Pre-launch startup Luluvise aims to recreate online the experience of private chats with your girlfriends. The company just landed $1 million in funding from Passion Capital, ProFouders Capital and various angel investors.
Two years ago, founder Alexandra Chong had a great Valentine’s Day story to share with her girlfriends but didn’t feel comfortable about posting it on Facebook. Three telephone calls, seven text messages and two Skype calls later, she wondered, “Why can’t I tell this story to all of my friends at once?” and Luluvise was born. Chong, a former member of Jamaica’s Olympic tennis team, developed the idea with co-founder Alison Schwartz, before quitting her day job to work on it full-time in 2010. Luluvise will launch in private beta on November 14th.
The target users are young women aged 18-35. A Luluvise user first creates an “inner circle”, a private, secure space accessible only to the friends she trusts the most and with whom she is comfortable sharing private details. The scoops feature let’s her share news, dilemmas and gossip in 4 formats: text scoop, photo scoop, poll scoop and the Wikidate scoop.
The Wikidate scoop, likely to strike fear into the heart of many a male Facebook user, is a pre-set quiz that lets a user review any guy with a public Facebook profile and tell the inner circle what she really thinks of him. “We take the score from your review and average it with the scores from other Luluvisers who have already reviewed the gentleman in question,” explains Chong. “Your score contributes to Luluvise’s ever-growing database of dudes.” The final score is made public but the details (specific comments of users) of the review are only available to those with access to the scoop.
The majority of Facebook activity is generated by women. Most of my own time on Facebook is spent communicating with close female friends but sharing more private thoughts on social networks without your ex-colleagues and relatives hearing about it too, is a consistent problem. You can use messaging, lists, circles and other tools but they are frankly a hassle and quite clunky.
“Best friends are essential to health and happiness for young women and Luluvise facilitates friendship-on-the-go,” says Chong. “Even when life (work, school, family and other obligations) gets in the way, your girlfriends are always at your fingertips… and you’re always available for them when they need you.” Chong told me that while other online spaces try to satisfy women’s communication needs, none of them have the express goal of facilitating “girl time” with a user’s closest friends.
Luluvise’s business model is not yet clear. The company will initially concentrate on building up the user base. E-commerce in the form of group buying, offers, lead generation and even virtual goods as well as sponsorship are among the options being considered for generating revenue.
I asked Chong about the potential conflict between Facebook’s drive towards ever more public sharing and Luluvise’s emphasis on privacy. She told me that “Luluvise only uses Facebook to make registration easier. We do not post to walls or make Luluvise information public anywhere or to other Facebook users.”
Luluvise was founded in 2010, is based in London and has 10 employees.