The recent explosion of sites dedicated to sharing products that you love (Pinterest, Fancy, Wanelo) has brought another trend to the startup world, analytics and rewards platforms. Companies want to know who is sharing their goods and, and they want to reward them. Services such as Klout play in this space with their “perks” feature, but that is more of a way to target marketing efforts instead of rewarding advocates. There is also Refer.ly out of Mountain View, run by former Seattleite Danielle Morrill, a service that allows you to create links and reap a 5 percent commission on any referrals.
Qoiza, a new startup out of Seattle, is looking to make their mark in the space, launching their app in the Apple App Store today. They’ve created a mobile platform that both allows users to share their favorite products with their friends while also providing analytics to businesses about top supporters. They also have incorporated gameification elements into the app, giving users a “Q score” that measures your engagement on Qoiza along with awarding users with “Q points” for, among other things, adding new products or pictures.
They aren’t alone in targeting mobile. Companies like Path also are taking that approach. Although it may seem that targeting only mobile is cutting off a large portion of the market, reports from top sites, like Fab, have shown that around 40 percent of traffic comes from mobile users. Mary Meeker of KCPB also made a point to cover the promise of mobile in her latest annual overview of Internet trends.
We caught up with Qoiza co-founder Kelly Malone, a former Microsoft and Visio manager, for this edition of Startup Spotlight:
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help you discover your friend’s favorite products, and share the ones you love.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Qoiza (phonetically means ‘stuff’ in Portuguese) was born out of a simple point of frustration: Sharing products and finding friend’s favorite products simply isn’t practical using Facebook or other available solutions. We started with a simple iPhone app that gave users the ability to share their favorite products with their friends. The application reached the iTunes App Store this last spring. We then quickly realized the problem and the opportunities were much bigger.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We bootstrapped until this April when we released our MVP. We then opened up a ‘seed’ round for Angel investors in order to accelerate product development and time to market.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “For us – It is all about the USERS! Acquiring those fanatic/early adopters who use Qoiza daily for discovering and sharing great products with their friends – this is what is making us successful. We are targeting passionate user communities that spark product sharing and discovery among like-minded fans and friends. I guess you’re probably wondering, “How do they do that?” – isn’t that why it’s called secret sauce?”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Our Team. We worked together at a previous start-up – building, marketing and selling mobile applications to major consumer brands. Together, we successfully launched the North American subsidiary of Spring Wireless from here in Seattle following a $66M investment from Goldman Sachs and NEA. We’ve also experienced setbacks like the day when SAP pulled their offer to acquire us in early 2010. We’ve worked through the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ together and know what it takes!”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We often make mistakes because we’re constantly TESTING NEW CONCEPTS. At the ‘end of the day’, or more correctly ‘late at night during the weekend’, it all comes down to how quickly you realize when things go wrong and how fast you jump in with unstoppable energy to attack the issue until it simply works great!”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We admire them all – Bill, Mark, Jeff – “We’re not worthy!” Seriously though, at this stage we would look to have Zuckerberg in our corner. First, we are building a product-graph and it would clearly be to our advantage to have his insight and support. Second – Hey Mark, didn’t you recently say that your biggest challenge right now is adapting your social network to the mobile world? Well, we have some great integration with Facebook that we will continue to extend.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Every time you think about your favorite products you look to Qoiza. Much like when you think of places you look to Foursquare, or when you think friends you look to Facebook, or when you think “rain in July?” you look to Seattle. You get the idea.”
Rivals should fear us because: “In biz like in war: We take no prisoners!”
We are truly unique because: “We believe Qoiza can drive a different mode of being in the world. It’s about changing the relationships we have with the products in our lives. It’s no longer just about buying stuff, it’s about what you own! Don’t get us wrong – it’s not bad to buy things you like. What you need are things that you genuinely love & cherish, that inspire passion, or truly enhance your life. These are things that reflect who you are to the people around you – your friends, family & colleagues. The rest is simply dross.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “The biggest hurdle so far is the transition from a well-funded start-up to bootstrapping our own gig. Our team has achieved great success together, but we really had to start from scratch here and without the security we once had (like regular paychecks).”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Do not wait for the right moment. As a matter of fact, if you wait for the right moment it may never come. This is one of those situations where you need to trust your gut and go for it. That’s what we did and it has been a very rewarding experience so far. The indescribable feeling of creating something from napkin sketches into a compelling product. The long hours executing and developing product. The pitches to angels, VC’s, and to your wives and girlfriends (you never win this one). These experiences help you develop as a professional and a leader regardless of where the start-up ends up.”