Q&A with Floop co-founder and CEO Richard Schultz about launching a new mobile polling app
Floop offers a real-time polling app for mobile devices. The Woodbridge, Connecticut–based company just announced its official launch.
SUB: Please explain what Floop is, and the value proposition you offer to voters and political candidates, and even those just casually interested in politics.
Schultz: Floop is an app for seeing and sharing opinions on a wide variety of community-contributed topics. It is entirely real-time and can be used both during live events and to measure sentiment on an ongoing topic or question over time. In terms of politics, questions like “what do you think of Obama” provide a long-term view of general sentiment, as well as specific comments from users across America.
Additionally, the use of Floop as a real-time feedback mechanism during, say, a live debate allows both the audience and the constituent to provide and view feedback live, so sentiment on specific issues or comments can be seen and responses can be made.
SUB: How does the technology behind Floop work?
Schultz: Our team has a serious background in data, large data and complex analytics. We’re always refining, though we feel the app itself is quite powerful as a tool to provide real-time visualization of opinions, built on top of a mobile platform for connecting with friends, communities, and like-minded people.
From the business side, Floop’s powerful analytic platform is designed to help us discover and observe interesting patterns and trends in the data users are providing us in their profiles and responses. With this, we are building a next-generation market research style business model.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competitors? What do you offer that differentiates Floop from your competitors or from companies with similar offerings?
Schultz: There are social Q&A platforms, like Quora and Formspring, which have launched mobile versions. There are also a bunch of polling apps like Localmind, GoPollGo, and then a bunch of survey website tools. On a broader level, people are already asking each other on the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter and now Google+ for opinions.
Here’s how we’re different: Floop is the only social polling mobile app with the unique real-time voting and opinion graphing tool, which instantly shows a visual real-time measurement of how people are thinking or how opinion is shifting. Most social Q&A apps just have the group discussion thread and some have ways to calculate responses. As for polling apps, usually that’s multiple-choice and website-based, whereas in Floop you can gauge overall opinion, plus how that shifts over time and the degrees of commitment to that opinion because of the line-graph.
Additionally, there’s so much information out there and little time. To help users cut down the noise, every conversation in Floop is organized around a question or topic, producing the three perspectives described earlier—voting and overall opinion graph, group message feed, image feed. We feel this will help users find more quickly and stay engaged on the topic of interests. Of course, filters give users the power to see just topics of interest, and they can easily unfollow a question or topic when it’s no longer that relevant to them. Users now have the power to do three things just with their phone: 1) measure and aggregate opinion; 2) put the overall opinions into context via discussion and 3) allow users to engage, influence and connect more deeply on a specific topic or question they feel is important through discussion or image-sharing. A picture can change feelings quickly.
We’ve thought about this a lot. On a much broader level, people wanting to ask their social graph what they’re thinking and express an opinion on a topic tend to use something like Twitter or Facebook, now Google+. We see Floop as a complement to these platforms, and right now, we feel having a specific discussion on the go—or when location truly matters, say at an event, is where we’re showing real value. So you might be polling your friends on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ already, but we just make it easier.
As a mobile app, the big difference for us is unlike the bigger platforms, users can use filters to just see the topics and people they’re interested in, or apply the filters to see what’s coming in within the eight-mile radius with the “Nearby filter”—all at their fingertips. You don’t have to run back to a computer when you want to know something. You can do it in front of your TV, in the stadium, as part of the audience at a town hall or rally, literally anywhere you are with your iPhone.
Our next move is certainly to integrate more smoothly to push and connect with friends and followers on the major platforms. That will be key for us.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind Floop?
Schultz: We designed Floop after watching a Presidential debate in 2008 where a sentiment graph—40 constituents in a room—was shown over the candidates speaking. I found it interesting and entertaining, but I also felt that I wanted to participate—not just be a spectator. It’s this feeling of empowerment that we hope to bring to the marketplace. We feel strongly that people should feel free to ask what they like and be able to get a true reaction from the group, whenever they need to know something. And Floop fulfills that need.
SUB: What have the first steps been that you’ve taken to establishing the company?
Schultz: We spent the first 18 months focusing on strong product design and R&D. We have gone through a beta process, refined our user interface, and are now focused on the feedback from our early users. Of course, we completed a small round of seed funding to just launch the first version. Now, we’re onto the second version to be released in mid-October, and we’re currently doing additional fundraising. We also embarked on marketing, though a bit sooner than we thought we’d have to, but so far, we’ve gotten a decent response from users, investors and the media, thus far. We’ve had some preliminary but encouraging talks in Hollywood and with New York City media, and demoed the app at conferences to test out some applications. All encouraging feedback. We’re on our way.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building Floop?
Schultz: Because of the millions of social apps launching, we see our immediate challenge as the ones common to other new start-ups: adoption, rising above the fray of me-too apps that aren’t doing anything differently, and of course, things like community development, and natural integration with major platforms.
Fortunately, although we’d planned a very quiet launch in the App Store in September, Apple liked us so much that they featured us as “New and Noteworthy” and then as “Hot,” which brought us nearly 10,000 users within the first four weeks, about 400 registrations a day and nearly 1,000 downloads daily. We’re now implementing the feedback from our users into the next version to be released in mid-to-late October.
Our challenge now is to keep up that momentum with an earlier-than-planned marketing and PR push. We’d like to educate users, organizations and potential strategic partners how Floop can be used and the best applications for it.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Schultz: We see tremendous opportunities for Election 2012, media and news organizations, Hollywood and TV networks, sporting organizations and business enterprises, and professional or social conferences, which are all moving toward being more social and getting more information from the crowd. We hope to help them parse through that down the line. It’s still very early, but it’s a great time to get out there and now that there’s openness to using new social tools.
Aside from political debates, conferences, polls to integrate to TV programming or organized events, there are some fun applications for Floop too.
One that’s come up in our talks is how Floop is right for the holiday shopping season. It’s not a very serious use case of Floop, but someone shopping for a new pair of boots, for instance, could easily take a couple pictures of different boots and ask their network if he or she should buy the first or second, and ask in the group message what people suggest. It’s fun, fast and a totally natural kind of social poll anyone might do. A reporter mentioned this to a member of our team.
In the long-run, regardless of
how people use Floop as a company and data analytics veterans, we ultimately see an opportunity to create a next-generation market research business. The technologies and user adoption now exists in way that it never has before to enable this shift.
SUB: Do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Schultz: Yes we are currently raising the second tranche of our seed round.
SUB: What big goals do you have for Floop over the next year or so?
Schultz: Directionally, we are working to use data to gain insights into preferences, expectations and group dynamics. We are working to turn that into capabilities to understand what the community will be interested in, and offering it to them.
Also, the use of Floop at live events this Election 2012 season, the TV premiere seasons and sporting or entertainment events may all open up what is normally a one-way broadcast—like watching TV, listening to a conference or concert—into a two-way shared conversation where feedback from Floop could even get used in determining the direction or outcome of events.
In addition, we look to form partnerships in those areas to utilize Floop leading technology in a setting that can provide the context for the feedback.
Again, immediate integration into the major social platforms will be key, and we’re working on that as priority. We want to show the Floop team is keeping up with changes in social technology. Floop wants to be right where all the people are so we can continue to fulfill our promise to put polling in the hands of the people.
Floop – www.floop.com