Buzz has been rising about a new website called Bleat, launching next week. All they’ve got up for now is a teaser site, and what a tease it is!
They promise “a vast comprehensive vegan resource” including recipes, worldwide restaurant and hotel guides, a marketplace, an excellent social network, plus all the informational resources you can shake a stick at. And they are not modest “How do we sum Bleat up? Well, Bleat isn’t just a vegan social network and it’s certainly far from just a vegan directory. Simply put, it’s a whole new way to get the absolute most from your vegan lifestyle.”
This level of boasting that sets a very high bar. Bleat is either going to be the site we’ve all been missing or a massive disappointment. I’m hoping for the former, but I carry deep within me the trauma of a internet littered with the twitching remnants of past attempts at vegan soup-to-nuts sites. (Including some past lives of SuperVegan, yes.)
The teaser site was also weirdly anonymous. No names, no sponsoring companies, just this big talk and video voiced by a guy who sounds like his next job is a toothpaste commercial. But via some gentle ribbing on Twitter, we heard back from Bleat founders Matthew Glover and Mike Dean, and they actually seem like open and communicative guys. I asked Mike a bunch of questions over e-mail and he replied right away. (Spoiler: on hearing more details, it doesn’t sound any less ambitious.)
Jason: Who are your founders? Who are your developers, designers, other Bleaters?
Mike: Bleat is a registered company, currently based in the UK. There are two Co-Founders, a guy called Matthew and myself. Matthew is a really successful business man, having grown numerous businesses from the ground up he wanted to put his business skills to best use, and was looking for a vegan/animal rights venture to get involved in. By coincidence we ended up meeting via a mutual contact. My background is that I’m a digital designer/developer/animator, having worked with a number of really big global clients, XBox, Disney etc I wanted to also put my skills to good use and about 18 months prior to meeting Matthew I had started the ground work for Bleat but didn’t really have the funds to make it happen.
So, our roles are that Matthew is the business brains, sales man, chief promoter and everything else on the business side and technically i am the creative director but i am leading a team of freelance developers that are building the site. I’ve designed the whole site and branding, with the help from a few contacts in the design industry.
There will be an about page once the site goes live so users can find out more about us and we don’t appear anonymous.
This can’t be cheap! Who are your funders?
Mike: Matthew is funding the site fully until it is making enough money to run itself and pay for on going development. The lovely thing about Bleat is that the majority of all profits are going back into the vegan movement, be it in sponsorship, advocacy, donations or just helping out the best we can.
Jason: Will Bleat be a worldwide resource, or are you focussed on some specific regions/countries for launch?
Mike: Nope, the site is 100% global. Obviously between Matthew and I there is only so much of the country we can see, so it’s going to rely quite heavily on users uploading their little gems of local knowledge around the world, to make the site cover as much of this planet as possible. That being said, we have over 17,000 establishment entries already.
Jason: There’s at least one other site doing everything you say you’re going to do. While it’s a big internet with room for multiple players, you at Bleat must think you can do a better job. Where will you succeed that the competition’s failing?
Mike: The neat thing about Bleat is that it is the single point resource that is currently missing in the online vegan world. You’re right, there are loads of sites out there that do what we’re trying to do, sometimes even two/three of the things but nowhere that does all of them, in one place. Part of the goal with Bleat is to also bring the vegan world up to date, a lot of sites out there seem to be quite out dated in design and usability, so that’s something I’m proud to be bringing to Bleat. The site is going to be launched in Beta, it’s potentially never going to be ‘finished’, similarly to sites like Facebook, there is a never ending list of things we could do with the site, but the site is working very well from a basic functioning point of view, and is only going to get better.
Jason: Your intro video puts tremendous emphasis on the personal health benefits of veganism, with a secondary emphasis on environmental impact, and little to no mention of the interspecies ethical concerns that are the basis of veganism. What’s the thinking here? If it’s an intentional omission, is it because you think it will turn people off? Because you don’t believe in the ethical basis? Some other reason entirely?
Mike: Great question! This is something we have considered, the absolute main aim with Bleat is to save the lives of more animals, hands down, 100%. We see this being done by creating somewhere that long term vegans can go to get what they need but also just people who are interested in finding out more can go to hopefully make a transition. We’re trying to make veganism more mainstream by making it easy for people to adopt and maintain a vegan lifestyle, then once that is reached, the lead on is that they will start being involved in more campaign/activism work, spreading the word and also creating less of a demand for animal based products.
You’re right in a way, we’re trying to appeal to the masses and through some research we have done, people already know that animals are suffering, they hear it all the time from ‘preachy vegans’ – what we’re trying to do is promote a really positive message through the site, by showing them the benefits to themselves, which in turn will help animals.
Saying that we are going to be running campaigns of our own in the future that specifically target ‘interspecies ethical concerns’.
There is so much I could talk about for this question, I hope all of that makes sense!
Jason: It does! Thanks so much. Best of luck to you guys, and I’m much looking forward to checking out the site on May 1.