5 Questions for Clay Graham of RateCred

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This is the fourth in a series of brief Q&As with leaders and up-and-comers in the local space

Describe RateCred as if a friend’s mother asked, “So what is this RateCred?”
Well my mom uses RateCred. One day she said to me “Clay, can I try that rate for credit thing you do? Last night I went to my favorite Greek restaurant, and they gave me a free Souvlaki appetizer! I always go places that I want my friends to know about.”  So we don’t try to be a directory of places, although we do that too, what we want to do very well is is make it simple to share your opinion about the places you go with your friends. We then make that a game with rewards so it’s fun to play the rating game with others.

If you were not involved with ratecred which service would you use to satisfy similar needs?
To check in I would have to use foursquare and/or Gowalla. To rate it I would have to use Yelp, and to share all of that information with my friends I would then use Twitter. We tie all that up into one place and make it easy and fun.

Why should people use your product over, say, Yelp?
Yelp is a directory, and its DNA is not about mobile rating and sharing with friends, it’s about contributing content to their directory. Some people want to write a three-paragraph review about the place they go, we see that as a different use case from what we do. If you want a simple, quick, and fun way to broadcast your opinion about the places you go then RateCred is a better tool.

Our rating game is extremely viral; we are directly jacked into Twitter, so we need to prepare for success

Tease us with a hint of what’s in your pipeline related to local, will ya?
Business services is our green field … we see that as a basic value proposition for what we can provide. A way for a business to reach out directly to their customers using customer relationship management tools (CRM). Provide tools to automate a real relationship to develop, grow loyalty, and a rewards platform for the small business. If a rater is a sushi expert why shouldn’t a new Japanese restaurant want to reach out and grow a long term relationship with a special offer?

What is the future of local + mobile, in 15 words or less?
What Facebook did for friends local + mobile will do for businesses and customers.

Lightning Round

Launch: Our test application was servicetattler.com … we did a lot of user research around the product and decided we needed to re-brand in July 2010. We launched a closed beta of RateCred October 2, where we migrated our core community over to the new product. We are now in open beta that is freely available on Android Market.

Revenue: Yes, but we need to keep pushing on both depth and breadth of revenue opportunities … our first revenue goal is profitability and we are pretty close to that. Our first income streams come from adding value to standard affiliate feeds like Commission Junction by using behavioral and location targeting to drive conversion. Our long term revenue will come from providing a business services platform to small businesses.

The Team: We have five people working on getting us to the next level but I am the only one who can be considered “full time” (since we are pre-funded). Really we just don’t have enough revenue yet for any of us to not take on other income sources, luckily we are all veterans, and we all have more work than we can handle if we need short bursts of income. Right now we have a time and materials plus equity model for all contributors.

Money: We are looking to take on $250,000. This money is to allow us improve the product feature set, product quality, platform support, and scale our IT infrastructure to take on many more users. Secondly we will be spending some on user acquisition and online brand awareness. Finally we plan to have marketing events in three target markets: San Diego, LA and The Bay Area, where we partner with businesses to have fun outings with rewards for our rating community. Our rating game is extremely viral; we are directly jacked into twitter, so we need to prepare for success. Once we see user adoption rates grow, and its clear people like to play the game we will start thinking about a strong A round.

Clay’s early career was in the realtime 3D technology segment of the software development space. As Silicon Graphics’ VRML Evangelist it was his role to create revolutionary examples of visualization on the Internet. These were the glory days: Jim Clark had just left to start Netscape. Howard Look was Clay’s boss, (VP at Pixar and TIVO, and Linden) John McCrea (VP Plaxo) was staff “creative,” and Rikk Carey invented VRML based on the OpenInventor platform.
Startups changed Clay’s career transforming him from being a core 3D contributor to more of a leader and mentor to others focused on very tough technical problems and products and helped create the most widely used VRML platform in the world.
For the last nine years as a software architect.

This post originally appeared on Locl.ly.