I come across a lot of startups in my work as a technology journalist, and quite often I can’t tell if they have any shot of making it. I admire the passion, but I know that they face many hurdles, and many will fail.
I don’t know if Get Satisfaction, the startup that I profiled in today’s New York Times, will hit it big either, but I do feel that the folks behind the company are onto something big. And that’s the notion that in the networked economy, companies no longer control the discussion about their products. Customers are increasingly in the driver’s seat, writing on blogs and their own Web sites aimed at different products.
Smart companies will listen to their customers, and embrace this new transparency. Get Satisfaction is giving these companies a way to do just that.
The other fun thing for me, in writing this story, was catching up with Thor and Amy Muller, who I knew at their old company, Rubyred Labs. Thor told the story of Get Satisfaction’s inspiration in a silly side project the Mullers had started at Rubyred. Called Valleyschwag, people could pay $15 a month and get a care package of Web companies’ t-shirts, stickers, buttons and other paraphernalia. When the blogosphere touted it, it took off, and Valleyschwag had 2,000 paying customers in the first six weeks. The Mullers and their partner Jonathan Grubb were overwhelmed. Eighty percent of customer issues were repetitive, and in some cases the community solved the problem before the Mullers could get to it, giving birth to the idea for Get Satisfaction. (Jonathan is moving to L.A. to keep running Rubyred while the Mullers teamed with Lane Becker on Get Satisfaction.)