Bragshare is a new social media site that lets you express yourself in a novel and dynamic way—and discover what’s most meaningful to other people. Its creation has been something of a human drama, too.
Imagine a social media site where you could create your own three-dimensional profile—sketching out who you are, where you came from, what you hope to become in the future. A place where you can define yourself not just by your career, but as a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a son or daughter, a friend, and a coworker, as well as someone who is passionate, say, about basketball or basket weaving. And you can share it with a select audience or the entire world. Now suppose this site were organized so that you could discover as much about other people as yourself—about those who are famous, along with those you’ve never heard of. An online community where everyone is someone.
That site now exists and it’s called Bragshare. Recently launched by Salt Lake City-area co-founders Chad Gundry and Daniel Coburn, Bragshare isn’t designed to overthrow Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; it’s intended to augment them. “It’s a place where all the things that matter most in a person’s life—posts, pictures, videos—can be captured, displayed, and organized in ways they’ve never been before,” says Gundry, 36, who has labored for six years to realize his idea. “These are all the passions, motivations, thoughts, and events that make me who I am.”
Free and intuitively simple to use, Bragshare consists of three main parts. The Bragboard, or home page, tells you what brags are trending and allows you to search for any kind of content among all site members. The Bragfeed very much resembles newsfeeds on familiar social media sites: You can view what your friends are posting and share all brags to other sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Easily the most innovative aspect of the site, the Bragline is a richly-populated timeline of an individual, which organizes “life data” according to months and years. There you can create the milestones of your own life or find the most compelling written and visual information about people. You can upload posts from other social sites, and share your own content on major social sites.
One Bragshare feature you won’t find on other sites: a direct link to FamilySearch.org, the world’s largest online genealogical database, to help users find and brag about family members and ancestors they admire most. Those stories can be organized, displayed, and shared across Bragshare. Having a better appreciation of where you came from and what your forebears were like, Gundry says, helps you connect with others who have influenced you in some way. And it changes the dynamics of user-generated content and the nature of online storytelling.
“People are naturally proud to share the accomplishments of their own family,” explains Gundry. “I think about the achievements of my grandpa, a pilot in World War II known to a relatively few people in the U.S. Army Air Corps, his family, and friends. Now, anyone can learn about what he did.” Still, you don’t need to be a war hero to be recognized. “The kid who gets up on stage and performs beautiful music has as much right to be found as Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards,” says Coburn, 45. “The idea is to give more voice to people doing extraordinary things in ordinary life.” And what works for individuals can be built for companies, too.
Gundry’s own Bragline is a chronicle of epic struggle. Nothing like the hardship and privations of his great-great-grandfather Knight and his generation, as they trudged across the country from Nauvoo, Illinois, into the Salt Lake Valley nearly 170 years ago. But his entrepreneurial road has been hard and deeply rutted, punctuated by occasional hope and multiple setbacks. “It’s been the toughest and most rewarding years of my life,” Gundry reflects. “I had a foreclosure, got laid off, and moved with my wife and six kids four times.” Coburn hasn’t had it particularly easy, either, undergoing two divorces, juggling three kids, and passing through five different jobs.
The original idea for the site hit Gundry in the wee hours back in 2010, when he awoke and excitedly committed his thoughts to paper. “I loved social media, but knew nothing about advertising online, how to build a website—or where to begin.” A local designer convinced him he’d need to shell out a minimum of $75,000-$250,000 to build it. Then earning mid-five figures as director of business development at Predictive Index Worldwide, which offered employee behavior assessment for companies, Gundry needed, but could scarcely afford, help in building some visual mockups to guide his thinking. Still, laid out two grand—and kept that fact from his wife.
Attending a family history conference invigorated his idea. Guest speaker David McCullough, an author of so many popular histories, described the power of ancestry, saying, “There really is no such thing as the past. No one really lived in the past. They lived in the present, their present.” Recalls Gundry: “I decided then that Bragshare would not only celebrate the achievements of the living but of the dead.” Galvanized by the new direction, Gundry went in search of backers, begging his father, his grandparents, even his neighbors for a loan. They all liked the idea, but their wallets stayed in their pockets. “It was very depressing,” he says.
