Last week I attended my first Creative Morning in Amsterdam. Hosted in a beautiful building alongside one of the nicest canals in Amsterdam the speaker for the morning was Salar al Khafaji, the founder of the start up Silk, a platform to create, share and find information.
Salar talked about his motivation to create a platform that will hopefully be an integral part of the web that many millions of people will use around the world. Reaching this goal is a huge challenge, particularly when what Silk provide is a solution to a problem that people didn’t know they had in the first place.
Information is a valuable commodity but many people are not aware just how important it is to their lives and how companies like Facebook rely on our personal data to make money. Making sense of the vast amount of data that is out there on the web in meaningful ways can reveal important insights about our lives and society.
Salar used the example of how in 1854 Jon Snow discovered contaminated water in London by plotting deaths from cholera on a map (it’s an example used on their blog). Silk, he believes, can have the same impact. By enabling people to upload their content, structuring and visualising it they can start to see patterns and connections in a meaningful way. What makes this exciting for Salar is that by building a platform and infrastructure that is constantly evolving, its impossible to predict how people will use it in the future. If Silk succeeds then he hopes that one day people can build their own companies on that infrastructure.
So far Silk has only existed for three years and has been successful in receiving seed funding of $1.6 million. But it still needs to grow its user base and monetize the concept.
There was a funny moment when someone in the audience directed a question to the person sitting next to him, who earlier mentioned he was a fan of Silk. He asked, “I’m wondering what a fan of Silk uses it for”. The reply he got was “I don’t use it, I’m more of a browser and interested in its potential”.
Salar didn’t really elaborate too much on how Silk intends to reach or convert people who are just browsing into active users. But its interesting to note that obvious partnerships with media companies (such as the Guardian) are not really a good fit because its hard to deal with publishers as they don’t have a lot of money and resources. Instead the company are focusing on a freemium type service. This would mean access to certain features such as being able to host a Silk app on your own domain, displaying a logo or if you wanted to make your data private then that would cost money to.
Salar did reveal that an interesting trend they are seeing is that companies are using Silk internally to share data such as reports rather than use software that has cost hundreds and thousands of pounds/dollars/euros. It’s probably why they have a demo of a fictitious company on the site to illustrate this.
My first Creative Morning session gave me an insight into a local start up that’s attracting attention. Hopefully future Creative Mornings will focus on creativity and the challenges of bringing to life ideas. For me the morning was a useful way to meet a few locals working in the area. I got the impression that there’s lots of activity and energy in Amsterdam with many popular start ups such as 22tracks, Shuffler.fm, Layar and WeTransfer being based here.