Social media / Startups

The founders of social media app Prominence have never met in person

Harrison Leavitt is in Delaware. Niall Paterson is in Ireland. Here's how they built a startup together.

Prominence wants to be the next big thing in social media. (Photo by Flickr user Jason A. Howie, used under a Creative Commons license)

Prominence is a new app that launched just a couple of months ago that gamifies social media. Imagine, kinda, if Foursquare/Swarm and Klout mated.
Harrison Leavitt and business partner Niall Paterson have worked across continents to create the app. Leavitt just completed his junior year at the University of Delaware (he’s a business major). Paterson just completed his junior year as well; however, he’s at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and does most of the coding.
The pair met through online social networking and mutual connections. They work using Skype, Facebook video chat, text and email.

Left to right: Will Kerwin, Cameron Chin and Harrison Leavitt. (Courtesy photo)

Left to right: Will Kerwin, Cameron Chin and Harrison Leavitt. (Courtesy photo)

In the app, the usual suspects are there: social feed, engagement score and a leaderboard. Prominence ads a twist, however, it’s heavy on statistics but it’s easy for the average non-data-fiending user to utilize. (Our feature from May has more details.)
“It’s more for the average person and it’s more [about] immediate gratification and the ability to compare and compete with your friends,” Leavitt said in an interview. “When I go into Klout, I had no idea how they counted the score and my score is 10 our of 100. With our app, you see your likes counting up and there’s more gratification involved.”
Along the way, Leavitt and Paterson added two more “partners” to the Prominence team. They’re interested in hiring more but are “not in a rush,” Leavitt said. They’re also interested in help from UX designers.
The initial cost of the app was split between Leavitt and both of his parents, while Paterson joined as an equity partner. Expenses were very low: Leavitt says it cost only $3,000 to develop the app so far. But in order to grow, the cofounders are looking for larger outside funding, ideally from angel investors or VCs. As they look to expand the app’s offerings, the founders are both ready to make their pitch to investors.
“Our goal in the end is really just to become the new social media platform,” said Leavitt. “We’re taking steps in the right direction and we know it’s definitely possible.”
So how does this app make money if it doesn’t run ads? The idea is to have really great content, for one. Prominence will also be open to ideas for sponsored content, but only if it makes sense, Leavitt said. For example, a giveaway with a big brand aimed at fitness enthusiasts. Swag would then be doled out in return.
Paterson plans on visiting New York this summer. Leavitt said he is looking forward to finally meeting his business partner in person.

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