Instead of an introduction to this interview, I would like to kindly ask you to go and watch this great video that the Ble.at team made. It is very informative and clear and I could not describe it better myself.
1.Ble.at is finally up and running! I was one of the test users, so I know what it is all about. But how would you describe Ble.at to someone who has not used it? It is a website for vegans and people interested in veganism. But how is it different for other vegan websites?
Bleat is a vegan social media website but with some extra bits. So you have all the usual functionality of sites like Facebook or Twitter, but you can also share and search for vegan recipes and find local restaurants, shops and people in your area. Soon we’ll have a product search facility which will be a major addition to the website, and we’ve lots of plans to improve the site over the coming months as per this post: http://ble.at/articles/250/planned-new-features-for-bleat
The site is primarily aimed at vegans, but our hope is we can reach out to vegetarians and others over time and show them the joys of living a vegan lifestyle.
2.Who are the people behind Ble.at? And who do you expect the users to be? I mean, do you already have some statistics about age groups, family status or financial status? What do the Ble.at vegans “look” like?
There are two Co-Founders, Mike Dean and myself (Matthew Glover). I’m a businessman, having grown numerous businesses from the ground up and wanted to put my business skills to best use. I was looking for a vegan/animal rights venture to get involved in and by coincidence ended up meeting Mike via a mutual contact. Mike’s background is that he is a digital designer/developer/ animator, having worked with a number of really big global clients, Xbox, Disney etc he also wanted to put his skills to good use. About 18 months prior to meeting me, Mike had started the groundwork for Bleat but he didn’t really have the funds or time to make it happen.
So, our roles are that I am funding the project, the business brains, salesman, chief-promoter and everything else on the business side and Mike is the Creative Director, currently leading a team of freelance developers that are building the site. Mike also designed the whole site and lead the branding design, with the help from a few contacts in the design industry.
I have been vegan for 2 years after being vegetarian for 10 years and Mike celebrated his 5 year veganniversary shortly after the launch.
At this stage it’s too early to give you exact details of demographics of the users, but there certainly seems to be a younger generation of hip people joining up. And geographically the United States has the most users so far, but there’s also lots of Europeans, and indeed people from all over the world.
3.How did you come up with this idea and how hard was it to formulate your thoughts and inspiration into an actual interactive website? Many people have good ideas, but only a few manage to go through all the necessary stages in order to realize them. So what’s the secret?
Mike had the idea a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until he met with me through a mutual contact that work began late in 2012. Mike had a very clear idea of what he wanted to achieve including site plans, the name, functionality and so on. So, we hired a small team of freelancers to work on the development, and it took over 6 months to get there.
What’s the secret? Well, in this instance, we’re both passionate vegans and hope that good things will come from the site, which ultimately reduce animal suffering. I have learnt a lot from my two other businesses and had mild success and wasn’t not frightened of taking a gamble, and Mike just had a great idea and the skills to make it happen.
4.The first day that it was officially launched, Ble.at managed to get 2000 registered users and it crashed. It was great to read all the supportive comments of users saying “way too many vegans! Great!” and the like. I am not sure that I have seen people being so excited about a site they use crashing before. Are vegans crazy? Are they everywhere and just hiding?
I think vegans are very passionate and so many of them share our passion for working towards animal liberation. So, they saw the technical difficulties and the fact that we needed to acquire more server space as proof that the vegan movement is making progress. And it is!
But, we’re certainly not crazy, are we?
5.Vegans have been compared to religious sects more than once. Why is that? And what could vegans do to change that?
I’ve had this leveled at me, and I guess it comes back to the passion we feel for the cause. It may resemble a religion to many, but we know it’s actually the most important social justice movement there’s ever been.
With Bleat what we’re trying to do is to try help veganism become more mainstream and take a firmer hold within the rest of society. With local people searches vegans can mobilise. With a product search facility vegans can find vegan suppliers, and those companies can grow. With the growing recipe directory people can find a vegan version of virtually any food.
6.There are many vegans out there, who will try and educate other people any time of the day or night, using any means they can. Do you think that the cause justifies the means or do you prefer a more peaceful, “teach by example” kind of approach?
I’m still trying to work this out myself to be honest. I think people respond to different approaches, and consider veganism for different reasons. For me, it’s always been about the animals. When speciesism finally twigged for me, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to talk to everyone about it and had mixed success.
7.Best and worse thing about being a vegan?
The best thing for me is I have a goal in life. I can’t think of any negatives.
8.Does the majority of the non-vegans in your community and social environment treat you as:
d)role models that they consider following
My own children call me a ‘weirdo’ but I’m not sure that’s just because of my veganism! I think it’s a mixed message I get. So many people respect my decision and broadly agree that cruelty to animals is a bad thing, but motivating them to see that their own actions are causing it is a different matter.
Standing out from the crowd is not something that sits naturally with me, but when you believe there’s a holocaust going on all around you, and your friends and family are complicit in it then you feel you have no choice.
9.Do you believe that veganism will become mainstream at some point? And do you think that it will happen soon enough for vegans of our generation to enjoy it?
I’m hearing that the numbers of vegans are increasing in the US and the Western World. If you look at Google Trends data you can see that people searching for ‘vegan’ related terms is increasing rapidly, and has overtaken people searching for ‘vegetarian’ terms. I think if we can get to 10% of the population then the passion of those vegans should influence the next 30-40% and then change might happen whether the rest want it or not.
Will veganism become more mainstream? Definitely. Will we achieve animal liberation? I don’t know, but we should have a damn good go at it.
10.Your favorite food, that you discovered after going vegan and could not live without? And a recipe for our readers to try it out?
(Matthew skipped this one as he is “really bad at cooking” (in his own words) but I am sure that all the recipes on Ble.at will get him inspired.)
The following days Mike will also give an interview to The non-hip hippies, more focused to the creative part of setting up Ble.at, collaborative efforts and the importance of communities.