Entrepreneur Lou Donnelly-Davey thinks the web has spoiled us all, and not for the better. That’s why she’s building Scrattch, a new startup for information sharing based around groups and communities.
“You do a Google search and you only look at your first page – and you’re pretty much only going to look at your top three. We want to turn back the clock a little bit and say, how do you find not only what is the best information out there, but what is the best information for you?”
She envisions Scrattch as a community platform that’s also a repository of information, a place where people go to get crowdsourced knowledge. Scrattch would be a website where you can archive and share your favourite finds from around the web, but also on a higher level, a website to help create meaning and context around the data.
“It’s bringing things back to the old school, when you used to go to a library and sniff around and find not just a book on a topic, but the best book that suited your purpose perfectly,” she says.
Scrattch is currently raising seed capital and is still invite-only, with plans to go public soon.
A Facebook for data
Donnelly-Davey likes to think of Scrattch as “the Facebook for data”.
“We’re archival and sharing. Lots of people are doing that. But we’ve got this overarching higher mission which is about creating a community around great information, we like to say crowdsourced knowledge. Going in there and relying on your peers and a community to let you know what is the best information is the way forward,” she says.
“If you have a community like Scrattch, ultimately as we evolve we want to make it so you’re enmeshed in that community, you’re a member of a group, you’ve got people that you follow that are scratching articles and content that really resonate with you. That as time goes on when you go in there to find information and pull information out - we’re talking semantic search - we’re going to know you so well because of the groups you’re associated with, the people that you follow, the articles that you’re rescratching, etc, that we can give you a result that’s a bit more meaningful.”
That means results that aren’t based on SEO or a search algorithm, she says.
“We’re going to give you a result that’s based on human ranking, what sites you visit - not what Google thinks you want.”
The path ahead
Scrattch is focusing on user acquisition and has reached out to a number of bloggers to kickstart the movement by adding Scrattch widgets to their blogs.
With just two developers working on the platform, Donnelly-Davey says they’ll be introducing more features (the B-list features) after the launch.
How about a business model? There are a few options, she says, with one of the most well-received being an additional private group function. There’ll also be an enterprise model where academic institutions and businesses can create a private group to manage their own content. Scrattch is in talks with a “major New Zeland media company” about doing this for them.
“We’re talking about breaking down enterprise silos, data management and big data issues within organisations.”
She's convinced that Scrattch will fill a need.
“We’ve got a very strong instinct that this is what the market wants,” she says.
“Bookmarking services like Pocket, Instapaper, Delicious, none of them have evolved to meet what the market is wanting. Absolutely none of those services have evolved and I’m not 100 percent sure why - but we can see a big gap and we’ve been told by a number of individuals in the tech community that there is a big gap.”
She adds: “If you’re just focusing on building a product you’re going to be in trouble. If you’re building a product and then you’re going to go out there and find a problem that that’s going to fix, you’re already way behind. Start with a vision and mission and work backwards, then get some developers and designers in to help, to mould that vision.”
Doing business from the South Island
Originally from Dunedin, Donnelly-Davey is now based in Queenstown, where the entrepreneurial community is admittedly somewhat fragmented. Being in Auckland would probably be helpful, she says, especially as Scrattch seeks funding, but she often travels there for workshops and meetings and says an eventual move to San Francisco is a possibility.
Scrattch is her first tech startup, but she’s built and exited three other businesses over the past decade. The problem, she says, was that none of them were scalable. One was a children’s fashion business, for example.
“It was fun but it was never going to be a business that was going to make a lot of money. Externally it looked successful but on the books…”
She also created an online women’s magazine and a social networking site for people in the children’s product industry.
“Working in the kids’ fashion industry you get a really tough skin,” she laughs.
“Some of the women in the industry, boy, you don’t want to cross them!”