Turf War in SOMA: Klout vs. Kred
San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood is thick with start-ups. You can’t walk down the street or grab a coffee in South Park without overhearing a snippet of conversation about a Series A funding or a “Pinterest strategy.”
But here’s one juxtaposition that’s perhaps too close for comfort: Direct competitors Klout and Kred share the same building.
The two companies, which both score social media influence, moved in to the old Arthur Beren shoe warehouse in January 2011. The space is centrally located, with open floorplans in the industrial chic style — pretty much ideal for a tech start-up.
At the time, they weren’t direct competitors. Klout was having early success with its scores and “perks” for influential users, while PeopleBrowsr was providing data to marketers based on Twitter’s Firehose feed. In fact, PeopleBrowsr was a Klout API user.
But then last fall, PeopleBrowsr launched Kred, a social influence score that obviously has a lot in common with Klout, down to the weird “k” spelling. Kred is much like Klout, except that it’s more transparent, for instance, showing which community a user is influential in, and which specific social media actions earned Kred points.
So, now there are two competing companies sharing walls. While PeopleBrowsr/Kred is at 474 Bryant, Klout is at 77 Stillman — which is only the back entrance in the alley. They are basically the only two companies in the building, since former neighbors Qwiki and Plum District moved out. Only VC firm Kleiner Perkins now has part of the lower space.
Kleiner Perkins, by the way, is Klout’s main investor, while PeopleBrowsr CEO Jodee Rich has backed his company with $5 million of his own money. Klout can be controversial and divisive — since many people are jarred by the idea of an inscrutable algorithm deciding who matters — but it’s more of a start-up in the mold of the Silicon Valley establishment, with a founder/CEO who dreamed up a crazy idea nobody had tried before, and raised tens of millions in venture funding.
I stopped in on both Klout and Kred in the past week and asked them about each other. It wasn’t too strenuous of an excursion, as the AllThingD office also happens to be on this very same block.
The folks at Klout seem to be most upset about Kred devaluing their sacrosanct concept of influence. For instance, Kred did a Valentine’s Day promotion that gave people double the “+Kred” for the “+K” anyone got as a Tweeted Klout endorsement. (In both systems, the endorsements are not part of the main “influence” score, but count for a more fuzzy measure of who and what people influence.) For Kred, said Klout, to depend on Klout seemed like gaming the system.
A pro-Klout blog described Kred’s Valentine’s promotion as a “Coming to America” moment, where the “McDowell’s” fast food restaurant serves “Big Micks” without sesame seeds and says they’re totally different from McDonald’s Big Macs.
You have to admit that’s pretty funny.
Of course, Klout preferred not to go on the record about Kred. Here’s their statement: “Klout does not have a formal relationship with Kred. We consider them to be one of the many influence measurement start-ups that launched after Klout was founded in 2008.”
Meanwhile, Jodee Rich was a little bit more willing to delve into the “drama,” as he called it. He gleefully showed off a tweet reply from Klout CEO Joe Fernandez at SXSW that showed Fernandez’s pent-up aggression against Kred and its sponsorship of Austin’s pedicabs during the ongoing festival. (Pictured above is an excerpt from Rich’s SXSW blog post that probably tells the story better than I could.)
Rich argued that Kred is very different from Klout, because its algorithm is more transparent. Kred is also evolving to include things like measures of offline influence, so that Robert Scoble doesn’t have a higher score than Barack Obama, as he once did on Klout.
I asked Altimeter analyst Brian Solis, who today released a report on “The Rise of Digital Influence,” to help parse the difference between the two companies.
“There is no doubt, from an analyst perspective, that Klout is the 800-pound gorilla,” Solis said. “But Kred is realizing they have all of this data and they’re trying to do something with it. It’s a free market.”
So sure, the two companies can probably coexist in the influence measurement space — but the question is, can they continue to coexist in the same physical space?
So far, there are peaceful solutions to be had in SOMA: After some tussling, the landlord designated the deck for PeopleBrowsr and the parking lot for Klout.