An Interview With Publisher Josh Karp On His Media Funding Solution, Kumbuya [TCTV]

Josh Karp is an idealist. His last venture, the Printed Blog, is a charming, sometimes beautiful example of what can happen when you connect the immediacy of the web with the permanence of print. Now, however, he’s trying to make the bloggers he works with a little money.

Kumbuya is a community transaction system. Users can create tribes based on their blogs or specific topics (here’s one I built on watches). You can then invite your readers to your tribe and, by submitting a request to you, the tribe leader, they can sell items on the feed. Think of it as Pinterest with stuff you can buy.

“Our key differentiation is that we give ‘influencers,’ or people who run any kind of community, online or off, the ability to control the commercial transactions within their community (what businesses can market to their members and how) and to make money each time the transaction is successful (we split the revenue equally with the Tribe Leader). This is unlike the incumbent social networks that give the community leader zero control and zero compensation,” said Karp.

He’s raised $550,000 so far in two rounds from private investors and they’ve seen impressive growth in the 54 days they’ve been live. The tribes, ranging from fitness topics to an odd one called “Polski’Z,” are open to anyone but to push transactions to the group you have to contact the tribe leader for approval.

“We give businesses the ability to target their commercial transactions (and/or marketing initiatives) into communities of the best possible customers and the opportunity to build relationships with influencers that will drive revenue for the long-term. Targeting transactions based on self-selected community, and coupling marketing with an endorsement from a respected person (the Tribe Leader), is more effective than presenting advertisements based on key words,” said Karp. Kumbuya will be able to aggregate similar topics together and sell access to those groups. As it exists right now the only “ads” allowed are actual sales links to products. General display ads aren’t supported.

Content creators can embed their tribes on their websites and gather users to the tribe. He noted that this solution gives full control over potential revenue to the content creator and not the social network.

“The project was directly born out of our work with The Printed Blog. We work with amazing writers from all over the world who don’t earn any money from their content or their community. We asked ourselves what we could do differently – what was missing – and we settled on the concept of control and monetization. Then, we went to businesses and validated the concept – when they told us that they would love to target their marketing more effectively, and that they were interested in building relationships with influencers, we decided we were on to something,” said Karp.

We sat down with Josh at our Chicago meet-up and discussed the future of the service as well as his past at the Printed Blog. The site is live now with more tribes appearing every day. It is, in short, a way to bring classifieds well into the 21st Century, a noble goal, especially coming from a guy who loves print.