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When you’re in the market for a specific thing — a good pair of running shoes, a nice restaurant, or a new novel to read — there are lots of ways to do research. You can read through user-generated reviews on sites like Amazon(s AMZN) and Yelp, or you can find expert opinions from pertinent authorities such as Runner’s World or New York Times reviews. But chances are, you’re also going to look for recommendations the old-fashioned way: asking your friends for advice.
That’s where a brand new iPhone(s AAPL) app called Wikets wants to help. Backed with $1.5 million from Battery Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, Wikets aims to help users ask for and give recommendations on things to buy, eat or experience with their friends.
Recommendations that actually pay
The web is chock full of reviews, but I can see Wikets taking off because it makes the process remarkably simple, more intimately social, and actually rewarding. Users can compile lists of recommended products to share with their friends and favorite other users’ recommendations by either sharing them as a “Re-Rec” or marking them on a “Wishlist.” They can also use Wikets to ask for specific recommendations. While recommendations can only be created within the iPhone app, they can be shared over Facebook and other existing social networks and viewed by others on the web. When people buy products a user has recommended on Wikets, the user is rewarded with “points” that can eventually be converted into gift cards.
Wikets is also compelling because it’s a platform with a very wide scope: People can use it to recommend everything from baby strollers to nightclubs. People will be able to use Wikets to recommend products from a group of official launch partners and nearly 60 major stores, including Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and iTunes (Wikets’ CEO and Co-Founder Andy Park tells me that in the future local merchants will be included on the site as well.) Users can also recommend any place listed on Yelp or on Foursquare. The app is only on the iPhone for now, but the company says it has iPad and Android(s GOOG) offerings on the way.
It’s worth mentioning that Wikets’ founding team has a solid track record. Co-Founders Andy Park, Vijay Manwani and Ravi Reddy were instrumental in building and running BladeLogic, the cloud technology company acquired by BMC Software for some $800 million. Past wins aren’t necessary for future success, but they don’t usually hurt. The company currently has 5 full-time employees.
The ‘Lazy Web’ made even simpler
I see lots of friends asking the “lazy web” for personal recommendations — and often, the responses are put on a platform like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, which makes it hard to search for and refer back to the information in the future. Wikets plugs into these kinds of social networks, but keeps the recommendations in a single, manageable place; and it provides real rewards to people for engaging with the app. The social web is increasingly crowded, but Wikets has a fairly good chance of earning its own place in users’ lifestyles.
Here are a few more Wikets screenshots (click to enlarge):