For the past two years year Anil Dash and Gina Trapani have been building ThinkUp. It's an app for the social web that helps the average person derive the same value and insight from their data as giant tech companies and marketing firms do. Today they are launching a crowdfunding campaign to turn it from an open source pet project into a sustainable business.
ThinkUp claims to answer questions like "Did that tweet I sent out make people happy?" or "Am I talking about myself too much? Should I rein it in a little bit?" It's sort of a benevolent version of Klout, delivering social stats and insights to users but avoiding the popularity contest, marketing tie-ins, and the sale of user data to ad-targeting firms."People are more motivated by the positive stuff than the fear of being inevitably screwed," says Dash.
In this way ThinkUp resembles other idealistic projects like Diaspora and App.net, services created in reaction to the perceived failings of Facebook and Twitter. "A big part of what's interesting about the story is connecting to the 'indie web,'" says Dash. "But as a much more practical, consumer app with a real business model."
The first version of ThinkUp has attracted around 40,000 users, mostly developers. To keep improving the product and making it sustainable, Dash and Trapani decided it would be "worth having a business model." The service will be funded through subscriptions, and the crowdfunding campaign offers different levels of rewards, access, and services depending on which tier users choose. If 1,000 people sign up for the $5 a month plan, the app will be sustainable, says Dash.
Disclosure: Anil Dash is an advisor to Vox Media, the parent company of The Verge. I have been covering ThinkUp prior to joining Vox.