Two years of lurching starts and extinguished hopes dragged by. Gundry had switched jobs twice and was now on the senior digital sales team at Deseret Digital Media (KSL.com). That’s where he met Coburn, who was director of product. By then, Coburn had kicked around a lot of places—Union Pacific, Northrop Grumman, MMOGuru, Overstock.com—but he’d been actively engaged with the Internet and social media since their inception, working on the Arpanet while a student at Texas A&M. “He started talking about BragShare one day and it was a light bulb moment,” Coburn remembers. “It was a pretty good idea, but it needed to be fleshed out. I saw where it could go—making a discovery engine that could increase anyone’s social awareness by stepping through data that’s meaningful.”
Says Gundry: “I realized I needed someone extremely smart. This became his baby, too, and he gave me the confidence to move on.” The two started working together every weekend, Gundry bringing his expertise in behavioral insights, communications skills, and business acumen, and Coburn contributing mightily on the technical end and product development, and pushing the idea of discovery—or what he calls “spidering” through associated events.
The discovery aspect is intriguing—and potentially endless. Say you decide to follow someone who posted about having dinner in the Park City, the Utah ski resort. You might want to find out what else is going on there. That search might take you to Olympic Park, for example, and to snowboarding. From there you might look up brags about Shaun White, where you discover he was raised by a single mother. That could lead you down the path to other famous people raised by just their moms, CEOs, say. And so forth. “Now, you’re discovering a phenomenal world around you that you never knew existed,” explains Coburn.
For eight months or so they discussed plans for the site every day, refining the idea. When they described an increasingly complex site to various developers, people told them they would need to spend a fortune to build it out. Finally came a big meeting with a local venture capitalist. He said it sounded cool, but thought social media was too crowded a field. Gundry and Coburn heard the familiar sound of the click of a closed door. “This was absolutely devastating to me,” Gundry recalls. “I didn’t know where to go.”
But he wouldn’t let go of the idea. Coburn started tinkering with something that utilized cheap software online and spent nearly half a year building a site. “But as I saw the progress stagnate and what it looked like,” sighs Gundry, “I realized there was no way it was going to work.”
By 2014, Gundry had become a senior account executive at Rakuten Marketing on behalf of the giant Japanese online retailer. He was not only making good money, he was learning about the precise targeting of ads. Making the best use of what people would share and post themselves on Bragshare, Gundry figured he could amass individualized data profiles on potentially millions of people that would be meaningful to advertisers, which could then serve up appropriate and contextual native ads. To make the data more useful, he and Coburn developed another key feature for the site: a rating system of three stars—pushing well beyond the standard “Like” option—that could gauge the degree of a person’s passions about a particular subject.
Users could also express their passions via proposed Classifieds and Jobs sections. In the first, they’d be able to sell things that meant something to them, creating personalized ads. In the second instance, folks looking for work could display their unique talents to the world.
But who would help build Bragshare as the duo conceived of it, finally make it happen? Gundry confided in a few Rakuten engineers, who directed them to three website architects. But, once pitched, those guys backed away, daunted by the scale of the project and amount of money Gundry and Coburn were willing to pay. Hope stirred again after Coburn found some contractors in the Philippines, who appeared to be the chosen ones—who could, at last, bring Bragshare to life. After weeks of discussions, down to the smallest details, they created a version of the Bragline for $1,000. But then, inexplicably, they went dark. Back to the all-too-familiar drawing board.
Last year, they caught a break that, says Gundry, “saved the day—and my sanity.” Coburn, then the president of Agility Digital, which helps market companies online, started working with Brainvire, a software developer in India. Maybe these guys could do what no one else seemed willing or able to do? Gundry was skeptical until Brainvire’s CEO, Chintan Shah, called him and they spent hours talking about Bragshare. He and his team really knew social media. Then the bid came in to build the entire site. Gundry almost couldn’t swallow. It was his entire savings. Still, it was one-third the cost of creating it in America. Construction started last October.
Bragshare launched in late March. Gundry and Coburn have pitched to several investors. There’s been a lot of interest but, so far, no backers; everyone wants to see site traffic numbers first. It’s the same with potential advertisers. That may soon change.
“Money is great, though this has never been about making money,” Gundry insists. “It’s always been about people, the living and the dead, about bringing their lives and achievements to the forefront, teaching the world the intrinsic value of every person—and giving others the opportunity to learn from each other.”
Learning, indeed. If nothing else, Bragshare is already a solid case study of perseverance, of refusing to give up on a dream.