These are not the best of times for launching a new social media platform. Since the 2016 US Presidential elections the reputation of any type of social network has been severely tarnished by Facebook and Twitter's inability to control fake news, hate speech and the failure of their AI technologies to guard US democracy from nefarious actions by foreign agents.
The recent launch of ChekMarc might help restore people's trust in certain forms of online community. ChekMarc's mission is virtuous: it seeks to connect people who want to help others -- no matter where in the world. And surely, there's no room for malice in such an environment, hopefully.
I spoke with Marc Kaplan, the CEO and co-founder of ChekMarc, who sincerely believes that there are many people that want to help others, and it is possible to create a social network that is positive, productive and inspiring.
Such terms are rarely applied to Facebook and Twitter where stories of bullying and rampant negativity abound.
Kaplan doesn't want any misbehaving people on ChekMarc -- trolls will be severely disappointed.
"We are spending a lot of money on moderating our community because we know it is important for people to feel safe and encouraged to share and contribute their knowledge and wisdom," says Kaplan.
His background would not suggest a future running a social network. He is a 15-year veteran of Deloitte, specializing in relaunching troubled companies, and more recently, developing strategies for a 12,500-strong workforce in risk consulting and financial advisory services.
He readily admits he has had very little personal online experience with Facebook, Twitter, or any other social platform, but that can be an advantage. I've often seen that a fresh pair of eyes can see solutions that have been missed by others.
Kaplan has another advantage: time.
"We are letting the site develop organically, we are staying out of being directly involved in its activities because we don't want to directly influence things, we want to learn from the community and incorporate that into the growth of the site," Kaplan says.
Over the next few months Kaplan and his team will distill the insights gained from this first phase and introduce supportive features.
"We are self-financed which means we are not under pressure from investors to rush things towards revenues. That's also why we avoided raising money from venture capital firms so that we would have the runway to further develop ChekMarc," says Kaplan.
Currently, the site works by connecting people anonymously with each other. A person needs help with a business problem or any type of problem such as writing a book, reaching fitness goals; and another person then offers their expertise to help them.
I like the idea and the sentiment behind the ChekMarc platform -- and the ambitions of the founders to build a global network for good from the very start -- supporting 35 languages.
I also see a lot of people looking for opportunities to contribute to projects that do something good, a charity, or taking action in a good cause.
I'd love to see a service that can connect me with an organization that needs my help, my skills set, and then I could devote say, my Friday afternoons to working and helping others.
Personally, I'd rather work with local charities and organizations than do something online through an anonymous global portal dealing with anonymous entities somewhere in the world -- as ChekMarc currently offers.
However, it's clear that Kaplan and his team have the patience to study their community and find out what is working and what needs to be added. By this summer ChekMarc will be different and improved -- and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves.
Kaplan believes that there's inherent altruistic drive within people -- a desire to help others -- and if there's a relatively frictionless solution people will use it.
I think that he's right -- and ChekMarc's challenge now is to become the right solution to enable people to scratch that itch.