(Photo by Jason Heritage)
It’s a contest to get the most “likes” and the winner gets $10,000.
That’s the premise of Spotlight, a mobile app that just launched its public beta. It’s an open social network, meaning you can see everyone’s posts, not just friends, and you’re only allowed to post five times a day (a protection against those who might spam the network to have a greater chance of winning). At the end of each month, Spotlight will award the winner $10,000. Here’s this month’s leaderboard.
It’s called “Spotlight” because of a special feature that spotlights one “trending post” every four hours.
It’s available for Android and iOS.
Spotlight is from a Philadelphia-based company called VUID, which recently graduated from the Project Liberty Digital Incubator. The startup raised $50,000 from Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners earlier this year and an undisclosed amount from “serial entrepreneurs” and “a family office in California,” said cofounder Kevin Brophy. The $10,000 prize is funded by money from investors and founders, and, VUID hopes, eventually sponsors.
The prize winner is the user who, at the end of the month, has the highest number of total likes on all her posts. When a winner is identified, Spotlight will do a brief audit, Brophy said, to make sure that the user didn’t break any rules by doing something like creating multiple accounts.
Spotlight also allows you to post anonymously because the team “believe[s] that anonymity, when used right, can provide a safe environment where people can share their personal stories and thoughts,” according to the website. Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
The name VUID hints at another feature on the mobile app: every person who signs up is assigned a unique “VUID number” that Spotlight uses as an identifier. You can search for someone by VUID number or tag someone’s VUID number. These features aren’t live yet, Brophy said, but will be soon.
VUID envisions that users will be able to sign into Spotlight and other apps, both built by VUID and others, with their VUID numbers, Brophy said. It’s similar to Facebook Connect or QQ Login, a tool that China-based instant messaging company Tencent launched to its 637 million users in 2011.
Brophy maintains that VUID numbers aren’t the big picture: “It’s a secondary feature,” he said. The team thought it would be “cool” and “fun” to have another way to log in and to tag people anonymously.
When asked what VUID’s investor pitches focused on — VUID numbers or Spotlight, Brophy said it was Spotlight, adding, “We’re putting the bulk of our energy and resources into building Spotlight.”
The company’s patent on VUID numbers is still pending, he said.
Before launching, Spotlight ran two private betas, with a $250 prize. One of the winners was Tayarisha Poe, a Swarthmore grad and filmmaker (and also sister to developer Mjumbe Poe), who posted about her upcoming film. She got more than 1,700 likes in a week.
The team hasn’t considered revenue models yet and is focused on building an audience, “like any other social network,” Brophy said. It also wants to attract “inner-city users,” he told the Inquirer, and will do so by marketing to groups like literacy nonprofit Mighty Writers and Americorps education program City Year.
Brophy, 39, of Graduate Hospital, runs the company with cofounder Karen Meidlinger. They both used to run Meidlinger Partners, a private equity firm that invests in water tech companies. The fund is fully invested now, Brophy said.
The cofounders manage a team of eight full-time employees, including themselves. They’re soon leaving the Philly.com headquarters for their own office a 1611 Walnut Street, Brophy said.
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