Sink or Swim: Jelly

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jelly Sink or Swim: JellyJelly was founded in April 2013 by Biz Stone and Ben Finkel. After operating in stealth mode for more than six months, the team has released the app almost three weeks ago, both on the Apple store and Google Play. As the website states “let’s help each other”, Jelly is an app for people who need a quick answer from the web. Despite the impressive investors and people on the board of directors, including Bono, Jack Dorsey, Reid Hoffman, Bijan Sabet, Evan Williams and Al Gore, it’s time to analyse this startup.

The app is something between a minimal viable product and a final stable release, without any doubt the team knows what minimalism is about. What firstly impressed me was the simplicity, you can either add an answer or reply to an answer; there is nothing else and that’s what it makes it look nice.

In the past years there has been a lot of talk about Q&A platforms. The first attempt was made by Yahoo Answers, which ended up building a platform for asking stupid and irrelevant things. The key to success in this market is to promote the quality that people share and downvote or delete things that don’t add any value to the questions. This is what Quora was able to achieve in the past years.

They found the key to success and they are now figuring out how to handle the massive amount of information that the website collects everyday. Jelly comes late into this market, but with a different aim. This app is not trying to be the next wikipedia, where people share their own experiences, it’s trying to give us a quick way to know what the things that surround us look like.

Jelly is about taking a quick picture, sharing it and expecting a short answer too. They are trying to fill that need that comes up when we are on a bus and want to know the name of a building, theatre or whatever it comes to our mind. No one has ever tried something like this. Facebook made an attempt with social questions and pools, but they weren’t about pictures.

The main focus here is about pictures and things we meet every day, which is a great thing, because wonderful pictures increase the engagement rate, but can cause problems such as users uploading irrelevant pictures to what they are asking. In the past days, I have come across people uploading desktop backgrounds, logos or screenshots because they didn’t know how to fill the “upload picture” option.

Further Jelly doesn’t group questions in categories, it just uses the social proof model to show you questions made from friends of friends or people you are following on twitter. Although the idea is quite nice, it doesn’t help people, who should bring value to the platform, answer the questions they know. In the same way, users can’t upvote or downvote answers, you can either report them or dislike them.

On the other hand the simplicity and the design makes it an app that I am interested in using, not to know more things, but simply to waste my time while I am on the bus, train, elevator or queueing. If I want to know more things about the world, I will still use Quora or Wikipedia, which are two places where knowledge belongs.

After only three weeks saying that Jelly will sink doesn’t make any sense, because the team has obviously built a MVP to see what traction they can get; but there are so many things that won’t make Jelly as disruptive as other products in the same Q&A market. Answers need to be filtered, questions need categories and the software has to use a lot of machine learning in order to understand what we want to know, but at the moment, it’s not doing it.

The last thing we need to take into account is that this startup is not run by an unexperienced 20 years old guy who wanted to code something. The value that each investor might bring is massive and the experience that Biz Stone has is unique. That’s why I believe we should expect several different pivots in the next months that are going to find the best product within the right community.


Edoardo Moreni

Blogger, Political Activist, Computer Scientist and Italian.