Fanpop is a new San Francisco start-up that is probably best described as a cross between a Digg and Yahoo Groups.

Its idea is simple: Users submit their favorite links from around the Web. The links are organized according to topic, called a “spot.” See examples of new spots in the image below. Users then vote on their favorite links within the spot, and the best links rise to the top.


This general area of user generated content and links, from YouTube to Squiddoo to HubPages is getting pretty crowded, so throwing something out there on the cheap, and seeing what happens is better than raising a few million only to find it doesn’t go anywhere. The trick is how to scrounge up enough users from day one to make it buzzy enough that a community will form, and stay loyal. Fanpop launched August 1.

We talked with Dave Lu (scroll down for brief bio), the leader of the four-person team, over the weekend. The group hasn’t raised any venture money, but did start with less than $100,000 from a few friends, so it is indeed great example of bootstrapping.

Fanpop is approaching the Digg model from the other end: starting broadly, allowing ranked links according to any topic under sun (Digg started focused on tech only). Fanpop is also different in that it offers forums around each spot, and that is why we liken it to Yahoo Groups. It doesn’t limit itself to news, but rather wants to archive the Web more broadly, and allow any types of files, including video, photos and podcasts. Finally, it lets you share all this information with others. So to be accurate, Delicious would be the third cross in this company’s mix.

Dave tells us the company has been making money from the start. A user who is looking for content on the San Francisco Giants will see ads for Giants tickets and someone who is searching for links around cigars will get ads for humidors, Lu explained. That’s the advantage of presenting content by topic. Dave worked at eBay, and did affiliate marketing, and so this is his area.

We do like the simplicity of the site, which was developed on Ruby on Rails. “Feeds, tags, wikis, all these words are foreign to the general population,” Dave added. “We wanted to make the site fun and simple but robust with practical features.”