Services & Software

Web sites sign up to receive hate mail

Start-up Vividence is betting that Web sites will pay a lot for the privilege of finding out exactly what users think of their services and content.

Web sites are signing up with a Silicon Valley start-up to receive in-depth, organized hate mail.

Vividence, which launched today at the Demo 2000 conference in Palm Springs, Calif., is betting that Web sites will pay quite a lot for the privilege of finding out exactly what users think of their services and content. And two high-profile Silicon Valley venture capital firms--Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, are backing them up.

Vividence launches as companies take advantage of the Internet to solicit opinions from actual consumers and Web surfers. Most of the efforts along these lines have been in the area of consumer reports by and for consumers, such as those offered by Epinions and Vividence is offering those consumer reports by consumers for businesses.

The start-up, based in Menlo Park, Calif., takes a group of 50 or 200 nonprofessional testers, selected to reflect a Web site's targeted audience, and has them perform various tasks such as finding certain items or bits of information, or completing purchases. The testers use Vividence software to rate the ease or difficulty of their experience as they go along, and from these ratings and comments Vividence assembles its reports to the company.

Testers are rewarded with gift certificates to third-party Web sites like Amazon, and in the future will be eligible for sweepstakes prizes and other incentives.

Vividence launches with 30 clients, including Excite@Home,, AltaVista and Compaq, who pay anywhere from about $20,000 for Vividence's most basic services to much more for longer-term and more in-depth analysis. Vividence Plus includes the services of a business analyst and other advisers to shadow development and marketing efforts over the course of a year.