Ever since the advent of Twitter, hashtags have become an ubiquitous part of our lives. Nary a social networking site doesn’t have them these days, with Facebook being the latest to join the bandwagon. Hashtags are meant to help you find things, but what if you could also collate content based on them to create something new? This is the very idea that Mihaly Borbely, Tamas Kokeny and Peter Langmar – a group of photographers and developers from Budapest had. Together they founded Brickflow, a startup that turns hashtags into stories. Borbely chanced across the idea while working on a short film with Rubik. His aim was to assemble together content from the web in a new and playful way, and when they couldn’t find any simple tools with which to do it, they decided to build one themselves. The project remained nebulous at the beginning without the presence of a developer, but when lead engineer Kokeny joined them with a “functional and sexy interface draft”, they knew that they were good to go.
“I’m on a roll, I feel my luck could change…”
One of Hungary’s startup success stories, Brickflow’s rise has been spectacular and exhilarating. Strapped for funding, they turned to crowdfunding with Indiegogo where they raised $10,000. A few months later, they had a working prototype and started attending a plethora of startup events all over Europe, but to no avail. But their luck turned around as they were selected for Startup Chile, one of the best known accelerator programs in the world, and later on, for the Startup Wise Guys program in Tallinn, Estonia.
Like playing with Lego bricks
The reason behind Brickflow’s success is the simplicity of the concept. Brickflow uses hashtags to curate content from various social networking sites and lets you play around with them to create something visually pleasing and tell a story. Aggregating your content with hashtags is merely the first step. The point of the app is not just finding media using hashtags but to storify it as well. The builder tool is what comes in handy here as it is at the center of what of what runs the app. It is what helps make unique stories out of the tagged contents on a tactile, zooming interface using which feels like playing with Lego “bricks” (hence the name). There are already thousands of stories on the site generated by the beta users using hundreds of thousands of hashtagged elements.
The new form of self-expression
According to Borbely, curated storytelling is here to stay as more and even more bloggers turn to microblogging formats. “Hashtags are becoming mainstream. Vine and Instagram are widely popular. This is a totally new form of self-expression: a few seconds of square-shaped video, low-res snapshots, 140 characters of text,” he says. Brickflow lets you aggregate tweets, photos from Instagram, and, most recently, content from Tumblr as well. More sites like Instagram video and Vine are scheduled to be added soon. The curated stories are embeddable so bloggers can make full use of them. Borbely is confident that people other than bloggers will have use of the platform too. “This will open up a whole new world of possibilities for making crowdsourced marketing videos, or even short films, quickly and playfully,” he asserts.
The democratization of creativity
Brickflow can have a multitude of uses in the new media – just imagine an event venue for a brand promotion, with different stories created by the brand on Brickflow being projected onto a live hashtag wall. At present, Chembe Ventures is one company which has been using the app to tell their story, with more to hopefully follow. The beta phase will be over soon and the app is set to launch in July. “Do you remember being a child? Sitting on a carpet with a bunch of friends and playing with Lego,” their pitch video goes. “ Building things freely – brick by brick together…we were all creative while playing…with an open playground creativity can be democratized.” Democratization of creativity is the founders’ vision and together they are making it a reality.