Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Valedictorian finds success with start-up

Yakka may be the next big thing in social networking


Yakka, a new social networking site launched by Tualatin High graduate Brian Luscombe, is looking for new members.Brian Luscombe isn’t trying to launch the next Facebook — but he does want to start a conversation.

The Tualatin High School graduate has spent the past four months building a social networking platform he describes as “one part Facebook, one part forum, one part chat room.” Working with his cousin Zach Stiggelbout and friend Matt Ricci, Luscombe created Yakka to bring real-time conversation to social media.

As Luscombe, 25, explained, social media outlets such as Facebook can be limiting because you’re associating only with people you’ve designated as “friends.” And if you’ve ever seen your newsfeed fill up with cat photos or off-color political cartoons, you know sharing a friendship with someone doesn’t mean you share their interests.

Other networks, such as Google+, allow you to subscribe to other people’s pages without first friending them. But even then, Luscombe said, social media still operates like more of a board and less of a chat.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Matt Ricci, Zach Stiggelbout and Brian Luscombe co-founded Yakka, a new social media site that promotes discussion between users with similar interests. Yakka is currently live and open to new members. At Yakka, “we’re grouping people based on their interests, rather than who they’re friends with,” said Luscombe. “We’re hoping discussion will happen.”

On Yakka, a “yak” is a conversation on any number of topics. Users create or respond to yaks. Unlike the chat room format that’s faded in popularity in the past decade, real-time chat logs in a yak remain a permanent part of the conversation, along with individual posts or comments. Current yaks include career advice, favorite fashion trends, users’ artwork and even a recipe for a bourbon chocolate milkshake.

“These are basically instantaneous chat rooms that the user creates,” Luscombe said, although he acknowledged that not every yak will inspire discussion. That’s why yaks are weighted by popularity, with more active yaks “sifting” to the top of the page.

“What we’re trying to create is situations where we can see other people who are talking about the same thing, and have real time conversations with them. If you’re going to a yak, you can see the other people who are viewing it, and have a chat with them in real time,” Luscombe said.

Off to a good start

After a soft launch two weeks ago, Yakka now has more than 300 registered users.

Although Luscombe, Stiggelbout and Ricci have put a lot of effort into branding Yakka, they continue to host scheduled yaks to get feedback from users. Luscombe sees Yakka’s potential for being many things to many people. But for the time being, there’s a heavy focus on how it can serve students, particularly at the college level. Because of the chat format and the ease with which users can post links and video, Yakka is poised to become a convenient virtual meeting spot for study groups — a place where students can quite literally compare notes. Luscombe said he and his colleagues have approached a few professors and teaching assistants about using Yakka as a resource.

“We kind of timed the launch a little bit before classes started,” he said. “We are focused on a college audience, specifically the University of Oregon and the University of Washington, where we have the most contacts.”

But they’re not ignoring the social aspect of the tool either, and see campus clubs, fraternities and sororities as part of their key demographic.

A colorful resume

Luscombe has always been interested in entrepreneurship, but it took him a while to go the start-up path. The 2006 Tualatin High School valedictorian studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, inspired in part by an introduction to engineering class he took at Tualatin High. After college, he took a job at Raytheon, a military engineering firm. But it took him only nine months to conclude that the “cubicle lifestyle” was not for him. Luscombe then spent five months working as a logistician for a non-governmental organization focused on cholera relief in Haiti, followed by seven months of backpacking in southeast Asia and India.

When Luscombe returned home to Tualatin earlier this year, Stiggelbout told him about the social media project he was working on. Now, Stiggelbout serves as the lead developer, and Ricci contributes his business savvy. Luscombe describes himself as wearing several different hats at Yakka, and can take credit for much of the site’s sleek design.

Luscombe is now based in Seattle, where he most often works around a kitchen table with Stiggelbout and Ricci. The trio funded the endeavor themselves and are waiting until they reach 10,000 users before they approach possible investors. At 10,000 users, people jump on the social bandwagon, Luscombe explained — it’s the threshold for exponential growth, at least in social media.

Luscombe is confident in Yakka’s growth — and not a little excited to see what the social network will become.

“Are people going to use it like they would Craigslist to find furniture, or are they going to use it like they use Yahoo! Answers? Are they going to use it like they use Reddit? Or maybe people just post funny content, and see what sticks to the pot.”

To try Yakka for yourself, visit htpp://www.yakka.im.