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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Pune Inc: $1 million funding for startup founded by Pune youth

Un1Feed, which is based in San Francisco Bay Area, wants to help users take control of their social media activity.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: January 26, 2022 12:54:23 pm
Hardik Patil and Ansh Nanda

A startup called Un1Feed, founded by two college dropouts — 19-year-old Hardik Patil from Pune and 20-year-old Ansh Nanda from Delhi — has raised $1 million in funding. Un1Feed’s purpose is to enable people to override and edit their social feed algorithm so they can choose what they see, hear or otherwise consume on social media, “down to every last detail”, by creating their personal feed filter.

“The idea behind Un1Feed has evolved since we first had it, but it started when a common friend of ours was spending a lot of time scrolling through feeds on a social media platform. He was frustrated about how much time he was wasting and tried to delete the app several times but could only do so for a few hours. He would just download the app again and again. This doesn’t happen by chance or coincidence, it is by design. We’ve seen friends and family suffer from social media addiction and related issues, and it gets overlooked simply because it isn’t as visibly destructive as an addiction to other substances. We believe that control over one’s consumption should rest only with the user, and Un1Feed became the suite of tools we decided to build to give users this control,” says Patil.

In 2018, a paper, titled “A Comparative Study on Social Media Usage and Health Status Among Students Studying in Pre-University Colleges of Urban Bengaluru”, revealed that “the prevalence of social media addiction was 36.9 per cent among users, distributed equally among private and government PUs. The most common health problem identified was a strain on the eyes (38.4 per cent), anger (25.5 per cent), and sleep disturbance (26.1 per cent). Being a male, the habit of smoking, alcohol, and tobacco, consumption of junk food, having ringxiety and selfitis were found to be significant risk factors for social media addiction”.

Un1Feed, which is based in San Francisco Bay Area, wants to help users take control of their social media activity. “People my age — Gen Z audiences, typically between the ages of 14-26— spend over 20 per cent of their waking life on social media, with almost no control over the kind of content they consume. In just the past year, nearly half of my generation has attempted to delete their social media account in the US. Our understanding is that this behaviour is equally true for Gen Z users in India. But, attempting to delete a social media account isn’t the same as deleting it and keeping it that way,” says Patil.

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“Gen Z users are attempting to delete their accounts because they recognise the detrimental effects it has on their social and academic life, self-perception, and mental health. Unfortunately, the addictive nature of social apps means these Gen Z users still keep using social media, typically redownloading or restarting their account soon,” he adds.

Using Un1Feed involves downloading the Un1Feed app, logging into one’s preferred social apps on the Un1Feed app, and choosing one’s preferred filters. “You could create a custom feed by simply entering a suitable keyword, and Un1Feed will curate a feed for you. Or, you could choose some of your favourite news accounts, and Un1Feed will find similar accounts and show you a curated feed,” says Patil.

With the current funding, the company is planning to ramp up product development by hiring engineers. “I was lucky to attend Stanford, which is well known for entrepreneurship and the high quality of startups it produces. By dropping out of college, I don’t think I’ve left education behind – I only think I’ve left ‘formal’ education behind. There’s a lot to learn every single day when working on a startup, and it happens at an exponentially faster pace than by attending college and happens in a practical and actionable way,” says Patil.

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