Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to be contacted by Andrea Salvi, Communication Director over at Mperience – an exciting new web venture that you’ll be hearing all about in a matter of a few lines. As it was obvious to me (and the View team) that you fine readers would be interested, I had the pleasure of interviewing the charming Guido Gigante, one of the site’s founders. So without further preamble, meet Mperience…
First, please tell us a bit more about yourself and what your responsibilities are at Mperience.
My name is Guido, I’m 31, and I’m from Rome, Italy. I’m one of the founders at Mperience, and, well, my role is not that clear-cut. We are basically a start-up company, so you have to be prepared to do everything. Let’s say I’m in charge of the stuff that sounds sort of sci-fi, I mean artificial-intelligence, algorithms and the like.
Who else is behind Mperience?
Paolo Baronci, the CEO, and Francesco Carusi, our CTO, my two co-founders, and currently three other brilliant guys.
How does Mperience work? That is, the basic dynamic for users.
Mperience is all about great ideas, artistic ideas. Ideas on Mperience take the form of Memes. Put simply, a Meme is a micro-story where your words are accompanied by images, videos, and sounds. Memes are basically what you create and share on Mperience, like tweets on Twitters or posts on a blog. You just need inspiration, a fragment of a story, an emotion to start with. Maybe an impression that the last book you read has left you or an image from a movie.
On Mperience you gradually develop your idea in a Meme and make it visually attractive, vivid, with little effort. Pictures and videos display smoothly next to the text, exactly when they are needed, with a simple click – no scrolling up and down through a mess of items.
Furthermore, your Meme will find its audience by itself, so to speak. It will be automatically analyzed by our engine and delivered to the people on Mperience who are potentially interested in what you are talking about, be it an emotion/concept, a movie, an artist or whatever. You can see the kind of recommendations the engine is able to give by searching on Mperience, for example, for your favorite movie.
You just have to create a Meme and then watch how far it can go. Unlike a blog post, a successful Meme won’t stop spreading a few days after it’s been created. Of course, you can also post your Meme on Facebook: we plan to make Memes viewable directly on Facebook, and even on the I-Pad, for the best viewing experience.
What inspired you to come up with the idea?
I can answer with just one abstruse word: Memetics. Think of ideas as living beings: they live in the minds of humans, they reproduce by going from one mind to the next, and they evolve, becoming stickier, more contagious, in a sense, at every step. This is, in very simple words, what Memetics states – a fascinating theory we’ve come across sometime ago. That’s where the name meme comes from: as genetics has genes, Memetics has memes.
I’m not sure how true such a theory is, but for sure it’s fascinating. Thus we started thinking about a place that would be a kind of lab for creative ideas, where they could evolve, cross-fertilize, spread, and compete with each other. That was the seminal design of Mperience. To date, the metaphor of the meme has been used by many others on the web: I’m thinking about Yahoo Meme, for example. Yet probably we are taking the Memetics metaphor more seriously than others, more at face value.
How did you get started?
We already had a start-up when Mperience was about to be born, about two years ago. We deal with handwriting recognition from paper documents, a whole different thing. We started little by little to steal some time from the previous venture to work on Mperience, until it became clear what we really wanted to do.
What’s a typical workday at Mperience like?
I don’t think there’s a typical workday at Mperience. Well, of course, we have this office a stone’s throw from the Coliseum in Rome, and more or less every weekday we are there in front of our computers or in the meeting room. But, you know, we are still in an ever-changing phase, where each day – poetically speaking – you face a new challenge.
What’s your favorite part/feature of Mperience?
Oh, well, I’m quite proud of our recommendation engine: at times it’s a bit whacky, but it often works wonders. It’s a creative guy, you know.
What’s the most difficult/frustrating part of this kind of venture?
Well, no doubt about it: fund raising. That’s undoubtedly both frustrating and difficult. As obvious as it can sound, you can have hard times trying to convince someone to bet their money, big money, on your idea.
What’s the long-term goal or vision for Mperience (aside from world domination, etc.)?
Our dream is to become the first site that comes to mind when you feel like choosing or talking about something, let’s say, culturally entertaining, be it a movie, a book, an exhibition or whatever. To become kind of a reference on the web for such things.
What advice can you give to other like-minded individuals?
Speaking to an American public, I think we have much to learn in this respect. In Italy we are lagging behind for what concerns technology, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and so on. Yet I think something’s changing. Maybe slowly, but it’s changing. For my fellows Italians I can say: don’t be afraid to try. It’s not a matter of money or even success. It’s all about working on something that lights your fire, so to speak.
How do you see Mperience as different from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, etc.?
Well, basically we have fewer visitors. Jokes aside, as I said, Mperience is all about great ideas. In this respect, Mperience finds its place in an emerging ecosystem, where Facebook and Twitter play a major role in the spreading of ideas, and Youtube represents a huge source of video material for creating entertaining Memes. Mperience will be thus able to focus on its core business: ideas and entertaining.
Do you have any suggestions for Mperience users?
Yes. Dare. Don’t be kind of politically correct. The ideas we are looking for are enthralling, funny, even outrageous. To discover great ideas you can’t move on a safe ground. So, dare and explore.
There’s a particular sentiment/fear/what-you-will that storytelling is becoming an endangered species in this digital age of ours, but Mperience offers itself as a new easy way to share, not just information, but stories. That’s not quite a question, but I was wondering if you concurred, and whether you think that part of Mperience’s appeal lies in its storytelling dimension?
Storytelling has always been one of the primary ways human beings communicate ideas. It’s probably a fundamental human need. Stories give context, order, and are memorable; this is why they have been so successful. Today, in my opinion the web is somehow “burning” tons of information everyday, because this information often lacks the key elements of a good story. You have a myriad of small chunks of information, with sort of an expiration date on them and a too generic context. Think of your Facebook wall or Twitter stream. Mperience aims at reversing this trend, giving people a place where share ideas that, like the good old fairy-tales, stick in your mind and are somehow “eternal.”
Thanks for taking the time to answer, Guido. Best of luck to you and Mperience. We look forward to seeing it grow!