Comedy duo Abbott and Costello were before my time, but I imagine seeing them perform would have been something like Skyping with Laurent Van Winckel and Prameya Bhandari, the creators of Snapdex. In a call that spans three time zones – Bangalore, Brussels, and Washington D.C. – I try to keep my laughter as quiet as possible. It’s the middle of the night for me.
Snapdex, the site they launched this July, is a directory for Snapchat. It makes it easier to find new people to follow on the social network, a feat that’s been notoriously difficult in the past.
“I used to use Snapchat every day before I went to bed,” founder Laurent tells Tech in Asia. “When I was in bed, I’d be watching snaps for like 30 minutes.”
“It’s his bedtime ritual,” Prameya chimes in.
I watch Snapchat before bed as well. I do it to unwind a little and keep up with my friends’ shenanigans, but Laurent watches to get advice from people in the entrepreneur space, such as Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster.
“I wanted to follow more people like that, so I started googling to find more people,” Laurent explains. He came across lists of entrepreneurs, but a lot of them had private accounts. At the most, he found lists of 10 people at a time, which didn’t provide him the range he wanted. He didn’t want that to get in the way of his quest for entrepreneurial advice, so he decided to build his own directory. Snapdex’s name come from Pokedex, the device used by Pokemon trainers in the anime or the games to look up different Pokemon and information about them.
Right now, in order to follow someone on Snapchat, one must have that user’s app handle, the phone number associated with the account, or scan a Snapcode. Finding the exact handle of someone is difficult if you don’t know it already.
Snapdex users can access public Snapchat accounts (like Kylie Jenner’s and Taylor Swift’s) by searching in the directory. If a private user wants to be accessible through the site, he or she submits a profile along with a description and some sample snaps. Each entry is moderated by one of Snapdex’s five-member team. The goal is to keep spammers out, but Laurent adds that ideally the platform is as open as possible to keep Snapchatters accessible.
A visit to the site’s homepage reveals lists of popular Snapchat users, top rated individuals, new Snapchatters, and an editors’ choice section. Users can also explore Snapchat accounts by categories like film, startups, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle.
Laurent began work on the site in May. He says they add 500 profiles a day and have over 1,000 pending profiles at the moment. “It’s hard to keep up,” he admits.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Laurent, who describes himself as a developer-turned-entrepreneur, developed Snapdex, which got featured on Product Hunt last month. He’s also a founding partner at Boot Ventures, a Brussels-based #startup studio and seed stage venture capital firm, as well as co-founder and CEO of Spotia, a software development agency. He previously co-founded online furniture shop Storanza.
When I ask how the five-member team came to meet each other, Prameya’s answer is simple: “We don’t.” The team – comprised of developers, content managers, public relations, and an advisor – works between Belgium, the US, Sweden, and Australia. Their advisor joined the staff two weeks ago after finding them on Product Hunt.
“Laurent and I met on a forum on Google Community,” says Prameya, who was still living in Nepal at the time. Bonding over their mutual love of developing, they struck up a friendship and co-founded a citizen journalism site called CJReport when Prameya moved to New York. “He came over and stayed with me in New York. We went backpacking in Paris,” he continues. “Sometimes people say: How can you make friends online?”
“We’re best friends,” finishes Laurent.
The most difficult aspect of Snapdex’s development was building the site’s ranking system. Snapchat has an open API for ads, but its other APIs have been closed since a hack in 2014 revealed user information. This keeps people from doing a number of things, including analyze Snapchat data.
I gave up on my smartphone for the past four months.
Laurent had to figure out how to analyze users’ popularity without that. He says he can’t disclose exactly how, but part of the formula involves looking at people’s Twitter activity. “The more engagement you have from users, the more popular you are,” he explains. “If you have a lot of attention on Twitter about your Snapchat account, it will put you higher on the most popular list.” Prameya adds that the team also factors in Google search page ranks.
Ironically, Laurent doesn’t have time to hang out on Snapchat anymore. Between his work on Snapdex, he’s been worrying about the advice he’s been missing. “I gave up on my smartphone for the past four months,” he says.
“We’re full-time nerds,” finishes Prameya.