Banjo’s growth shows that listening to your customers must be powered by strong technology

Earlier this week, our friends at Banjo announced they had passed the one million users milestone, an impressive feat after just nine months of availability. Speaking with BetaKit, Banjo’s Director of Engagement, Jennifer Peck, attributed the app’s rapid growth to a willingness to listen and deploy changes based upon user feedback.

Banjo founder Damien Patton confirmed this sentiment a few months back in an interview with our own Rob Woodbridge, citing quick integration of social networks like Instagram upon request as an example. However, the below statement from Patton indicates that there’s more to Banjo’s growth than simply adopting a rapid response policy.

Version 1 to version 2, why you saw that happen so quickly is we had gotten so many users already, at over a half a million at that point. We had learned a lot. There was no sense in saying, “Well, let’s wait until we get to a million and then take out this stuff.” No. Users didn’t like the stuff. It’s out of there.

Then users told us, “Hey, we’d like to have more friend alerts. We’d like to get notified in these kinds of cases instead. I’d like to be able to search for my interest when I go anywhere in the world, not just where I’m at now.” Because of that, we built it and we put it out there. Rodrigo, our UX guy did an amazing job. Now you can use it and it’s so simple and so fast. Don’t be mistaken for that simplicity and how lightning fast it is to use, it’s the technology that’s under the hood that drives that.

Why is it so important for a LoMoSo app to have the right technology under the hood? Isn’t it just a matter of hooking your service up to the APIs of popular networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare? We’ll, when you’re trying to be the mobile connection engine for every social network, things get a little more complicated.

Patton explains:

The core of it, if you get back to it, is about this connection engine. It’s about us not missing out on the things that are important to us. Banjo make its easy to connect, like spokes on a wheel.

Actually, I explain it like a spider web. If you think about it, if this was one social network and this is another, they cross. Sometimes you see, like on Twitter you’ll see this tweet out of your foursquare check in or on Facebook something you shared from a picture from Instagram, and they cross. Like a spider web, there are all of these gaps. Banjo fills in all those gaps and connects everything. That’s the main idea.

So how does a nine month old company set out to build the LoMoSo spider web? By setting the right priorities and hiring amazingly talented people to deliver on them.

We have some really amazing people here, not just Yann but some really amazing engineers that we’ve been able to hire since launch because they’ve been captivated by, not only the idea of Banjo, but truly the technology that we’re building here. We were able to get someone like Yann who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence to leave a company like Netflix. We have people here from Google. We have the Director of Engineering from Second Life’s social web services that’s here now. A lot of really great engineers and talent.

First of all, they come into this knowing that it’s not an app. They come into this knowing that it is a big idea. They come to it knowing what we want to solve. Just like with friend alerts, this isn’t another social network where you have to invite someone and they have to also be a member of Banjo. What makes this so special is that once I join it, I already belong to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. All of those friends out there that are on those other social networks and fragmented, they don’t all have to come in and be part of Banjo, yet Banjo let’s me know when those things that are important to me are nearby. It’s that type of technology.

If we’re a technology company, then we’ve got to live and breathe and die by the technology. What that is, is the information we learn from you, the user. When you don’t like something, and we’ve spent 80 hours just sweating over this thing, and the user doesn’t like it, if we can’t improve it, then we get rid if it. We don’t get emotional about it. It’s gone.

Damien makes the claim later in the interview that he doesn’t he doesn’t want Banjo to require users to take their smartphone out of their pocket to derive value from the service. It’s a bold claim, and one that demands both vision and execution to deliver. By focusing on building the right technology to quickly satisfy the evolving needs of its user base, Banjo is on the right path.

To check out the complete UNTETHER.tv interview with Banjo’s Damien Patton, hit the below links.

From Desert Storm to NASCAR Chief Mechanic to founder and CEO of Banjo – with Damien Patton (Part 1)
Why success for Banjo means you shouldn’t need to take your phone out of your pocket – with founder Damien Patton (Part 2)
How Banjo decides when to turn on revenue and the perils of doing that too soon – with founder Damien Patton (Part 3)

About the author

Douglas Soltys

Douglas is the former Editor-In-Chief of Inside BlackBerry, BlackBerry Cool, and QuicklyBored, which he launched as a mobile gaming industry site. His knowledge of mobile and social media led him to a job at RIM (BlackBerry), where he got to travel the world and do lots of cool things. He is often left-handed, but rarely sinister.

  • Great post Douglas! Thanks!

  • Hey, my pleasure! Make sure you drop us an email the next time you’re making a cool infographic!

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