It’s the question that rolls off your tongue whenever you encounter a situation where inefficiency, poor design or mere lack of foresight gets between you and what you want to do.
“Wouldn’t it be better if … ?” These ideas usually go to customer feedback forms — often to die.
What if there were a central repository for them? And what if that repository were home to a community that could recommend some ideas over others? Wouldn’t it be better if your ideas for innovations (could this be more up our alley?) — whether simple or complex — had a place not only to live but, perhaps, also to thrive?
A new platform called Betterific seeks to provide just this type of home. Users can join via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail and enter their ideas, submitting them to the community for a Reddit-style up-or-down vote. The site was started by Micha Weinblatt and co-founders Brad Cater and Jonathan Schilit.
The site, which Weinblatt describes as “inherently social,” differs from other social networks in that it primes users to share constructive feedback. “Anyone can tell you what’s wrong with something,” Weinblatt said. “But if you make the person go one step more, you can get really interesting responses.”
The spirit of the site is something Weinblatt says has always been with him. In 2005, he sent an e-mail to the fast-food chain Chipotle suggesting that the company offer free chips with their “burrito bol” menu item to make it as filling as the company’s burrito. The suggestion, at least to date, has not been adopted — a victim, perhaps, of the suggestion box vortex. In 2008, he suggested to Bolt Bus that it would be better if the company put stops and stop durations on the Web site. Eventually, the idea for Betterific came about when Weinblatt determined that the fitted sheet could be better — specifically, adding labels on the sheet indicating the width and length.
In the early stages of Betterific’s development, Weinblatt was worried that the site would turn into a repository of complaints. But today, he says, 90 percent are in the “positive realm,” with more than 100 suggestions — or “betterifs” as the team calls them — on how to improve the platform itself.
Asked what his favorite “betterif” was, Weinblatt said it was from a user who suggested that toilet seats come with a “pedal lift lid,” similar to trash cans. For co-founder Cater, it was the option for a “cancel” button on elevators, while for Schilit it was that Cheetos bags come with chopsticks to “keep the orange stuff off your hands.”
Weinblatt said that he learned a lot from founding the T-shirt company Crooked Monkey in 2005 but that Betterific was “on a bigger scale.”
Currently, Weinblatt and his team are in Washington and would “love to work with local companies” to incorporate the engine. Ultimately, they hope it will serve as an online focus group service, placing engaged customers in the path of companies eager to keep them happy.
In the next couple of weeks, Weinblatt says the team plans to launch an “at-tag” system, allowing users to tag one another in their “betterifs.” Meanwhile, Betterific is teaming up with digital media company BisNow to experiment with running a private section of the platform where certain users can share ideas in the comfort of a closed community.
Weinblatt says he and his team are “pounding the pavement” to try to raise $650,000 in funding — and hope, once the financing is secure, to expand the staff.