Alex Don ’22 creates an audio-based social media app

Social media, in principle, is a tool for connection. Regardless of their location, users can connect with anyone across the world and share photos, videos, and a plethora of other types of content. But, as documentaries like the Social Dilemma reveal, because of social media’s influence on our lives, people have become skeptical on whether platforms like Instagram and Twitter a positive or negative force are. 

Alex Don, a junior studying both Marketing and EEE at the Whitman School of Management, is originally from Mountain View, California. He saw a huge flaw in the social media market. “Social media has been used and advertised incorrectly as a tool to promote an idealized self-image,” he says. “Instead of being a hindrance to connectivity, social media should be an outlet for healthy self-expression.”

That’s why he decided to create his own social media platform called CIRUS. CIRUS is an audio-based social media app where users get 90 seconds to create and share creative audio content. “We want to become the TikTok of podcasting and music,” Don says, “The best comparison I can give is the analogy of a TikTok of sound, as we are eliminating the visual aspect of social media.  We want to promote the users’ voice over an idealized image.”

Growing up in Taiwan, his entrepreneurial spirit emerged at a young age. “I curated the selling and trading of comics during middle school which helped me realize the value of entrepreneurship and helped me solidify that as a path I wanted to take.” 

As he got older, Don had the opportunity to intern at Regent Hotel where he fostered a love for marketing and more specifically, social media marketing. During his time at Regent, he grew the hotel’s Instagram following from 52 to 9,000 followers and he knew he had a knack for creating online communities. 

He started CIRUS with the idea of creating a business model that is effective yet distinct from other social media platforms. He says, “A lot of apps use an ad-based model, but everyone knows ads are annoying and disruptive.  I thought there was a better way to advertise.”

For CIRUS, Don wanted to use create an attention-based model. He says, “Rather than interrupting users’ attention in order to market to them, we want to capture our user’s attention through content they are listening to or creating on our app, and through direct marketing we will be able to direct our users’ attention to products that they are genuinely interested in, leading to a genuine buy.”

He recognizes how important content is in capturing a user’s attention especially in today’s society where people’s attention can get so fragmented.

Like with any startup, he and his team have encountered some challenges along the way, but he’s realized the value of obstacles and how they help you grow your business. He says, “At first there was some stagnation as I tried to get people to work with me, but I’ve learned it’s okay to go slow and build a plan so that your business can be more successful in the long run.”

Alex has competed in several campus competitions coordinated by the LaunchPad and is excited to continue to showcase CIRUS and its capabilities.

To learn more about CIRUS visit its website.

Story by Jack Lyons ‘22, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photos and graphics supplied