Wanted: 7 Teams To Build A Billion-User Social Network That Can Replace Facebook

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Tech investor Jason Calacanis is offering $100,000 each to seven tech teams and he’ll host them in a 12-week incubator if they’ll just come up with a better alternative to Facebook.

The offer, known as the Open Book Challenge, promises to fund “seven purpose-driven teams that want to build a billion-user social network to replace Facebook — while protecting consumer privacy.”

Calacanis is the co-founder of Weblogs Inc., a blog network that he started in 2003 with an investment from Mark Cuban and sold to AOL in 2005 for $30 million. Calacanis had an earlier media enterprise that didn’t work out as well. He turned down a $20 million offer for his Silicon Alley Reporter just before the dotcom bubble burst. Calacanis “sold the magazine for next to nothing, and then got fired,” according to Business Insider.

Calacanis is perhaps best known for his rebound. He wrote about it in a 2017 book, “Angel: How to invest in technology startups —Timeless advice from an Angel Investor who turned $100,000 into $100,000,000.”

Most of Calacanis’ money has been made by angel investing. He was an early investor in Uber.

The Open Book challenge is not an idea or business plan competition, according to its home page. “We are looking for teams that can actually build a replacement, and we will be judging teams primarily based on their ability to execute,” the website says.

“We want to invest in replacements that don’t manipulate people and that protect our democracy from bad actors looking to spread misinformation.”

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Calacanis admitted that people love Facebook and Instagram, and that both are ingrained in people’s lives, but he has been a vocal critic, criticising Facebook for its “complete and utter failure of leadership” amid the privacy scandal, CNBC reported.

Facebook is under fire and its stock took a nosedive after reports that conservative research firm Cambridge Analytica gained access to data from 50 million Facebook profiles before the 2016 presidential election.

Zuckerberg has been “MIA,” Calacanis said. “It’s a complete and utter failure of leadership,” he said on “Closing Bell.”

So far, no one has been able to come close to Facebook’s scale — not for lack of trying.

A relaunched MySpace couldn’t bring people back, Mashable reported. Google tried for so very long. Ello, a minimalist social network that received a flurry of signups in 2014, is now more of a Pinterest-style site for sharing art and photography.”

For some investors, Facebook’s vulnerability could represent an opportunity for something new.

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