SendLove takes the measure of a man
Start-up launches system to vote on the popularity of people from within stories about them. It sounds trivial, but it has legs.
Just what we need. Another button on the Web. But Chris Lyman, CEO of SendLove.to, believes there is a gaping hole in the feedback market; that Likes and Tweets and Shares and Comment buttons don't do enough to collect opinion and give people feedback on themselves.
"Public figures should be insecure," Lyman says. And there is in fact already a business model here: Polls. Lyman wants to to better: "The social Web should be able to deliver in seconds," what existing polling systems, like the Rasmussen presidential poll, do now.
SendLove gives Web surfers the ability to like--and importantly, to dislike--people they're reading about. Users can also comment on the people they are reading about.
What gives SendLove some potential is that commentary on individuals is collected in one place (on each site or blog). So as a site covers a popular figure--say, a politician, celebrity, or sports figure--the readers can see what other people have to say about that person outside of a particular story. You can track how public opinion on a person is trending over time, see how various articles affect the trend, and compare the popularity on the site you're on with the overall Web-wide popularity. It's an interesting and different way to get into discussions about public figures.
"We know the article that changes opinion," Lyman says. That's valuable and unique information, certainly. But does it make a business? Lyman says to profit directly from that knowledge, "I'd have to charge the publisher, and they're on really thin margins." He may, instead, incorporate ads or sponsorships into the system, or add a pro-level profile management feature for people in the database who want to "claim" their entries. That's a variation of the model has worked for Yelp. Lyman says the company has a 2 million name database of people, a good potential customer base.
It hinges on real people (not the celebs) actually using the system to vote up and down the people they are reading about. If the success of the Facebook "Like" button is an indication, there's certainly a consumer desire to do this. People are happy to advertise their likes and dislikes not just publicly, but socially, and the act of thumbing-up or down a person is an event that can be Facebooked or Tweeted out to friends.
It's easy to dismiss a silly "vote for me!" button company, but SendLove actually may have a business. Celebrity-status people want to be liked and know when and why they're not (or at least their PR managers want that info); and a lot of other people want to show off their own cultural intelligence by sharing what and who they like. There will always be money in managing vanity.
Bonus CEO fact: Why does the Chris Lyman have a green mohawk? First, "It's not a mohawk, it's a frohawk." he says. Also, "I've had it this way for 1 and a half years, ever since I resigned as the CEO of Fonality and realized there was no relationship between how your hair looked and how successful your business was."