About Joe Viola
Joe Viola is a Maine native with a passion for entrepreneurship. Before co-founding 9count, Joe launched or consulted on over ten consumer apps.
In college, he was working on an entrepreneurial project focused on social connection when he met Alex Hofmann, future CEO and Co-Founder of 9count. At the time, Alex was leaving musical.ly, which he had just sold to Bytedance/TikTok. Joe was winding down on his startup, and the two began getting to know each other, eventually founding 9count together in January 2019.
Joe shares, “I absolutely love this space. I think it’s one of the most meaningful and enjoyable fields to be in, and we’ve put together an incredible team here.”
The Beginning of 9count
Joe explains that he and Alex immediately clicked as colleagues and shared a passion for social connection. Alex’s background is focused more on social media entertainment, while Joe has more experience in social utility apps that bring people together.
“The intersection of those two things, if you look at the products that we built today at 9count, is pretty reflected. So, it was pretty clear from the get-go that we both wanted to do something quite similar. We clicked as people and as colleagues, which was great. I’ve so much respect for Alex. He is a fantastic person who’s obviously accomplished a great deal.”
Joe explains that the 9count team works to build different social connection products to help various groups. They have a particular bent toward addressing the loneliness many Gen Z members experience.
“For us, there isn’t just a one size fits all solution, so we try to solve different areas of connection with different products, whether it be friendship with Wink or dating with Summer… We’re really trying to tackle this loneliness and connection problem from all the different angles that we see fit.”
Recently, 9count received additional funding for six million dollars. Joe shares that a large portion of this new funding will be used to double down on growing their app, Summer.
Summer is a fast-growing dating app that connects you with app users closest to you. The app presents nearby users in front of you, allowing you to learn more about them and start a conversation without the need for swiping through accounts.
“Right now, we’re developing the Android version of the app [Summer] that will go live in the next month. After that, we’ll deploy some of that capital to help grow Summer. We’ll also use it for some strategic hires. Those are really the primary two use cases.”
Joe adds, “That’s really what the investors are quite excited about, and you know, the overall product strategy as a whole really caught their attention.”
9count’s Multi-pro Approach
9count’s multi-pro approach takes all of their products, which fall under the same umbrella of connecting people, whether that’s through romantic connections on Summer or developing new friendships through Wink, and shares traffic between their different products.
“It became somewhat easy for us to develop an ecosystem where we can push traffic from one product to another. [For example,] if there are people on Wink that are also interested in dating, it’s very easy for us to plug Summer there.”
Joe adds that they haven’t tried pushing traffic from Summer to Wink yet, but the 9count team views all of their apps as synergistic. They also use similar infrastructure.
“We can use a lot of the same product learnings and marketing learnings. And as a result, we launched these products in a much quicker time frame than someone would from scratch and with a much higher likelihood of success as well.”
He explains that Wink is driven primarily by organic traffic, receiving about 300,000+ organic installs monthly, leaving them with little need to market that app.
They do a bit of marketing for Summer and plan on increasing their marketing efforts for Summer once the Android version of the app goes live.
“On a really high level, we can take the traffic that we get from Wink and basically dictate where that traffic goes to a certain extent, so we can ask them [app users] what they’re there for. If they’re there for friendship or for dating. If they’re there for dating, then we suggest that maybe they try Summer as well, which has been great for us in driving traffic.”
Since its launch, Summer has been in the top six dating apps in the United States and the top four in Canada. Wink has been one of, if not the top friendship apps during its product lifespan.
Future Plans & Other Products
Joe shares that 9count’s top priority currently is Summer’s launch and continuing to develop Summer and Wink’s audiences.
“The primary focus will be on Summer and Wink, but we are always incubating and building new products, so we have a handful of other apps that are already live.”
In addition to Summer and Wink, 9count created Everland, a mindfulness meditation app that helps users connect with themselves. Everland features inspirational quotes and mindfulness, sleep, and meditation tracks.
Another product Joe is incredibly proud of is Helpline, an app that the 9count will never monetize. Helpline helps connect at-risk individuals with the help they need at the moment for a variety of struggles, such as suicidal thoughts or binge drinking.
“We wanted to build a tool that helps connect them with the people that can help them in the moment of crisis, and that’s been something that’s been really impactful in a kind of passion project for us at our company to get that out into the world.”
Another app, Popstream, allows creators to host virtual meet and greets with fans. Fans join the app and wait in a queue for the chance to talk to the creator in sequential order.
“[Popstream] gives creators a way to get a really personal relationship with some of their deepest and most involved fans, and it’s a kind of a re-engagement tool for them as well, which has been fantastic.”
The 9count team also developed Juju, a social gaming platform arcade app that allows users to play against and chat with each other.
In closing, Joe shares, “We have an incredible team of talented and amazing people. I love working with them as colleagues and as human beings. They’re just a great, great group of people, and we can’t be happier with the team we’ve assembled.”