Five Minutes with Jason LaBaw, Founder of Social Bee app

by Maddie Rhodes on October 10, 2022 in Living Texas,

Jason LaBaw, founder and CEO of Social Bee, created a new app for people to share their travel experiences with the world. Whether you’re a local in the area or a visitor, this app will allow you to pin your favorite experiences in the area to help others discover your hidden gems. Social Bee includes virtual technology in the real world where augmented reality is taken to the next level. 


How did you start Social Bee?

I was on the Board of a 3D product imaging company. So you can think of it like e-commerce and instead of just having an image of a product, instead of having a video of that product … this company created 3D models. Photorealistic 3D models. Stuff that’s pretty common, or a bit more common these days. The founder and I would just talk about this tidal wave of technology change that’s coming. Augmented reality and really giving people a computer’s vision is wild. You know, it’s just in and of itself. It’s a wild concept.

LaBaw is the CEO and founder of Bonsai Media Group, which is focused on web design, marketing and SEOs. Photo courtesy Bonsai Media Group.

What I was looking at doing was to inspire people to get up off the couch, to get outside, to go explore the world around them, to actually be social. That’s the whole reasoning behind the name. I’m not into bumblebees; I’m actually allergic to bees.

But when I would talk to my friends about it, especially at a time with Instagram, you go out to dinner and four out of five friends are on their phone. It’s just anti social media. And so I really wanted to create a platform that inspires people to get out and explore the world around them – to be social. I really think it’s through shared experiences that we can do a lot of healing in this world.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality, just like the computer, sees the world and then overlays graphics on top of what you’re seeing. So that’s how we can put a marker, or icon activity as we call them, in our platform. I can place it within centimeters on the Mona Lisa, or on any painting or statue anywhere in the world. So we’re just placing digital objects in the real world and making them look and feel as if they truly exist in the real world.

What’s your main goal with Social Bee?

It’s really about getting this platform into creators’ hands. At the end of the day, with Social Bee I’ve created a game with all the parts and pieces. How you construct that game is really up to you. It’s up to the creator. Some people could use it to do food tours in Dallas; other people could do an art tour; other people could do museums, and aquariums, and scavenger hunts and all sorts of different things. As a creator, my first target market is its creators. Really putting it into their hands and then from there, just the necessary evils of growing an enterprise. There’s a definite B2B play where our platform is white labelable. 

We want to get it into the hands of conferences and festivals and all sorts of things like that. For example, you’re at a concert and instead of interfacing in a two dimensional environment, like ‘where’s stage three?’ – looking at a map on a phone isn’t especially useful. But if you can just pop open your phone and then hold it up and you can see like, ‘oh stage three is over there.’

When did you launch Social Bee?

So our beta launched a little under a year ago. We did a couple of private betas. Got a whole cohort of testers and people using the platform and then over the course of the year, we had put it to the test and got a lot of feedback that’s been incorporated into the app. I really believe that I’ve got some good ideas. But I think a lot of the best ideas come from actual users or actual humans who are using the application and would actually use that to build a business of their own.

LaBaw started Social Bee with the vision of including augmented reality, a virtual image, into the real world. Icons placed by users on the app will be visible through a camera lens. Photo courtesy Bonsai Media Group.

What’s your personal favorite feature of Social Bee?

I think my favorite feature of Social Bee is – and this is really like the least sexy or technical feature of Social Bee – but it’s the ability to invite friends to go and experience with you. I think again that’s everything. So whether it’s somebody you know, or meeting somebody in the area who’s into hiking or whatever, I think that’s really what this app needs to be about – connecting people again through shared experiences.

Is this just mainly a tourist app? Or can locals use it as well?

That’s the goal. My whole thing has been like yes, it’s a tourist app. But again, who spends money in an area on tourist activities? Tourists, right. Like I’m from Seattle, I do not go to the Space Needle because I’m local. But I think the goal is definitely for the app and the platform to be big such that people can find fun. They can kind of rediscover their backyard, their hometown and either find hidden gems or create hidden gems and share them with other people. I think there’s such a desire for local and niche experiences. 


Cover photo courtesy Bonsai Media Group

Maddie Rhodes is a graduate student at Syracuse University. She aspires to work for a travel magazine when she graduates.