Tim Chase’s excitement is hard to conceal as he sits down with Sky Sports’ Dan Long.
The former tech headhunter is here to talk about his brainchild, an app called Striver – the self-proclaimed world’s first abuse-free social media platform, which was publicly launched at Web Summit 2023 in Lisbon back in November.
That in itself is an enticing prospect. The amount of negativity on the likes of Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram seems to significantly outweigh the positivity these days.
But there’s a boyish grin on Chase’s face as he begins to tell Striver’s story – and it’s easy to understand why.
“When your business partners are Gilberto Silva and Roberto Carlos, magic happens!”
Ex-Arsenal midfielder Gilberto – a friend of Chase’s since 2016 – is an investor and his fellow 2002 World Cup winner is an ambassador.
The app is similar in appearance to TikTok – the newest major player in social media – but the team behind the scenes are using challenges to draw people in.
For example, say Roberto Carlos recreates that mind-blowing, physics-defying free-kick he scored against France, uploads it to Striver and invites users to record footage of themselves attempting to replicate it.
He can then click the ‘Feature’ button on any of those replies; the user gets a notification to say he’s seen it and all of his audience can then watch it and respond themselves.
Gilberto, meanwhile, could post a video asking people what they think of Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League this season and feature responses in the same manner.
The headline-grabbing feature – Striver’s USP – is that abuse will not feature anywhere on the platform, so how does the app back up its claim?
“We feel prevention is better than a cure and we found there was AI (Artificial Intelligence) available to moderate content, which means we don’t even have to remove the abusive content from the platform – we actually stop it going live,” Chase explains.
“With comments, we look at words, phrases, sentences and then the message as a whole. Comments don’t necessarily have to be positive, but they are not abusive.
“Then, for videos, we remove the audio and moderate that in the same way we do for comments and then, for the video, we take a screenshot every 0.3 of a second and moderate each screenshot.
“A response to Harry Maguire’s challenge from a Man Utd fan outside Old Trafford was rejected recently and we couldn’t work out why. There’s a bottle of wine in the background and on the label, there’s the word ‘diablo’ which means ‘devil’ in Spanish.
“We knew our AI was powerful – it’s currently 99.9817 per cent effective – but we didn’t realise how powerful it is becoming. As the founder of the programme, that really excited me.”
In future, there will be facial recognition and age-appropriate moderation; if you’re over 18, there will be a slider for users to select the level of bad language that is shown.
It begs the question: why hasn’t anyone done this before?
“Commercially, I understand why the big platforms haven’t done it; they are 20-years-old, in some cases, and this is just the modern way of doing it.
“The emergence of TikTok shows that people do want to engage and do the things you can see the stars and influencers doing. But with these platforms, they’re so concerned with getting content on the platform, then worrying about the abusive content afterwards.
“If it goes live, the damage has already been done – there’s no point bringing it down after an hour. Bad news travels fast on social media and it’s really hard to bring it back in.”
Needless to say, it has been easy to get current and former professionals involved.
Alongside Gilberto and Roberto Carlos, Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire is an ambassador, as is another former Gunner, Sol Campbell.
Papa Pincus – who has over 130,000 followers on Twitter – has recently signed up as an official creator, too.
“It’s been pretty easy to get players on board,” Chase says, taking notable pride in his efforts. “We’re talking to clubs and major brands, as well.
“The trojan horse is the abuse-free stuff and then we’re in. If we remove the top layer of abuse, the players want to engage more with the fans, the fans want to engage more with each other and the clubs want to engage with everybody.
“My position on this is that every social platform is the same; it’s about how many likes you’ve got, how many followers you’ve got and how many views you get. It’s only the way it displays the content that is different. Ours is just upsetting everything, disrupting.”
Gilberto: At one point, I was scared of leaving my house
As a father himself, Gilberto says Chase’s initial purpose immediately resonated with him.
“I have the possibility to help put the project on the market and support people to interact with others in a safe place. This is a key point for me,” says the Brazilian.
“Now we are in the position to be able to generate awareness by saying maybe some people have been abused on the internet, but now you have Striver, where you can moderate the conversation and get the support.
“The idea is not to stop people talking. I can have a different opinion to you about football – that’s not a problem. The problem begins when you start abusing others.”
Having played during a time when the use of social media was in its infancy – and thus abuse was not among the headlines as often as it is today – Gilberto used his platform to engage with his followers, communicating results, day-to-day life and more.
For the most part, it was friendly; for the general public, there was still a real sense of novelty in discovering previously inaccessible details.
But even then, he was not immune to the vitriol that has, sadly, become commonplace.
“After I finished my contract, at Atletico Mineiro back in Brazil, I had a problem with my knee. I went to the club and told them I wanted their support, but nothing was done.
“Later on, I took them to court. This was not something that made me happy or proud. In all honesty, it was terrible to make this decision.
“The consequence was there were some reactions from the fans, which were very bad for me.
“There were many of them who came onto social media and smashed me. At one point, I was scared of going outside my house, thinking somebody could wait for me outside or stop me on the street. That was a tough time.”
That first-hand experience is, without doubt, Gilberto’s driving force. “I think I’m working harder than when I was playing!” he says with a smile.
With those efforts, he wants to offer current players a service he would have been grateful for had it been available to him.
“We see a lot of racism when players have had one bad game. Players are humans, too. What if those people did something bad in their jobs and somebody came and did the same to them?
“People make mistakes. You can’t win every time. Players should not be afraid of people who are just trying to look for problems.
“Striver is here to give the support to everyone, but make them feel part of this movement as well. We want the world to be a better place for all of us. It’s so special to be able to give something back to football.”
What does Striver’s future look like?
Chase and Co are just about to start their Series B funding round, which will enable them to scale.
Plans for the platform’s inevitable growth are not going to be restricted to football either; there are proposals for diversification into other areas, most notably the music industry, and a determination to remove fake news.
There will be an element of advertising to the app eventually, but those plans are in the distance.
“We’re here to gain users and get users using the platform. The financial implications will come later if we want them,” says Chase.
“The most engaged social platform is TikTok, but only around 4.5 per cent of users actually engage; most people just who watch the content. We want to up that level.
“In fact, 65 per cent of our users engage on the platform because it’s free from abuse and there’s no chance of someone having a go at you for trying.
“It’s super exciting, I’ve got to be honest. We’ve got people suggesting things to us all the time. Someone said mentioned adding politics – I’m less excited about that!”
It’s clear the Striver team are here to drive change – but not at the expense of their competitors.
“We’re not trying to tell anyone to stop using TikTok or Facebook and just use us – it would be ridiculous to say that because they do bring good,” Chase adds.
“We’re slotting into a part of social media where there’s a massive gap at the moment.
“Our mantra is that it’s not about me, it’s about us. We don’t need another platform showing how good our life is – it’s about community and collaboration.”
At a time when online abuse in football is at as high a level as it has ever been, Striver has arrived to try and turn the tide.
Get involved with Striver by downloading the app from the App Store or Play Store now!