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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Newsletter startup Substack has scooped up the team behind Cocoon, a subscription-based social network for connecting with close friends and family.

Why it matters: As newsletters grow along with the wider "creator economy," companies like Substack are looking for ways to help subscribers feel more like a community and interact with one another.

  • According to Cocoon co-founder and CEO Sachin Monga, his team will work on "all the different types of connections between readers and writers,” going beyond the simple bond created by a reader signing up for an email newsletter.

Background: Founded in 2019 by Monga and Alex Cornell, two ex-Facebook employees, Cocoon is one of a number of startups that have tried to build a "smaller Facebook" focused more on close relationships than on other content.

  • While previous attempts — Path is the most famous — failed to challenge the biggest social networks, Cocoon's team bet on two new trends: consumers' willingness to pay for subscriptions and their dissatisfaction with Facebook and its big rivals.
  • "Back when Path launched, Facebook was still a pretty good place to be for staying connected to friends and family," said Monga.
  • As for his former employer's flagship app, Monga said he realized "how many things the app is simultaneously trying to solve for — if you’re trying to do everything, you’re not doing anything really well.”

Cocoon also believed that subscriptions would have to be the business model for a social network where users have a small circle of friends.

  • "15 to 20 people are never going to create enough content to build, to aggregate enough attention to build an ads business," said Monga.
  • That's also why Cocoon's team was more interested in how often users opened the app per day and whether they remained users than in how much time they spent on the app.

Details: While Cocoon's team is joining Substack, its app is not. The startup is working on finding it a new home, although Monga declined to share more details.

Go deeper: Small social networks are having a moment

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 14, 2021 - Technology

Facebook allows prominent users to break rules

Signage in front of the Facebook Inc. headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has long said that it applies the same rules to all posts, but internal documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal paint a picture of a company that allowed millions of politicians, celebrities and other high-profile users to break those rules without consequence.

Why it matters: It's hard to limit misinformation on a platform when you give a free pass to those with the most reach.

2020 was the deadliest year for environmental defenders

Engineer Sandra Cuéllar is one of many Colombians who've gone missing or been killed for their environmental activism. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images

Latin America and the Caribbean is the deadliest region for environmental defenders, a violent record that has global repercussions.

Why it matters: The region has several of the most biodiverse areas of the planet, but they are constantly threatened by logging, mining or aquifer overexploitation.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate offices closing ahead of "Justice for J6" demonstration

Security fencing outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of a planned "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C.. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Multiple congressional offices will be closed Friday amid security precautions ahead of Saturday's rally in support of jailed Jan. 6 rioters, aides who have been instructed to work remotely tell Axios.

Why it matters: As the U.S. Capitol faces its first large-scale security test since the deadly attack, House and Senate offices are taking precautionary measures to protect staff as well as lawmakers.