New social audio app Wisdom has launched in the US, UK, Australia and Canada, attempting to "create an inclusive space where diverse people come together to have conversations that matter," according to founder Dayo Akinrinade.
Akinrinade said she was inspired by the success of Clubhouse and Tik Tok, which prompted her to create her own platform that could "democratize access to mentorship."
"As a Black woman working in London's largest diversity startup program One Tech, I've observed firsthand how lack of access to mentors contributes to systemic inequality," Akinrinade explained to ZDNet.
"In addition to this, I observed that would-be mentors on other platforms today have a clear problem: they have no way of engaging the many inbound requests they receive so they ignore them all unless they get a 'warm intro,' which is itself a crystallization of systemic inequality. I created Wisdom to do something about it and democratize access to mentors."
Akinrinade envisions the app focusing on conversations around a variety of topics including parenting, fitness, dating, startups, mental health and beauty. Thousands of people have already signed up to be mentors on the platform, according to Akinrinade.
The app will allow members to chat with experts and listen to live or playback recordings on their own. There will be a timer making sure conversations are not dominated by one person and questions can be queued up.
Wisdom will be powered by a deep-learning neural network that Akinrinade believes will be able to direct users to the kind of conversations they are looking for.
Speakers on the app will be paid in "Mentorcoin," a virtual coin that can be exchanged for Amazon or Starbucks gift cards. The coins can also be donated to charities. The app is free for users but Akinrinade explained that it will provide mentors with "monetization tools" that allow them to grow a business. The monetization features will be added to the app later this year.
She noted that audio-only apps have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years because audio is the "antithesis of the heavily filtered nature of today's visual-led apps." Drop-in social audio like Clubhouse have garnered significant interest because they take "interactions and conversations back to their roots," according to Akinrinade.
"As I saw the beginnings of social audio start to take off with Clubhouse, I saw how audio is the perfect medium for the message of mentorship and advice. Audio is intimate, it can feel as if a person is sitting next to you. It's also authentic and real-time, and good conversations are an exchange and sharing. I felt there was an opportunity to combine mentorship with social audio and create a platform for conversations that matter," Akinrinade said.
She said that Wisdom is different from Clubhouse because it is built from the ground up for mentorship and is focused on 1-to-1 advice for audiences of hundreds.
The Wisdom app is also different because it allows mentors to monetize their expertise while also building their brand. She noted that mentors can even download an MP4 file of their talk and use if for their own podcast or another project.
Wisdom also allows mentors to stay in control of how long each guest can join them, from 1 minute to 60 minutes with a default of 10 minutes.
"When I joined Clubhouse, I started modding rooms about tech and dating. But when I moderate Clubhouse rooms, in addition to thinking and talking, I have to screen the audience's bios, admit guests to the stage and use my phone's timer function to keep the queue of guests moving -- it's a lot to manage at once," Akinrinade said.
"Wisdom is optimized to put the expert in control, with only one guest at a time and a timer format to make it easy and socially acceptable to move on to the next person in line. Wisdom is audio-first and audio-only. I think that the ability to use it hands-free is important. Social audio is at its best when it is truly hands-free."
Unlike Clubhouse, Wisdom shows users a single talk when they open the app and allows them to swipe through different talks, helping the algorithm learn what a user likes.
When asked about the potential for abuse, which has plagued other audio platforms, Akinrinade said they have a proactive monitoring program and a reactive review of abuse reports.
They have a 24/7 human review of all talks while also making it easy to report abusive profiles and talks. She said that as the app scales up, there are plans to leverage an ecosystem of algorithmic moderation providers.
While the app is very different from Clubhouse, Akinrinade noted that Wisdom received an influx of users thanks to being discussed in two very large Clubhouse rooms.
In the first 48 hours, about 10,000 people signed up, including thousands of mentors that she personally recruited in the months leading up to the launch.
"The only way a community can spread is via word of mouth. After every talk, we invite our mentors to share it. One of the hardest things in tech is to make a social app take off. It needs timing, it needs technology, and most of all it needs community. I think the world needs to slow down a bit, to take stock, to reflect, to listen," she explained.
"The Wisdom app is designed for that. It's not as crowded and fast-paced as other social audio apps. Just one app and one community in a sea of social media giants may not be able to change the world but the world changes one person at a time! And that's how Wisdom works, mentors helping one person at a time, but with an audience of thousands. No one else is doing that yet, and if Wisdom can succeed, it will be because our community of mentors embraces it and nurtures it."