Over the past eight months, an iOS app called Trusper has built up an impressive audience of five million active users. They share DIY beauty tricks, fashion advice, food recipes and nail art. Lots and lots of nail art.
Trusper is all about users giving each other tips. It’s like Pinterest but simpler — things you can learn at a glance, from your phone, without leaving the app. It’s trimmed down and cutesy compared to some other how-to apps, like the very pretty but not very popular Snapguide.
Trusper is very female-oriented, and it’s also very mobile; most tips are created on the phone, and most tips are consumed on the phone — though they also go viral on sites and apps like Facebook and Pinterest, with 10 million tip views per day. Users earn virtual points for participating by writing tips or following people and liking their tips.
Trusper has raised nearly $6.2 million in Series A funding led by DCM, and it’s “coming out of stealth” today, as well as launching an Android app.
After finding Trusper a while back based on the app charts, I was surprised to learn who is behind it. Let’s just say it’s someone who’s very different from all the young women using this app.
Jack Jia is a Silicon Valley veteran who has started multiple business-to-business companies around content publishing, and was most recently a partner at GSR Ventures.
Jia is not poor — at all — but he’s really cheap. His favorite thing is figuring out how not to pay full price for something — whether it’s avoiding paying a specialized landscaper $350,000 for a backyard golf green by hiring his own workers and going step-by-step through a video on the USGA site (total actual cost: $5,000), or saving his company from paying $10,000 to a commercial moving company by figuring out that a residential moving company can handle cubicles just fine (total actual cost: $1,200).
In an interview, Jia told me “cheap” isn’t exactly the right word. “I’m challenging the norm,” he said. “If it’s already commoditized, there’s no point in challenging it. But there are huge inefficiencies so if you challenge that you can gain an edge.”
Jia said his trick, whether it’s a home remodel or a real estate decision, is not to accept things at face value. Instead, he looks up the seller’s supplier, or trolls Craigslist posts, or whatever the situation requires. “It turns out nothing is rocket science, but the difference between knowing and not knowing is huge,” he said.
That’s the thesis of Trusper: A simple tip, which can be consumed on a mobile screen (usually no more than five steps), is enough to help someone get ahead.
“My personal passion is not beauty,” Jia will readily admit. He said he hopes Trusper will eventually grow to fit his own interests as well. But for now, having an active audience is a good start.
“We’re sort of Quora for non-intellectuals,” Jia said.
Last summer, Jia’s wife set Trusper in its current direction when she posted a make-up tutorial, for which he purchased a Facebook ad. The traffic started snowballing. In June, 2,000 users; in August, 50,000, in December, 1 million.
“My wife is kind of a girlie girl,” Jia said, “and she has all these Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazines stacked up in my bathroom. And for the first time ever I’m reading them this year. I started to compare the kind of tips you find on Trusper to Cosmopolitan, and they’re identical.”