Fast-growing, youth-oriented social networking site Lockerz has been undergoing a serious growth spurt since moving its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Seattle. And now the 70-person company — backed with more than $30 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Liberty Media — is adding some star power in the executive offices. Mark Stabingas, a former Amazon.com and Pepsi Co. executive, has joined the startup as chief operating officer.
Lockerz founder Kathy Savitt worked with Stabingas at Amazon, and she tells GeekWire that he’ll be part of an executive team that’s laser-focused on building a new type of Internet company. The goal? Reward teenagers and twenty-somethings for what they do online, from watching videos to shopping to sharing content with friends.
Think of it as Facebook, but with a point system (actually in the Lockerz lexicon “PTZ”). PTZ allow members to earn discounts and rewards based on their online activity, and help friends (dubbed “friends with benefits”) discover cool content and products.
“We are trying to build a destination for generation Z,” says Kathy Savitt, the well known retail and PR executive who founded Lockerz two years ago. “And generation Z is defined as men and women born 1992 to 2010.”
Savitt notes the teenagers and twenty-somethings typically have three open windows while on the Internet, and her goal is to make sure Lockerz is one of those.
“We want to be that first place they go to actually be rewarded for their engagement for the stuff they love to do,” Savitt tells GeekWire.
Lockerz is doing a fine job of pulling in those youngsters. Average session time on the site stands at just over seven minutes, a figure that Savitt expects to increase as they add new communications tools. The company also has attracted more than 18 million members, doing so without making an app that rides off the back of Twitter or Facebook.
But that’s going to change in the coming weeks as Lockerz integrates with Facebook, allowing its members to more easily share things they find on the site with their Facebook friends. It also recently purchased Plixi, a Twitter-based photo sharing service.
Lockerz attracts about 37 million unique visitors each month, and it has served more than 350 million videos since its launch. Those numbers are expected to grow as the company adds the new communication and shopping services, concepts that Savitt said will make Lockerz even more social.
Lockerz is riding the whole “gamification” trend — the idea that users of Web sites can earn points as the complete tasks. On Lockerz, the concept takes the form of decals and “PTZ.” And this is where she thinks the business gets really interesting, with one’s “PTZ graph” sitting on top of one’s “social graph.”
“We know, for instance, the relationship between what they’ve actually shopped for versus what videos they like versus how they answer a daily demographic question versus the experiences they share with others, and it makes Lockerz an uniquely responsive and uniquely personalized experience for its membership,” she says.
That may sound a little scary. But Savitt says they take privacy seriously, allowing individual members to create their own settings. They also do not sell any of the data to third parties.
If Lockerz sounds a bit like Facebook, with game mechanics tied in, you’d be right. But Savitt doesn’t see the social networking giant as much as a competitor as a partner.
“We are big believers that we focus on our own product, not on other companies,” she said. “We think that our PTZ graph is a really interesting overlay to Facebook’s social graph, and we appreciate that Facebook is the great connector of all sorts of audiences … and we are very much about being a destination for our members… We focus uniquely on Gen Z, like a brand like MTV.”
In addition to Stabingas, Lockerz has added several key hires to its management team in the past two years. Others include: Chief Product Officer Kumar Srinivasan, a former Travelocity and Drugstore.com executive; Chief Legal Officer Bruce Brooks, former deputy mayor of Seattle and former head of Microsoft’s corporate giving; Chief of Revenue Aaron Barnes, a former global sales executive at Friendster; and Chief of HR and Administration Robin Andrulevich, a former HR Consultant at Etsy and HR Director at Amazon.
Stabingas previously led the Amazon payments business, so his experience in that field will be critical to the company’s success. But Savitt said it is not so much the technology that gets new executives excited as the huge market shift that’s occurring in terms of how youngsters consume content and goods.
“When you come to Lockerz, you are not just coming to a hot startup in Seattle,” she says. “You are actually coming because you believe there is this glaring, big need and change coming and there are very few companies that are organizing around it,” said Savitt.
Savitt declined to discuss Lockerz’ growth plans for the rest of the year, and deflected questions about the company’s future financing plans.
“We have not talked publicly yet about what’s next, so stay tuned. We will. But we are more focused on our product right now,” she said.