Plyfe Raises $1M to Make Facebook Pages Actually Interesting

By Sarah Lacy , written on March 1, 2012

From The News Desk

Plyfe has raised $1 million from a handful of angels, Initial Capital, General Catalyst, and Brad Harrison Ventures. On the surface, this sounds like just the kind of company I would hate.

Plyfe offers rewards for gamifying your life. I don't know whom that sentence will piss off more: Me or the new copy editor.

But after digging into the company a bit more yesterday, including learning a lot of stuff that I can't yet report, the company has actually proven pretty interesting.

The biggest thing Plyfe does is make brands'  Facebook pages more dynamic and interactive, organizing games and contests for fans of that brand to continually re-engage users. That's a big pain point: A lot of brands get people to a page and then don't know what to do with them, (us included).

The company was founded by Mateen Aini, Jeff Arbour, and Zaw Thet.

There are genuinely some interesting game mechanics at play here. For one thing there are no stupid badges, and you get real stuff if you win. Plyfe has a platform that runs across multiple social networking sites, offering games on its own page so that people can rack up points. Those points are then transferrable across different brand pages and platforms. Sometimes you get points for answering market research questions about yourself, and sometimes you get points for producing, say, the best Instagram photo of the day. In general, the more active you are as a member of the user generated content machine -- Pinning, Liking, Instagramming, and Tweeting -- the more points you get.

And company's points can be redeemed for prizes, much like how American Express points work in the offline world. These prizes are frequently rock-star lifestyle experience packages that people couldn't buy, even if they had the cash.

"It's like if Klout, Badgeville and Crowdcast had an orgy," Arbour says. "This would be their love child."

"And AMEX," added Thet. "I'd add AMEX into the orgy."

"AMEX is definitely showing up late with a bottle of Dom," Arbour adds.

Let's move on from that analogy before it gets any more explicit...

There's definitely something a little icky about Plyfe, even beyond the analogy of companies having sex. It basically follows you around the Web, assigning points to what you do with your friends. And the company is blatant about what it's doing: You are making a clear transaction with the ad world. You are giving up insight about your online activity in exchange for prizes. One of their beta users answered so many market research questions about herself in the name of getting points that it worked out to answering one question every minute for 16 hours a day.

Calm down, lady. Put the computer down. Walk outside. Breathe the fresh air.

But here's the thing: If you are spending time on the social Web, you've really already made that transaction with advertisers. Look at your Gmail: You are getting ads served up based on the content of your most private conversations. At least with Plyfe, it's transparent, and you're getting something real out of it.

This much is clear: Brands will love it. If Plyfe came up with some sort of leaderboard of Pando evangelists that rewarded people who commented, Tweeted and/or Liked our stories with real stuff, as a business owner, I'd be all over that. Already we've had people gunning for free T-shirts in the comments. Imagine if you got legitimately awesome rewards for the stuff you do already?

Success will come down to two things: Making sure people don't spam their friends to artificially inflate their points and making sure the prizes are rewarding enough that the concept doesn't become cheesy. The company is in a prolonged alpha period, working out both of these kinks.

From those aspects of the site, which I've seen but can't report yet, it looks a lot better than it sounds. Plyfe should launch mid-March.