Startup News & Analysis

Shoes of Prey co-founder Mike Knapp launches social network Mottle, but it won’t be a “raging success” just yet

Dinushi Dias /

Shoes of Prey co-founder Mike Knapp is embarking on his next startup adventure with a new “experimental” social networking app designed to spark real world conversations and connections with people.

Knapp says he has designed Mottle, a social networking app launched on Wednesday, with one core goal: To drive “human connection”.

“Once you download the app, you login with Facebook and you can see a list of people ranked based on their interests and how close they are to you and also they’re age,” Knapp tells StartupSmart.

The only communication possible on Mottle is to send a “hello”, after which users can speak with each other in a phone chat through the app. Once users hang up, they can rate each other.

People who are inappropriate will have this reflected in their rating, he says.

“I wanted a way to be able to have conversations with new people easily,” Knapp says.

“It’s a very experimental app – I’m hoping that people will enjoy it and use it.”

Knapp came up with the idea for it while travelling and meeting different people when he realised there needs to be a more meaningful solution to connecting human beings in an increasingly digital and detached world.

“I’m very interested in human connection and particularly as robotics takes over more jobs and displaces a lot of the economic activity in the world – I worry about what will people do,” Knapp says.

“And talking to each other is something we’re uniquely capable of doing.

“There’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world. My grandmother is in her early 90s and a lot of her close friends have died and having someone to talk to is really important to her.”

Knapp believes the app could also be used as an alternative to dating tools like Tinder.

He says Mottle is a “low cost way of getting to know someone” before wasting time and money on a date with someone you have no real sense of.

“I developed it over the last two months pretty quickly and I’ve been working on it sort of seven days a week,” he says.

Why it won’t be a “raging success” just yet

Considering the app’s “experimental” nature in getting people to speak to strangers in real life, Knapp says it may be “a long journey” for people to develop trust in Mottle and see its benefits.

“I don’t expect it will be a raging success on day one,” he says.

However, during Shoes of Prey’s early days, he says people were similarly reserved about its potential.

“When we started Shoes of Prey, people said that’s crazy that you’re going to design your own shoes on the internet,” he says.

Today, the company is a world-renowned brand and it raised $21.3 million in funding last year.

“There’s a lot of parallels once you do something the second time, you’re familiar with the doubts that can set in and sometimes the hard work that’s required to get past certain checkpoints [like registering a business and domain names],” he says.

“I felt sort of some of the same emotions and feelings [like] you’re always doubting – is this a good idea? – And you talk to people and they think oh, that’s a bit strange.”

Despite this, Knapp says it’s crucial to turn up each day and after building Shoes of Prey, he says it’s exciting to be at the start of a growth journey again.

“One learning from Shoes of Prey is don’t jump too quickly into being international … really work on the core product first,” he says.

Knapp hopes the five countries Mottle is available in now will be a “good user base to start”.

These include Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK.

While Knapp doesn’t have any “strong plans for monetising” Mottle yet, his aim now is to bring its vision to life and share it with the world.

“I want to help people connect with each other [and] to create a sense of community – how that translates into a business, I’m not sure at this stage,” he says.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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