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Social Media Portal interview with Daniel Offer at Chit Chat for Facebook

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 02 July 2010

Profiled - Chit Chat for Facebook - A dedicated desktop instant messenger for the Facebook chat network


An interview with Daniel Offer, Lead Venture Partner at Chit Chat for Facebook, a dedicated desktop instant messenger for the Facebook chat network


The Social Media Portal (SMP) talks to Daniel Offer about instant messaging, Facebook and the impaction social networks


Chit Chat for Facebook logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your full job title and role at Chit Chat for Facebook?

Daniel Offer (DO): I’m the “Lead Venture Partner” within Chit Chat. My role at Chit Chat for Facebook is to provide strategic direction to new product development, marketing, business development and customer support.  

I then provide practical direction, and assign the tasks to the best people.

SMP: What made you start Chit Chat for Facebook?

DO: It’s going to sound cliché, however, I’ve always had a passion for business – in particular developing and building new things that people want.

I used to run an emoticon website with Henrik whilst I was at University, and we’d been sitting on the idea of a dedicated Facebook instant messaging client for a while so when we had the funds to invest, we started Chit Chat.

Chit Chat started as a side project when I got home from working at Intel, and grew into something much bigger. I’ve since left Intel.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the service so far?

Photograph of Daniel Offer, Lead Venture Partner at Chit Chat for FacebookDO: Whilst there were many challenging aspects – they all boil down to one fundamental problem. Money - in particular, cash flow.

SMP: Briefly tell us a little bit about Chit Chat for Facebook?


DO: Our promotional phrase goes along the lines of – “Chit Chat is a dedicated desktop instant messenger for the Facebook chat network that supports message history, emoticons, text formatting and much more!”

However, a user from the United States whom was curious to know what all the fuss was about described the application as “like Facebook chat in internet explorer, just much better” and wanted to know why we didn’t just describe the application as being like “Facebook chat but better.”

SMP: What was the most challenging aspect of doing this?

DO: At development, Facebook made regular changes to Facebook Chat requiring us to update at short notice, this cost us quite a lot of money and put the project at risk.

We’re actually about to swap over our technology again to make serious improvements to how our software connects with Facebook.

SMP: What other enhancements have you brought to IM that you are particularly proud of?

DO: I ran one of the first few firms that provided high quality custom emoticons to end users of the then MSN Messenger application, indeed, most of the top firms purchased software from me that ran off our installation smiley software.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

DO: Great question, to be honest there is a difference between who our original target audience was and whom our active user base largely consists of.  

Our target audience prior to launching was 18-30 year old females living in Western Europe whom use Facebook on a regular basis to chat with their friends and don’t really care about technology but want things to be easy and work. The rationale, being that this target audience was the user group whom used instant messaging services the most.

Our active user base largely consists of males aged 18-40 whom are technologically aware, geographically scattered and well educated.
 
SMP: How did you initially attract users to your site / service, and how do you do it now?

DO: We initially attracted users via the use of press releases upon launching; now we mainly attract new users by word of mouth and articles featuring Chit Chat.

SMP: What are your low moments of what you have been doing so far?


DO: To be honest, there have been a lot of low moments. That’s just the nature of enterprise. One engaged in enterprise is forever taking two steps forward, and taking one step backwards – that’s just how the game is played. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to start-up something new, and it hasn’t been.

For example, we became particularly popular in a couple of countries – featuring on TV and the radio – then their respective governments decided to block Facebook – and us.

SMP: What are your high moments of what you have been doing so far?


DO: I took a week’s break at Easter to go skiing in France; I took a break from skiing on the Wednesday and discovered that new user statistics had increased fivefold whilst I was away not working.

SMP: Now that you are established, what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

DO: As a business we currently face many risks that in order to minimise we need to grow vertically and horizontally, which we will do organically.

In particular, any weakness in the US dollar will cause us problems.

SMP: What are the next moves for Chit Chat for Facebook?

DO: I can’t say too much, but I can reveal we’re working on a new version that represents a significant update.

We’re also working on launching in new markets, where I’m not at liberty to say yet.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks and is there anything that Chit Chat is doing to address this?

DO: The biggest problem for social media and networks is relevance. If a social medium loses is relevance to its users then it’ll lose its user base – look at Friends Reunited and MySpace.

People will always want to communicate with each other, whether for business or pleasure – hence, we need to ensure that we become increasingly relevant in a users internet lifestyle.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2010?

DO: Site recommendation technology – Twitter, Digg and Buzz for example.

I’m personally interested in whether ‘twitter is here to stay’ and in what form it will evolve.

SMP: What impact is the global recession having and what do you think the best way is to manage it for businesses such as yours?

DO: We were hit hard last year with advertising revenue. It set our release time lines back significantly – however, the strength of the US dollar helped quite a lot.

We diversify our cash folding into a mixture of dollars, euros and pounds sterling.

SMP: How does this fit into plans at Chit Chat for Facebook?

DO: We manage our cash holding to minimize currency risk.

SMP: Best way to contact you?

DO: Email me, offer.daniel @ gmail.com

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

DO: For breakfast I had two crackers with strawberry jam, and a cup of tea. For lunch, I had beans on toast with orange juice.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

DO: My parents managed to have both their cars written off in the same month in accidents. So I lent them my car – both accidents were not their fault according to them and their insurer.

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

DO: It varies between 40 hours and 55 hours, sometimes longer if there is something really pressing that I need to do.

I try to work just 40 hours per week, but often there are things that I need to deal with sooner rather than later.

SMP: If you weren’t running Chit Chat for Facebook what would you be doing?

DO: That’s a thought provoking question. I’d probably be working in Tax somewhere, deciding if something was an allowable expense or not – either that or I’d have won the National Lottery, in which case, I’d probably be bungee jumping or sky diving travelling.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

DO: I last went on holiday in March, I was skiing in Les Alpes in France.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

DO: Get coffee. Check site stats. Get more coffee.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

DO: I’d want the ability to Time Travel. I’m not sure why, it would be pretty cool – or at least that’s the impression I get when I watch Heroes.

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