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Lindsey Harper

What haircut do you like best on Justin Bieber? Do you prefer Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer? And what’s your favorite vodka — Crater Lake or Svedka? Those are just a few of the burning questions you can get answered on Swayable, a year-old Seattle startup that allows users to vote on everything from pets to sunglasses to books.

Created by former Microsoft program manager Lindsey Harper, Swayable is similar to the winning creation at last weekend’s Seattle Startup Weekend: We chatted with the 35-year-old entrepreneur to find out the secret behind Swayable.

Explain what you do so our moms can understand it: Swayable is a fun and addictive way of leveraging your social networks to help you make decisions online or on the go.

Can anyone defeat Justin Bieber on Swayable?

Inspiration hit me when: I was at REI May 2010 and was trying to figure out which rooftop box to buy. I called my husband and he told me to get the black one that’s 16 inches wide. Well, there were two of those. So I took pictures of each one and emailed them, then forgot which one I sent first. I thought that there has to be an easier way to just get quick feedback when stumped on what to get. Within three days, I had a 50-page spec document with my full vision for Swayable.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrapped.  I have been able to fund it myself and through friends and family. I feel very strongly and passionate about bringing my vision to life. If it becomes necessary at some point I will seek out funding.

My ‘secret sauce’ is: Perseverance, obsessive passion and willingness to learn what I don’t know.

The smartest move I’ve made so far: Not being afraid to be imperfect and listening to my user base by asking for feedback and making changes based on that feedback.

The biggest mistake I’ve made so far: Trying to outsource the full development initially on ODesk. I needed to outsource to a stronger company that had U.S. based ownership and accountability, which I am doing now with Beyondsoft Consulting.

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Bezos. Frankly, I love his story. He believed in his idea and just went for it. Seeing such success for someone when they started out with the belief of themselves and from family and friends, is just inspiring.

Our world domination strategy starts when: Growth is happening less from my efforts and more from my users loving the product and sharing it.

Rivals should fear us because: We aren’t just one audience or niche. You can use Swayable for anything you are undecided between, or want feedback on; the options are only limited by your imagination.

We are truly unique because: Not only can you share and get feedback real time. You can also embed the Swayables on any website. Visitors to that website can vote, share, comment and interact with the Swayable without leaving the site.  Also, the data is consolidated across all locations whether shared or embedded so that you can have the same Swayable on 50 sites and shared in multiple locations showing the same results and data.  Offering a powerful ability for users to get feedback from a variety of websites/mediums.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Getting traction. It’s moderate growth. But I’m seeing continual 75 percent to 100 percent growth month over month, so it’s a slow climb but it’s growing consistently.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Stop talking about all the things that can go wrong. Put a solid plan in place and just jump in and make changes if and when things don’t work. You can “what if” yourself out of anything.

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