Opinulate’s New Social App is an Ambitious Data Play


Opinions are like smartphones. Everyone has one, and they’re made for sharing.

Exchanging personal views and preferences is at the core of ‘Pinion, a new iOS app developed by Minneapolis-based startup Opinulate.

On the consumer end, it’s a free download with a sleek interface that puts a fun, fill-in-the-blank twist on social media. On the business end, the app was conceived as a powerful data collection tool with significant long-term potential.

“I grew up with these old game shows like Match Game and Family Feud. They were very popular in my generation,” says Opinulate cofounder Paul Chapin. “We thought, what better way to get a social barometer on what people are thinking about a given thing at the moment than to frame a question with an open-ended answer?”

The premise and functionality of ‘Pinion are as straightforward as the name suggests: create an account, then scroll through a feed of user-generated queries (or create one) and check out all the varying opinions on each, adding your own if you so choose. You can post images, and filter to view answers based on location, age, and other demographics. Some people are serious, many aren’t. It’s an amusing experience.

Opinulate has been developing the app since forming a couple of years ago. The startup operates within Chapin’s advertising agency, Initio, and has the luxury of borrowing out resources from the company, though it also has its own dedicated three-man team, which includes cofounder Terry Anderson and lead developer Jesse Hemingway.

Up until this point, the venture has been self-funded – Chapin says they’ve put in “a couple hundred thousand bucks” – but now they’re beginning to seek funding. Once Opinulate can become a standalone company, the plan calls for a pivot to driving adoption, and monetization.

The income won’t be generated from users; they don’t intend to charge for downloads or move toward in-app purchases. Instead, Chapin says the goal is to ultimately turn opinions into revenue.

“We’re hoping down the road that we will be able to develop tools, perhaps even subscription models, for enterprise to be able to mine data in a way that would be useful to them without sacrificing the privacy of consumer data.”

With his extensive background in digital advertising, Chapin understands full well the value of data for businesses, but of course this model is entirely dependent on collecting enough of it. Right now ‘pinion has fewer than 1,000 downloads, and by Chapin’s estimate, about 200 to 300 active monthly users. The company hasn’t invested much in marketing or PR outreach, though he expects adoption to be “event-driven or personality-driven.” A few high-profile users and spotlights could open the floodgates, he notes, pointing to Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter boost as a precedent.

The next steps for Opinulate are all oriented toward growing the app’s reach. Chapin says a new update will be releasing shortly that removes the requirement people create an account before perusing feeds, while an Android version and online client are on the horizon.

His goal is admittedly ambitious: 20 million users in the system within 24 months. With the proper funding and promotion, it’s an attainable number – in his opinion.