Scots duo use New York relaunch of Kiltr app to target a big bite of social networks

KILTR, the social network aimed at people with Scottish connections, is launching its updated website to an estimated 40 million potential American customers on Thursday as part of Scotland Week celebrations in New York.

The Glasgow-based company, founded in October 2009 by friends Brian Hughes and Stewart Fraser, has just installed a custom-made template for the network. Among other improvements it will allow businesses and other organisations to set up pages.

Until now, Kiltr’s website had been built as it grew and was what the company describes as a “beta” site or experimental stage.

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The firm said the new website template, which it calls “Version One”, could be used to launch other “special interest” social networks based around nationality, cultural links or even football teams. It believes that such niche sites are the future of social media.

The launch event in Manhattan will include a panel discussion on the next wave of social networking, chaired by Scottish singer and writer Pat Kane and streamed live on the internet via Kiltr. Hughes, who is Kiltr’s chief executive, said: “We know that Scotland holds a special place in the hearts of millions of people all across the globe. We’re providing a place for those people to connect; to find and share news, views and great Scottish content; to build friendships and business relationships that will be vital to Scotland’s future, commercially and culturally.”

The site, which has so far primarily been marketed at UK-based Scots but already has an international following, will be pushed on a global audience from today, starting with North America where about 40 million people claim some sort of link to Scotland. “Scots always receive a warm welcome in the US, so I’m sure Kiltr will get a great reception,” Hughes said.

The potential value of social media companies was highlighted this week as sector giant Facebook snapped up Instagram, a photo sharing app for mobile phones, for $1 billion (£630 million). Instagram was set up less than two years ago and although it boasts a following of 30 million users, it has just 13 employees and no obvious source of revenue.

The deal has raised concerns over another dotcom bubble and prompted Joe Tree, the Edinburgh photographer who founded picture diary website Blipfoto, to consider his own company’s value. He pointed out that Blipfoto is “a very different beast” to Instagram, as it has revenues from a paying user base.

Facebook itself is only eight years old and is preparing for a flotation that is expected to value it at a staggering $100bn.

Kiltr launched its first website in August 2010. Since then more than 23,000 users have signed-up – 67 per cent of whom are business owners or senior executives.

The Scottish firm, which has so far been backed with funding of £1m from venture capitalists, angel investors and the Scottish Investment Bank, currently has nine full-time members of staff with about half-a-dozen others employed as contractors or advisers. It expects the core team to grow further this year.

Kiltr has generated some income through sponsorship and marketing agreements, but still considers itself to be “effectively pre-revenue”.

The company says it expects to announce “significant advertising and sponsorship deals with major Scottish brands” in the near future.

The company has also just launched a recruitment function as part of the Version One updates. The job adverts are free to use for a limited time, but will ultimately be used to generate revenue for Kiltr.