Former Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson is ploughing R10-million into Gather Online and joining its board of directors as chairman.
With South African-born founders, Gather Online has developed an online communication service that allows users to engage with communities of like-minded people.

Dubbed “Snapchat for groups”, the service offers time-limited access to discussions on a wide variety of topics from careers and business to travel and health.

“Gather Online enables people to shift from passively consuming content, as is often the case with existing social networks, to connecting with like-minded individuals and having meaningful conversations,” says founder and chief executive, David Price. “It fills a real gap for engagement in the current social media landscape.”

Price says the investment made by Dawson willl support the company’s ambitious expansion plans. Gather Online already has more than 40 000 daily active users with the most avid users having daily sessions exceeding 20 minutes.

While operations are based out of Australia and South Africa, the company plans to achieve consistent growth through targeting the large number of social media users in Europe, the US and Asia, where it has already got a foothold.

Gather Online has unexpectedly gone viral in locations it has not specifically targeted, but says it will focus a significant amount of its intentions on dominating markets that are neglected by other players in the market.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity for a platform that encourages people to become more engaged with each other,” says Price. “On the other major platforms, a post only gets engagement from about 1% of people so 99% are passively consuming. Gather Online overcomes this by facilitating more fruitful communication which has a beginning and an end, like we have in real life.”

He adds that Dawson’s R10-million investment is part of a successful third seed funding round which has been expanded due to oversubscription. A further R2-million out of R14-million is now available for investment.

“Funds will be used to improve the platform and to scale it to the levels that would interest Series A Venture Capital funds later this year,” Price says.

Gather Online has established a range of strategic business relationships to support its growth and increase awareness of the platform. This includes partnerships with tertiary education institutions, media organisations, not for profits and charities as well as corporates, in the US, Australia, South Africa and the UK.

Other partnerships will be established as part of a concerted B2B outreach as the company expands its international reach.

“Our platform allows organisations to leverage their supporters to reach and engage with new customers and supporters. So partnerships are a natural win-win,” says Price.

As it grows, Gather Online will continue to tap into user demand for more targeted conversations on topics that have particular interest to them. Users join communities around a particular interest, and then only opt in to those topics with which they want to be involved. Users can start a new topic on any subject and discussions can be designated as either public or private. Each conversation has a set time limit which encourages timely discussion and keeps things fresh.