What guy hasn’t wanted to defend a bad call on his favorite sports team- or from his significant other? Or a teenager who’d love to make a case for staying out late with a crush? Enter JabberJury.com, a site where settling all manner of debates is only a click away.
Though it’s coming out of beta today, JabberJury’s been quietly gathering steam since its genesis in 2009. That’s when co-founders, Chicago-based entrepreneurs Kevin Wielgus and Angelo Rago, walked into a bar and found a way to solve an argument between Rago and his girlfriend. Rago had been receiving a raft of pissy text messages from his girlfriend after he declined to go with her to visit her father in the hospital (he lent her his truck instead).
It started with a fight about hemorrhoids
Rago knew he was right--her dad had hemorrhoids and not some fatal disease--but she was busy trashing him. So the two friends invited bar patrons to weigh in on the dispute and the idea for JabberJury took hold. Wielgus tells Fast Company they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. “We try to take what’s been implemented and received well by the public,” he explains. In doing so they’ve mined voting concepts from such successful polling sites as Hot or Not and Awkward Family Photo, mashed them up with a voyeuristic dose of Court TV, and added a point system and charitable giving component for good measure.
After bootstrapping the emerging business for about a year, Rago and Wielgus received a $120,000 cash infusion from family. Shortly thereafter, Lightwater, LLC came in with $1.2 million in funding.
Evolved into a quasi-online game
Along the way, Wielgus says the site’s evolved and added features as he and Rago finessed their revenue model. Right now users can post their own cases via video uploads or they can vote on other cases. Taking a page from the Mafia Wars and FarmVille playbooks, members earn virtual currency called Jabbies, for joining, recruiting jurors, posting, voting and interacting with sponsors. Jabbies can then be redeemed for gift cards, travel, or swag from JabberJury’s marketing sponsors. "If a dispute's settled in your favor, you can go out for a make-up dinner," he suggests.
Added charitable donations
Wielgus added charitable contributions to the mix, too. Five national nonprofits will be announced soon and users can convert every 2,000 Jabbies earned to $1 cash. “With online gaming, we saw so many accumulating points to earn a status level, so we thought if people are willing to get points for nothing, why not get for something and redeem them for charity. We call it ‘a cause to fight for,’” Wielgus explains.
And a value proposition for advertisers
That’s not dissimilar to the way he and Rago built their revenue model. In addition to offering targeted demographics from users who provide personal information, Wielgus sees it growing into a complete marketing service. “We are providing advertisers with a community who looks at choices and provides opinion. Why not be able to see what the popular vote is on developing a brand or an ad?” He says JabberJury could drill down to specific subsets of users. “Companies [usually get that] through market research firms, but we’ll have a bunch of people happy to give their opinions.”
As for user privacy, Wielgus is quick to note that JabberJury’s not selling anyone’s name or personal information to its partners. And users are encouraged to use privacy settings much the way they would on Facebook. “You can choose who sees your profile and you can search for others,” says Wielgus, “We are encouraging the same good judgment with their testimony as if they were in court and put on the stand.”
But it's still fun
Though it’s clearly a vehicle for business, Wielgus doesn’t ignore JabberJury’s sheer potential for fun. “This time next year I’d love the site to be associated with entertainment conflict resolution and as source for good information and conversation starters,” he admits. It wouldn’t hurt if JabberJury became part of the mainstream media as a resource for collective opinions, too. But says Wielgus, airing grievances has the potential to make the world a better place.
“JabberJury’s not only entertaining and rewarding, it has a redeeming quality. In our ‘case of the day’ we’ve received a lot of feedback that this forum lets people get stuff on the table that they would have just stewed over.” So the next time you’ve got an argument on your hands, don’t get mad. Get an opinion (or a hundred) and settle it right online.