Seesaw will help your friends help you make up your mind

Seesaw founders Sollenberger, Gotwalt, and Engle

You’re standing in the changing room at REI, looking at a sweater you’re thinking of buying. “Does this make me look dorky?” you wonder. Or is it just hipster-ish enough?

Ordinarily, you’d pull out your smartphone, take a photo, and send it to your significant other. But you probably won’t call on a wider circle than that: Facebook responses take too long, Twitter’s too impersonal (and you have too many creepy people following you there anyway), and it’s too time-consuming to send photo messages to all your friends.

Enter Seesaw, which will help you “make decisions with the help of the friends that matter most,” according to its cofounder and chief executive, Aaron Gotwalt.

“Seesaw is designed to help you make those decisions quickly with the help of people you know and the much smaller number of people you care about,” Gotwalt told me by phone recently.

Seesaw picked up a seed round of funding in on September 21, led by Freestyle Capital, with contributions from Baseline Ventures’ Steve Anderson, Betaworks, and a handful of other angel investors. Exact terms weren’t disclosed, but sources tell me it was in the neighborhood of $1 to $1.5 million, valuing the company at somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million, pre-money.

“Seesaw has a visually unique way to present things you would like,” said Freestyle principal Josh Felser. Besides, he said, he believes in the team and thinks they’ve identified a real consumer need.

“I don’t really care if this product takes off or not,” Felser said. “I love this problem they’re trying to solve.”

Gotwalt acknowledges that others have tried a similar approach to collaborative, social advice before, including Shallibuy (currently defunct), the Scott McNealy-backed WayIn, and even Thumb (formerly known as Opinionaided). None have been exactly smashing successes. Gotwalt said that Seesaw will stand out by helping people get immediate feedback rather than making them wait for that all-important buying advice.

While Seesaw’s main action will take place through an app, it won’t require everyone whose advice you seek to have the app, since it will send requests for feedback through SMS.

That way, you can designate a core circle of advisors for a particular question and blast your query out to all of them, without regard for whether they are also Seesaw users. If it’s well-designed, this means Seesaw will have a built-in viral engine, encouraging people to sign up when they see how useful it is for their friends.

Gotwalt and cofounders Jesse Engle and Kyle Sollenberger are serial entrepreneurs, having seen success with CoTweet, which ExactTarget acquired in 2010. Engle was CEO of CoTweet, but he and Gotwalt have swapped roles for this startup.

In addition to the two founders, Seesaw lists four other employees on its “about” page. The company is planning to launch its app in early 2013.

Photo: Seesaw founders Sollenberger, Gotwalt, and Engle; courtesy Seesaw.

Disclosure: Gotwalt is married to VentureBeat writer Jolie O’Dell. We did not communicate with O’Dell about the writing of or research for this post.


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