Startups of all stripes want to build capital, but the weeks-old venture of Sydney-based serial entrepreneur Mathew Georghiou is focused on capital of an entirely different kind.
Social capital is at the heart of lokol.me, the latest enterprise from the founder and CEO of software development company MediaSpark and e-learning gaming company GoVenture World. Lokol.me has already seen success, taking home $50,000 as a winner of last fall’s Spark Cape Breton competition.
Lokol.me is a platform for hyper-local publications like goCapeBreton – portals that allow community members to post a range of content, from news to events to job postings to whatever people want to post. In the end, it builds social capital within the community. Its first product is goCapeBreton.com, which launched a few weeks ago.
“My life is a repeated example of social capital at work,” Georghiou said in an interview.
Social capital, he said, is the most important key to success for a community – the sum of all its relationships, networks, skillsets and shared knowledge. It means a geographical community, a real tangible place with real people and families and even a diaspora.
Georghiou tells how, more than 20 years ago, he and his new family were living in Toronto, itching for a change that would bring them back home.
Back in Cape Breton, his mother-in-law spotted an ad in the local newspaper for a new program, offering support for new businesses to set up in the region. She cut it out and mailed it to Toronto. As a result, Georghiou is back home in Sydney, where he’s spent two decades as an entrepreneur.
“My mother-in-law wasn't thinking about economic development when she saw that ad,” Georghiou said. “She was thinking ‘I just want to get my daughter home.’ That's social capital at work.”
Now Georghiou and his president Richard Lorway are developing social capital with their new product, goCapeBreton.com. It is built on a proprietary content management and aggregation platform, designed to allow easy tweaks. And he envisions rolling out similar products far beyond the island’s shores.
“The model we're building here in Cape Breton is completely translatable to any community in the world,” he said. “So the plan is to launch and repeat what we're doing here in potentially thousands of communities around the world.”
By allowing anyone to post, share and react on the goCapeBreton.com site for free, the company crowdsources news, events and more with the goal of facilitating more connections and building more social capital.
“A lot of these connections in the community are happening, but they're happening so rarely and in an unstructured way right now that they don't happen frequently enough to create critical mass,” Georghiou said.
“We describe it as we solve community problems. We don't sell news.”
Less than four weeks since the site went live, Georghiou says they’ve reached 50,000 page views and 25,000 visits.
Especially for the size of the community they serve, he finds those numbers more than encouraging.
“People are saying look we want to be involved in economic development. We want to see our community succeed,” he said. “We're tired of the top down approach to economic development where people are telling us what our community needs.”