GigPark – share reviews with your friends

logo170.pngGigPark, a Toronto, Ontario startup, has finally come out of private beta and is now live.

GigPark is a site to review and recommend local service providers amongst your friends and contacts. That means that if you hire a plumber for example, you can review his/her work and it will be shared with other people who you have friended, just like Facebook or any other number of social applications.

This is in contrast to most current review sites, which give you reviews about service providers that could be written by anyone. With GigPark you can get recommendations directly from your friends, either by viewing service providers that they have reviewed already, or by asking for a specific recommendation. Many review sites such as and Tripadvisor try to build the authority of the reviewer by showing you information about them (such as other reviews they have written, etc), but they remain ripe with fraudsters and hucksters and it is basically impossible to eliminate those people unless you take GigPark’s approach.

gigpark2.pngGigPark has a very tight focus and it cuts through a lot of the mess of recommending new things to friends with a clean approach that reminds me of FaceBook before they launched FB apps. GigPark has also launched a Facebook app to compliment their service. The app is much more tightly integrated with FaceBook than most apps, which is nice.

GigPark is taking a very fundamentalist approach to using the social network (or Social Graph as it now seems to be called) in their design of the service. Where it would be easy and lucrative for GigPark to find ways to publicly expose these recommendations, and it would also be profitable to resell the content, Noah and Pema assured me last week that they focus was on creating a safe and trusted space for users, and that might mean giving up some short term opportunities. That includes not selling off the reviews as “content”.
If they get a significant amount of people signed up and engaged, then this approach is going to pay off by entrenching GigPark as the most effective review site. The use of a social network gets around the significant authority and spam problems that we mentioned in our review of HomeStars. The bet is however, can they build that audience?

The hitch is that GigPark falls squarely in the YASNS category and getting people to sign up for a new site and then to have them re-create their social network is tough. The pitch is that GigPark has a very defined and obvious value, and the opportunity is huge.

GigPark is self-funded and is run by Pema Hegan and Noah Godfrey.

My profile is here, add me!

StartupCamp Waterloo 2 – Tuesday February 26th

startupcamplogo.pngJust a reminder that next week on Tuesday February the 26th is StartupCamp Waterloo. We will announce the next StartupCamp Toronto there and hopefully a few other things as well.

Austin Hill will be kicking things off and I expect that the pitches will be as much fun as last time. The thing I really liked about StartupCampWaterloo (and what we tried to achieve in Toronto) was how laid back things were and how “green” the pitches were.

I can’t wait to hang out and meet some more aspiring Waterloo startups.

As The Web Turns – The tales of Capazoo

250px-flag_of_montrealsvg.pngMontreal seems to be the hotbed for controversy in the Web 2.0 world in Canada. Where else could you find someone who will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and someone else who will supposedly pay you for joining their social networking site? It is the latter, the multi level marketing site called that is bringing us the latest dirty laundry.

Capazoo is a social networking site, in this case it is a lot like MySpace, which charges anywhere from $25 to $35 a year for a membership. The big idea is that the more people I get to sign up, the more referral kickbacks I get. We’ve all seen this before in other disguises, in the case of Capazoo, they have attracted their share of B and C-list celebrities.

I won’t even try to recount the whole story, but it seems to involve some brothers, at least one of which has been convicted of fraud before, a bunch of ex-NHL hockey players, some online porn kings and a bunch of investors who still don’t seem to know what is going on.

capazoo.pngLa Presse, a French-Daily in Montreal has been digging in to the story (google translate) and it isn’t pretty. The two founders, who are also brothers, are now in court fighting over who has control of the company and they are also sorting out the small matter of who embezzled how much off the top from the investors money (one side is claiming it was a “10% commission on funds raised”).

There was also the small matter that one of the two guys who were managing the company had decided that pornography should become a big part of the sites content (who knows — they may have made a fortune doing that), then add on the death threats that were going around and it seems you have something worth writing about.

Heri has been covering this at Montreal Tech Watch and his last post on the subject stirred up quite a cat fight in the comments. You just can’t make this stuff up folks.

I am not sure what to make of the whole thing. The worst part is that these guys have sucked a lot of investable money out of Montreal and have left a long trail of investors who probably now have a bad taste for web startups. I haven’t written much about Capazoo up until now because I always felt they were a very poor reflection of the entrepreneurs I know in Montreal. It remains one of the most exciting startup cities in Canada and judging by some of the great projects and startups I have been hearing about, it is going to stay that way for a long while.