Ayman Hariri’s ad-free social app Vero will introduce subscriptions in Q1, 2020 with an annual fee equivalent to “a couple of cups of coffee a year”, the billionaire tech investor told Arabian Business.
The founder and CEO of Vero is the son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and brother of current PM Saad Hariri.
He launched the app in 2015 in a bid to take on existing social platforms like Facebook which mine user data for targeted advertising. He promised a free subscription for life for Vero’s first 1 million users, with subsequent customers paying an annual fee.
So far, Hariri’s Vero has garnered 5 million users.
“We want to time [the launch of] subscriptions with some other activations we have going on, so we’re probably going to be [launching] that in Q1 of 2020,” he said.
“Given the fact that I’m the investor in the company [Vero], we’re not on a timeline that’s similar to others. What we do, we do very properly, and we take opportunities to further our mission with the things that we build,” Hariri added.
The billionaire last month lashed out at Facebook and similar social media platforms for “building addiction into their design” by mining people’s data and insights, affecting their privacy, mental health and even national elections.
Facebook has been embattled by a series of privacy scandals including its sharing of personal information from almost 90 million users through a data-mining company that worked for the 2016 Trump campaign.
Hariri said people are “waking up to the high price of free” which sees them give up something more valuable than their money: their time and data.
He plans on retaining a transparent relationship with Vero users by adopting the ‘simplest form’ of transaction: subscriptions.
“Subscription and paying is the oldest form of transaction. It the simplest and most transparent form: for this money, you will give me a following thing, whether it’s access, ability to do something or service or product, and that’s where we want to be,” he said.
When asked about profitability, Hariri said Vero does not require a large number of subscribers to become sustainable, although it boasts others revenue streams such as a buy-now feature which allows users to make in-app purchases on other users’ profiles should they wish to follow them.
“At some point, we will make money as well. Given our strategy, we don’t need the numbers that others need to attract advertisers and become a sustainable entity. Our sustainability requires much less. We have a smaller team. You look at a company like WhatsApp, who I have a lot of respect for in the way they were doing what they were doing at the time. I remember the three rules were: no gimmicks, no games, no ads.
“You had to pay to download WhatsApp at one point and I’m sure they created revenue streams from carriers to ultimately give it to users for free, but their cost of user was very low and the numbers they had made it sustainable. In our case, we’re looking at subscriptions. We don’t need that many subscribers to be sustainable, and we have other methods of revenue,” he said.
Hariri added that Vero’s buy-now app is "not advertising - it’s a straight forward relationship that isn’t algorithmic".
“If that person has something to post that is a product post, you see it because you follow them, not because they paid us an amount of money to have it show up on different people’s streams,” he said.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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