Riverside’s Blue Social Revolutionizes the Way We Stay Connected
Blue Social team photo. Courtesy Blue Social
Seven years ago, Jose Montero wrote “next generation networking tool billion-dollar opportunity” on his bathroom mirror, and he’s been cleaning around the phrase ever since.
The founder and CEO of Blue Social got the idea for the mobile application while attending Riverside Community College. He noticed students were walking around campus, not socializing, glued to their phones. He felt social media had the opposite effect — making students less social.
“I knew there had to be a better way to connect our physical and digital identities,” Montero said. The answer was hidden in a familiar and under-exploited technology, Bluetooth.
In 2016, Montero and his team launched on iOS the first Blue Social app that introduced people in proximity using contactless technologies. The team grinded for four years of no pay and sweat equity until the discovery of near-field communication (NFC). The technology, often used for tap to pay, could be used to exchange contact information.
The Blue Social app. Courtesy Blue Social
Revenue from “smart cards” soon followed, and VC and global crowdfunding drew more than $2 million in investments from 4,000 people worldwide. The team grew to 24 people and Blue took over the entire first floor of the former Tenth Street ExCITE Riverside Incubator. Blue was one of the hottest startups in the region until COVID-19 brought business to a screeching halt.
Sales dropped 85% in the first month of the lockdown that began in March 2020. “People were no longer looking to buy smart cards for networking; everyone was buying toilet paper,” Montero said.
As a newly funded company, the team did all it could to continue to market. Montero held on for over a year into the pandemic until realizing the end of COVID-19’s impact was nowhere in sight. As the pandemic continued, he downsized the team considerably and had to do what was necessary to keep the vision alive.
“It felt like time to give up,” Montero said. “But through those dark moments, that’s where God does his work.”
A pivot into the web3 and crypto space eventually breathed new life into Blue Social. The team is developing a first-of-its-kind “socialize to earn” model utilizing Bluetooth to verify that two users are social. Users are then rewarded with prizes such as tokens, NFTs, and festival tickets creating a marketplace. More than 75,000 people are on the reimagined network, although Montero has his sights set on many more.
“Our goal is for Blue Social to go viral like Pokémon GO, especially with our new gamification,” he said. “We’re very excited to move into the decentralization and blockchain space because it’s all about power to the people.”
The team is gearing up for a “Blue Social Summit'' on Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Riverside Convention Center. The event will include music, art and technology, and highlight the company’s official web3 launch and Blue Social Token sale. The BST utility token will run on the Ethereum blockchain network.
“It’s heartening to watch Blue Social bloom where it’s planted,” said Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson. “An entrepreneurial powerhouse like Blue Social puts Riverside on the map as a vibrant startup hub.”
For more about Blue Social, go to https://blue.social.