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Interview: Stardust Founder and CEO Derek Forbes
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Dr. Zaius   |  @   |  
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Do you love movies and TV? Do you spend tons of time talking about movies and TV? If so, then the Stardust App is most certainly for you. Available for both iPhone and Android devices, Stardust is the best social media platform available for entertainment fans. The app allows you to make 30-second reaction videos to any movie or TV show, down to the episode. Your video then goes online with thousands of other fans leading to tons of awesome interactions. You can direct message other users, comment on their reactions and make genuine friends. You can also share your Stardust reactions to other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The best part, and the reason I call it the best form of social media… no trolling and no negativity. And believe me, I’m on the app all the darn time. I have personally recorded over 1,600 Stardust reactions and never one fight or argument has resulted.

When I got invited to interview Stardust founder and CEO Derek Forbes, I was truly excited to thank him for creating it, but more excited to hear about how the app is growing and expanding. Before founding and becoming CEO of Stardust in July of 2017, Forbes was the President of Vista Entertainment Solutions and COO of Vista Group Limited. Check out my full interview with Forbes here below.

Geeks of Doom: Hi, how are you? I am a big fan of your app.

Derek Forbes: Oh, thank you.

Geeks of Doom: My favorite part of Stardust is that you have a social media app with next to no negativity and no trolling and that is one of the biggest problems with social media on the whole. Was that something you were trying for and how do you sustain that?

Derek Forbes: Yes, I’m glad you notice that. We wanted Stardust to be a refuge from the negativity and trolling that you see on pretty much every other social platform. We wanted it to be for people to share their opinions about movies and TV shows and to keep the discussions about that and not the things that are divisive. I think part of it is helped by the fact that it’s focused on the films people talk about and not politics or other risky topics that can lead people into that territory. But it’s also been a part of our set of ideals. There’s accountability: the account is tied to your phone number, so it’s a little harder to start trolling. And when people do start to get involved with that type of behavior, we take a pretty hard line to warn them and eventually kick them off the app.

Geeks of Doom: For me, this app was totally organic. I’ve always been a movie guy and someone who talked endlessly about movies. My friend Chris told me about it and I downloaded the app and have pretty much been addicted ever since. I share reactions to my social media and even to my Geeks of Doom reviews.

Derek Forbes: Oh, that’s cool. When did you start using the app?

Geeks of Doom: Probably around two years ago. I have well over a thousand reactions. I joke around trying to figure out mathematically how much time I’ve spent on the app. It’s why the app is so great, it allows you to do what we love doing, which is talking about movies.

Derek Forbes: Absolutely.

Geeks of Doom: Speaking of that, I did some research and I read that you’re a huge Game of Thrones fan.

Derek Forbes: I am, I love the show, it was one of the inspirations for the app.

Geeks of Doom: So speaking to the Stardust CEO, can you give us a 30-second Stardust reaction to Season 8 of Game of Thrones?

Derek Forbes: Well, you have to pick an episode, you mean the finale?

Geeks of Doom: See you know the app, the finale was huge, so sure what did you think?

Derek Forbes: I actually enjoyed the final season and the finale of Game of Thrones. I thought they did a good job of wrapping up a lot of loose ends in the last episode. I know a lot of people didn’t like it and there was a lot of fan anger about the final season, but I’m not one of those people. I enjoyed the show all the way through and I’m hopeful that the spinoffs will be really good too. I’m looking forward to those coming out.

Geeks of Doom: I had my issues with the season, but I did enjoy the final episode, so we agree there. To the business aspect, I’ve noticed some of my favorite YouTube film critics are on Stardust and I know that influencers are a big part of the business strategy. Can you talk a little about that?

Derek Forbes: We’ve done some partnerships to get YouTube influencers and other social media influencers to the app and they talk about it on their channels. It’s really interesting, we’re still building the app as we go, I’m sure you’ve seen it evolve since you started using it.

Geeks of Doom: Definitely.

Derek Forbes: We’ve added loads of new features and we’re working on getting it to the point where it’s fully ready before we turn our full attention to getting a lot of people on to the app. We have had some good results through those partnerships and working with those folks and we’re getting ready to release some pretty cool new features. Then we’ll be focused on getting loads of new users to the app.

Geeks of Doom: You mention the evolutions in the app. Just recently I’ve noticed Stardust has begun covering entertainment news and sharing that to the app, along with some format and visual changes. One thing I find interesting is the Stardust Score. Do you foresee this becoming a viable option for movie and entertainment fans to turn to over say a Rotten Tomatoes or Cinema Score?

