If the success of services like Yelp, Wikipedia, and YouTube prove one thing, it’s the power of user-generated content. But actually getting enough data from users to provide a useful tool is no easy feat.
Portland startup The Dyrt is launching with a unique strategy to compel users to submit content, targeting tech-savvy, always-on millennials. Earlier this month, The Dyrt launched a campground search platform — “think Foursquare for camping,” says CEO Kevin Long. He and Sarah Smith, his co-founder and wife, decided to beef up the site’s reviews and photos by gamifying the experience.
The Dyrt is holding competitions in each of the 50 U.S. states to encourage users to populate the site with reviews and photos. Each state has its own leaderboard, which users can climb by submitting reviews, images, and sharing the site with friends. The Dyrt has partnered with 27 outdoor brands across the country to provide prizes for the top-ranking users in each state.
“We don’t have some giant marketing budget that’s getting this out there,” said Long. “This is all viral gamification because people get extra points for sharing it. Their friends see it and then their friends start playing. Every single week we’ve been seeing reviews pick up faster and faster.”
Campers can contribute reviews, photos, and videos to The Dyrt’s database of 17,000 campgrounds. Long and Smith were inspired by their own difficulties searching and vetting campgrounds online.
“Our goal is to crowdsource a picture and video of every campground in the U.S.,” said Long. “The number one problem with looking for a campground is you can’t see what it looks like — very limited pictures and reviews from local experts. It’s essentially like picking a hotel room online and you can’t even see what it looks like. You’d never do that.”
Long believes that millennials are key to reaching that goal. A 2013 report from The Outdoor Foundation revealed nearly 30 percent of campers were between the ages of 18 and 24. The Dyrt wants to leverage that interest in the outdoors and the smartphone habits of millennials to build a comprehensive database of campgrounds.
“The millennial demographic is especially important to us because of their deep interest to ‘gamify everything’ and their high usage of mobile technology,” said Long.
In addition to The Dyrt, Long also operates the PDX Tech Crawl, an annual event that recently joined the Technology Software Association of Oregon.
With the exception of a small note round currently in progress, Long and Smith have bootstrapped The Dyrt. The Portland startup has four full-time employees. Long says the crowdsourced model has helped The Dyrt’s database grow rapidly in the month since launching.
“Two weeks ago we were getting a review every 90 minutes,” he said. “This week, are getting a review every 10 to 15 minutes. Our new gamification web app is really taking off.”