still in an early phase with the service, so a big portion of our users are early adopters looking to try out new services in the consumer web space.

We’ve started to see two different user trends outside the traditional early adopters; the first one being late teens using the service to create their own visual fashion magazines with a lot of stylish layouts and music videos and the second one being hobbyists interested in things like cars, DIY and parkour.

18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

Big part of our new customers come from invitations and other viral channels.

We have had some media coverage in smaller tech blogs and obviously those brought us some early adopters.

New users try out the service because the value proposition is unique and intriguing and the service is very casual so it’s easy to get started. In the future, our main sources for new users are likely to be content, virality and partnerships.

19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?

The feedback from our users has been positive beyond all our expectations.

People send us email saying “I love you” , “I’m really impressed”, “this is a really interesting opportunity, especially for freelance writers” and so on.

It’s really reassuring. We’ve even seen some creative individuals grab our whole service and serve it through an iframe on their own website.

These kinds of things are really great and give us a strong indication that we’re on to something.

20. How are you going to scale?

For us there’s really three building blocks that will define our success; having a great product that people want to use and tell their friends about, offer attractive and engaging content that people are drawn back to over and over again and having strong partnerships that have a clear mutual benefit and a clear value proposition for our users.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

One of the things that we get asked by our users frequently is the possibility for content creators to monetize with the magazines they create using Living Junction.

This is something that we’re looking into and will probably implement it one way or another in the near future.

Right now our main focus is on streamlining the user experience so that even the most casual web users can enjoy it.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

Coming from Finland, it has been clear to us from the start that we’re going to be a global company.

We currently have users from over 120 countries.

Finland has some great perks for tech startups but its clear to us that penetrating the US market is the key to any consumer web company.

In addition to the english speaking markets, we’ve received a lot of traction from the Spanish speaking which has made us think about localizing the service to different language areas.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

Let’s see how things play out. Naturally our ambitions are high and the markets that we’re looking at are huge.

The consumer web space is extremely competitive and there’s a lot of established and capable players.

We’ve been able to find our own niche and create a service that provides a well differentiated value proposition for the users.

The key to our success will now depend on execution, on our ability to provide a super casual and attractive offering for our users.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We’re looking to do a couple of new hires during the next couple of months. Mainly designers/developers.

We’re always interested in hearing from all types of people who have experience and insight in publishing and consumer web.

People can reach us from our company email livingjunction@livingjunction.com, through Twitter @livingjunction, through Facebook http://facebook.com/livingjunction or by looking up our names from Linkedin.

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

We’re interested in both commercial partnerships with brands and media companies, as well as, technology partnerships with social networs and content services.

We’re always happy to talk to Venture Capitalists and people who have good insight and connections to the consumer web and media space especially in the US.

For these kinds of inquiries you can contact me directly at olli.laesvirta@livingjunction.com

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

One quote that I feel reflects the entrepreneurial path/spirit nicely is “There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying.

The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” – Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide

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