Derek Forbes: I think it can be used for that. We calculate those scores based on the ratings from our users. It’s not based only on critics like the Rotten Tomatoes score, so you do see some deviation from our scores to theirs. I do use that if I’m going out to the movies and I want to get a quick view of what people are liking and what they’re not liking. I think it’s already pretty useful for that. Where we’re going, you may have already seen this, but now along with the Stardust Score, you can now get a rating based on your followers’ scores, which makes it a little more personally useful. The big feature that we’re working and getting ready to release soon is based on personalized recommendations based on your own tastes. Based on all the movies and shows you’ve reacted to and put ratings in for, we’ve built a pretty incredible system which will give you a set of movies and shows each week, that we think you will love and you can check them out. The more you rate, the more recommendations you’ll get.

Geeks of Doom: That’s exciting. As a user of the app, I can tell you that when a new film comes out I usually check out what my followers are saying and the people I follow as well, and then we end up swapping recommendations, so this sounds like a great addition. I’m a teacher in my day job. so obviously I am lacking in business savvy. So talk to me in layman’s terms, how does Stardust make money? It’s a free app with no ads, which makes it great to use. But how does it generate revenue?

Derek Forbes: Good question. So we haven’t really began generating revenue yet, we’re really still in the building stage. Pretty soon we’ll be ready to start revving it up to reaching a much larger audience. Then we will turn our attention towards monetizing it. Apart from just including some regular ads in there, the real value here is that we have a population of movie and TV fans who we know their tastes. So when a movie studio or TV network has a new show they want to find an audience for, we can put that in front of a group of people who are likely to be interested in it and help them quickly generate that audience. That’s really going to be where the value comes from.

Geeks of Doom: There were already plenty of social media platforms out there and film critics are everywhere. What was the inspiration for you to marry these two ideas and create the Stardust App?

Derek Forbes: I’ve been in the movie/tech space for awhile. Going to various conferences with company executives of film studios, one of the common things that came up a lot was the challenge of marketing and finding an audience for new material that gets created. That’s partly the reason they love franchises and sequels and big superhero movies because there’s already an audience for those. Also there’s the particular challenge of reaching younger folks because they’re always on their phones and not looking at the places where you see traditional advertising. I guess the idea kind of came up around trying to connect with fans. We started to look at what was already out there and we found there was an increasing appetite for specialized social media platforms. There are other platforms that are on the rise at the moment like Next Door which is a social app for neighbors and Alltrails which is a big social community for hikers. There are quite a few of these and it seemed like we had a huge opportunity to create something like that, specialized for fans of movie and TV.

Geeks of Doom: That makes sense, and I feel it works. I’ve been on the app two years and I’ve made genuine friends through it, all based on shared interests. You mentioned the audience, and trying to appeal to teens on their phones. I teach high school, trust me, I get it. Who is the biggest audience for Stardust right now and how do you go after that audience that you’re missing?

Derek Forbes: The two biggest age groups that we hit are 18-25, and then 26-35. We want to get more teens. They’re an interesting demo and we’d like to see more of them. I think a key to that is to make the app feel like it’s a place for them. Your average 14-year old probably doesn’t want to use an app that is full of adults. It’s important that they feel it’s a place for them and people of their age group.

Geeks of Doom: Do you know by the numbers what movies and shows have garnered the most reactions on Stardust? I’d assume it’s likely one of the MCU movies and probably Game of Thrones.

Derek Forbes: We keep data on that, I don’t know exact numbers off the top of my head, but Game of Thrones was attracting a huge amount of discussion while it was airing. All of the Marvel titles have a pretty huge fanbase and those movies get tons of discussions.

Geeks of Doom: And how many people are subscribed to the app now?

Derek Forbes: 100,000 right now.

Geeks of Doom: That’s great. Well, thank you so much, I am a big fan of Stardust and it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for the time.

Going on two years strong, the Stardust App is easy to use and one of the most fun ways to talk and discuss movies. I want to thank Derek Forbes for taking the time for an engaging interview and I wish him and the app incredible success. A few YouTubers you may know on Stardust include Jeremy Jahns, The Flick Pick, Reel Rejects, and Chris Stuckmann as well as others. You can follow me on Stardust by searching DrZaiusGoD and also follow my buddy ChrisDonofrio who got me started using the app.

Check out the Stardust reaction video for the number one film at the box office IT Chapter II, which features my friend Chris:

Follow me on Twitter.

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