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Ripple’s Gal Oshri and Paul Stavropoulos.

It’s not hard to recognize when a post or video has gone viral. You’ll likely see it several times on Facebook, Twitter, and media outlets within a few hours. Online publications in the business of driving traffic analyze the anatomy of a viral post ad nauseam, in attempts to recreate its magic. There are few services, however, focused on the user experience of this phenomenon.

That’s where Ripple comes in. The Seattle startup lets users share a piece of content to several people in close physical proximity. If they like the post, those users can then spread it to people near them, and so on. The initial sharer can track the reach of the message visually, using the Ripple app.

“We want Ripple to be a way of finding the local buzz in a community, as well as a platform to share thoughts with people beyond,” said CEO Paul Stavropoulos. “Different ideas, jokes, and local updates travel so far as the content is relevant and interesting to the audience.”

Stavropoulos founded Ripple late last year with Gal Oshri, a fellow program manager at Microsoft who also happens to be Stavropoulos’ roommate.

“Gal and I started rooming together a year and a half ago, and we were passionate about building services people would find captivating and helpful,” he said. “We noticed there was a gap in how relevant information spreads in a local and global context.”

We caught up with Stavropoulos for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Ripple lets you spread content to people nearby and gives them the choice to comment and share with others. Your thoughts travel further as people spread them and you can see where your content travelled locally and across the world.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We were prototyping a work-related tool called Escalate to notify one’s manager of issues that needed attention. The idea was that different issues would escalate up the managerial chain based on their severity. A similar method could be used to spread messages between people, where an ‘escalation’ was similar to spreading a thought. Much like an important issue would ‘escalate’ to more levels of management, people would pass more noteworthy content to more individuals. This phenomenon would look like a ripple effect.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are bootstrapping. It allows us to focus on refining our product by getting feedback from our users to further pinpoint our goals.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We move quickly, listen to our users, and are passionate about our work. Ripple allows us to do what we enjoy while bringing people near and far together. It’s intoxicating!”

Ripple

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Reaching out to users who have downloaded Ripple. We’ve heard valuable feedback that has transformed and driven what we are doing.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We oscillated between different designs instead of picking one and releasing sooner to gain more feedback.”

ripple543Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We’d have Steve Bezuckergates!

These gentlemen are all rockstars, but Steve Jobs’ vision, knack for deciphering what users want, and relentless drive is something we would be honored to work with.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “The next big comedian was discovered on Ripple because his/her jokes spread to users across the world many times over. Traveling bands, event organizers and community leaders use Ripple to let people nearby know of upcoming events.”

ripple121Rivals should fear us because: “We are tackling the location-based networking space with a new spin. There are a ton of uses for Ripple, and we will actualize its potential.”

We are truly unique because: “Ripple is a dynamic network; it spreads content with a local-first mentality, but does not impose limits on how far something reaches. You can spread ripples to your community about an upcoming performance or connect with others across the world about today’s hottest issues.

Ripple’s design also allows for more engaging and relevant content; the content you receive is passed on to you by others who have vetted its material, or is created by people in your vicinity (and thus more likely to be relevant to you). Furthermore, we are not an anonymous service, and users cannot ‘follow’ each other or choose who their ripples spread to. Thus, Ripple facilitates discussions with different opinions you may not have heard through other services.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Finding what entices people to use Ripple, and building an initial user base.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “If you have something you cannot take your mind off after a while, do something about it. Additionally, look beyond friends and people in your community for validation on something; find people whom you have no connection with and determine if your solution is something they desire or want.”

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