Three months ago, famed Minneapolis startup Wahooly was selected to join the spring class of AngelPad, a San Francisco-based accelerator program. And by the time they demo this Wednesday night, everything will have changed.
“Angelpad has caused us to re-examine everything,” says co founder and CEO Dana Severson. “As we peeled back the layers, it became clear that we could be better at what we set out to do with a different approach.” Sounds like a pivot if there ever was one.
Wahooly began in the fall of 2011 as a matching service for nascent startup companies and social influencers, whereas those who socially promoted a given startup were rewarded with points redeemable for incentives such as consumer products, early access and even equity stakes.
What Chasm.io sets out to do now instead is match the same influencers to content in the form of what Severson calls “social reciprocity.” Based on the notion that influence between people and/or brands isn’t always balanced, it’s an influence exchange of sorts, where points are earned for sharing specific content. As the points rack up, they can be redeemed for earned distribution back by certain influencers.
Members specify what categories are of interest to them when signing up and are sent daily recommendations of content that matches those interests. So, for example, a blogger may be consistently sharing content coming from the Chasm.io platform, earning points along the way, and ultimately decide to add their own original content back into the mix, redeeming points in exchange for the promotion of said content.
“Influencers are going to be credited for sharing things would have shared anyway. We’re calling this social backscratching. If you share something for somebody, you should be given the opportunity for someone to share something for you. However, if your influence is worth twice as much as someone else, you should be recognized for that. That’s precisely what we’re solving. We’re bringing balance to an otherwise unbalanced system.”
Severson says that an influencers baseline value can be determined by a combination of things — Klout score, past performance of sharing, and supply and demand for a given topic. In terms of monetization, Chasm.io intends to charge people/brands who don’t build up points through sharing but want to pay the service for access to other influencers. Chasm.io currently has four big brands piloting the system. He insists that it’s not a way to directly monetize one’s social status, rather for further strengthening reputation.
“Although we’ve reformulated everything, we’re catering to the same group of users and customers, addressing the same problem. It’s still about benefiting others by sharing content through influence.”