Quick Pitch: An iPhone app that lets you find and share recommendations with people you trust.
Genius Idea: Although review sites can be handy while trying to secure a last-minute hotel reservation or — deep breath — finding a hair salon in a new neighborhood, nothing evokes more confidence than taking the recommendation of a friend whose tastes you know and trust. But there doesn’t yet exist a convenient platform or library for sharing and storing recommendations with your friends.
Enter Stamped, a Google Ventures-backed iPhone app launched by a team of (mostly) former Google employees this week. The app, which is coming soon to other smartphone platforms as well as the desktop, lets you keep track of and share the things you like. You can also tap into the recommendations of your contacts and well-known tastemakers, such as chef Mario Batali (an advisor to the startup) and New York magazine.
It works like this: After downloading the app, you’re given 100 stamps, which you can use to recommend restaurants, books, movies and albums, among other things. You can also see what your friends are recommending by authorizing the app to pull in your contacts from your phone, Facebook and Twitter. If someone likes your recommendation, he or she can give it an additional stamp, and you’ll earn two more stamps to give out. Recommendations can also be liked and saved to a do-list.
Pulling up your friends’ recommendations is easy. You can browse by category (such as books) or location (including nearby), the latter of which is displayed conveniently on Google Maps. You can also search for terms like “sushi” or “iPhone app” to hone in further.
Get recommendations from tastemakers such as chef Mario Batali, film critic Peter Travers and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff.
“People are very prone to sharing and exchanging, there just wasn’t an efficient way to do it,” says cofounder Bart Stein of his team’s desire to create the app.
Like many a startup entrepreneur, CEO and cofounder Robby Stein (who, according to Stamped’s about page, is not Bart’s brother) says he and his team are “100% focused on building a product that delights our users.” They have, however, also recognized immediate opportunities for revenue. When you see a recommendation for a restaurant for instance, you can click through to book a reservation on OpenTable. Likewise, you can purchase movie tickets through Fandango, books through Amazon and songs through iTunes. Stamped has an affiliate relationship with each provider.
So there you have it: a truly useful, beautifully designed app — with a plausible business model — from a talented, well-backed set of young entrepreneurs. This is hands-down one of the most promising startups I’ve seen all year.
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.