Kris Duggan is the CEO of Badgeville, a social rewards and analytics platform. The company was officially announced at this year's TechCrunch Disrupt event, where it won the "Audience Choice Award."


1. What's the story of Badgeville and what's your vision for the company? 

We make it possible for any web or mobile publisher to reward users for behaviors that align with business metrics — site visits, pages read, photos uploaded, comments posted, links shared, and more. From the very beginning we wanted to design a clean API and turnkey widgets that could track and reward any behavior that occurs on a web or mobile site. We always wanted to include elements of game mechanics, but didn't want to just add a game layer on top of a website. Instead, we see our offering as an interactive and real-time loyalty program.


Our vision for the company, which is largely a reality right now, is to partner with customers across many different verticals (publishing, travel, education, health/fitness, retail/ecommerce, and other sites with some community aspect) and continue to innovate in helping web managers increase user engagement and loyalty.


2. How would you define "engagement" on the web and why is it so important to have highly engaged audiences?


"Engagement" on the web means different things for different sites. For one site, engagement may be based on how many times a user returns to a site to shop for a product, and how long they spend on that site. For another site "engagement" might mean how many videos a user uploads to a community, or how many "liked" comments he posts. For any site, it's imperative to have highly engaged audiences. Many quality sites obtain a certain level of traffic through SEO and other techniques to pull visitors into the site, but once they're at the site, how do you keep them around and coming back? Adding social reward mechanisms to a site provides a quick and easy way to increase engagement in line with any web manager's business metrics.


3. Game Mechanics (points, badges, achievements, leaderboards) have become increasingly popular. Are you taking all the different "technographics" into consideration or is Badgeville tailored for super users and advocates?


"Games" tend to have winners and losers, and this is why we don't see Badgeville's offerings as games. While if you really want your site to have winners and losers, you can do that with Badgeville's highly-customizable API, for the most part, we recommend that the implementation lets all your visitors be winners. Part of the story is rewarding super users and advocates, and making them feel special as they continue to promote your brand. But another part of the story is rewarding new users and casual visitors for the actions they take on your site, and introducing them to a community of peers who are also taking these actions. In doing so, you're more likely to convert your casual users to advocates and your first-time visitors into casual users, and so on.


4. Can you integrate with applications/systems that web sites are already working with?


One key element of the Badgeville API is that is was built to easily integrate into existing systems on the web. We work with a growing number of applications and systems that exist on the web already. We are fully integrated with Facebook ("Like" buttons, shares, friends, etc) and can be easily integrated into any commenting system.


5. Who are some of your current customers/partners and how are their implementations unique?

Some of current customers include, The Next Web, TechCrunch, Comcast Sports Group, Buzz Media, SlideShare, Social Media Today and many others. We also have customers in the education and shopping spaces that we are not able to reveal quite yet. As far as the implementations go, we start by asking every customer what business metrics they want to increase. Of course, most of the sites want to increase visits, time on site, and page views, but that is where the similarities end. For our traditional publishing customers, our system is flexible enough to hook into their existing comment systems. Our shopping customers reward users for leaving reviews instead of "comments," while our education customers reward users for completing a quiz. We designed Badgeville to be extremely flexible so the web manager can track any behavior or series of behaviors on a site and reward these behaviors in real time.


6. What are some of the initial results they are starting to see?


Our current live implementations of Badgeville are fast showing increasing engagement on our customer sites. For example, The Next Web is extremely happy with the use of Badgeville in their community. They have heard from many of their users that the rewards and light competition to be of the most loyal readers has increased retention and time between return visits. They also, of course, have data to support these qualitative results with the engagement analytics engine we provide as part of the Badgeville package.


7. What's the process/relationship, from integration to design and reporting, once a company signs up with you?

We offer a few different packages with varying levels of support. For our large customers, we team up to understand their business metrics and design a system to integrate with their sites. For our current customers with the highest level of support, we start with business metrics and discuss what the top 3-5 business metrics are that the company wants to increase. Then we talk through the number of users on the site, and how many times each behavior must occur in order to merit a reward. Each behavior can also reward one point or more and points, when added up, move a user to a new status level. All of these elements are customizable, and we work with each customer to discover what factors will increase engagement aligned with business metrics. Once this is all decided, we build custom widgets and help the customer integrate the product into their sites. Badgeville also offers a package with API access only, and in this package we provide best practices and additional levels of support to make sure the implementation is easy and successful on any web or mobile site.


8. You received a lot of positive buzz during
TechCrunch Disrupt. How would you describe the experience there?


TechCrunch was incredible. When we first came up with the idea for Badgeville, it felt like something that the market would support. As we started talking to customers, we knew it was. But launching any product can be a bit nerve wracking, especially when you are doing it in front of the renowned judges at the event. Making it to the top seven finalists and winning the Audience Choice award, along with many really positive comments from the judging panel of renowned investors and top tech experts, was an incredible way to launch the company.


9. What's coming up next for Badgeville?


 We're very busy working with our new customers to get their sites up and running with Badgeville's white label social rewards platform. Our customers, Comcast Sports Group, SlideShare, TechCrunch, and many others will go live in Q4 '10 or Q1 '11. We're also continuing to explore implementing Badgeville with website and mobile app owners across many verticals, including travel, education, shopping, and more. Of course in talking to various companies we learn a lot and continue to add features to our product and API offering. We'll have some more customer announcements soon!

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