When Michael Tippett launches a new venture, people take notice.
No wonder. He founded NowPublic, an Emmy-nominatedsocial media news site that harnesses crowdsourcing for citizenjournalism, sold it in 2009 for an undisclosed sum (though $25 millionis the rumoured amount), and just ended a gig as executive director ofthe Vancouver tech firm accelerator GrowLab.
With an impressive pedigree like that, he’s been able to generate quitea bit of buzz around his new startup Ayoudo.With this latest venture, Tippett is betting that the next wave of social media will be all aboutcalling people into action, not just sharing content.
“Social media and Facebook, it’s really a form of expression … it’sabout sharing content with your friends,” says Tippett, founder and CEOof Ayoudo. “We think (what’s) going to be the next generation of socialmedia (is) organizing actions and getting help. It’s really aboutworking together.”
Ayoudo is a free Facebook app people can use to askfor help with a task. Since it’s a location-based app, other people inthe same city can respond to fill the request. Both sides can also useAyoudo to agree on a price for fulfilling the request, and rate eachother once the experience is over.
Example: you want someone to rake your lawn. Bill, a fellow Ayoudo userin your city, offers to do it for a certain price. If you agree on it,he rakes your leaves and then you pay him. Then you can useAyoudo to rate Bill’s service (did he do a good job, show up on time orcharge you too much?). Bill can also go on Ayoudo later to rate you(did you pay him on time, offer him water, harass him to go over thesame pile of leaves five times?).
“It brings the simplicity of Twitter and combines that with thepower and depth of Craigslist and the security of eBay,” Tippett says.
Though people could go through a similar process by simply postingrequests for help on Facebook or Craigslist, those sites don’t includea built-in ratings system like Ayoudo’s, Tippett says. (Neither ofthose sites offers an online payment feature either, something Ayoudoplans to add soon.) He adds that Ayoudo is also intended to be a forumto request help for charitable causes, volunteer projects and gooddeeds, not just paid services.
Positive social impact
“We wanted it to have some positive social impact,” he says.
About 20,000 people visited the Ayoudo site on the first day its freeapp emerged from private beta for public use earlier this week, astrong debut considering the location-based app is only reallyavailable for use in Vancouver at this stage.
At this stage Ayoudo can only be used by Facebook account holders butthe company plans to add its own sign-in capability soon. Right now theapp is available in Canada as an iPhone and Web app for theVancouver market with a planned rollout to other Canadian cities in sixto eight weeks and foreign markets later. Ayoudo has 14 staff sprinkledthroughout Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, Paris and India.
The little startup has attracted a big name as its chief technologyofficer: Eric Burin des Roziers, the Paris-based co-founder of TripAdvisor,who Tippett calls “the rock star” of Ayoudo’s team.
But Tippett himself isn’t exactly a nobody. NowPublic snagged Emmynominations in 2008 and 2009 for “outstanding programming ininteractivity” and Time named it one of the world’s 50 most importantWeb sites in 2007. Add in Tippett’s philosophy degree from Queen’sUniversity and the collaborative art installation that won him fundingfrom the Andy Warhol Foundation and he’s emerged as a kind ofRenaissance man on the Canadian startup scene.
He enjoyed being executive director and acting as a mentor at GrowLabbut says he’s only left there to focus on Ayoudo because the pull ofthe startup game was just too powerful.
“It’s been an interesting experience to kind of get back into justbeing a startup guy. It’s one of those times when you just realizewhere your natural environment is. I’m kind of a born entrepreneur. I’mreally a doer — I like to roll up my sleeves and dive right in.”