Stamped: Is It Worthy?

When I first met the Stamped team in mid-2011, I got excited. They were finally throwing away the notion of the 5-star rating system in favor of something much more natural: if you like something, say so. If not, do nothing. It was an app built solely so you could give your “stamp of approval” to things in the real world. Simple. Brilliant.

I wrote up a preview in September of that year, and a few weeks later, the app launched. And while the app got a lot of kudos at launch (most praised its looks and simplicity), it had a big problem: it simply wasn’t sticky enough. Users would stamp things, but have no true reason to go back to the app. So the team went back to the drawing board.

The result, is Stamped 2.0, which launched a couple days ago. It’s a complete re-write of the app, while keeping the same fundamental idea intact: if you like something, stamp it. But the scope has been expanded quite a bit. And they’ve made the app useful on a continual basis, while loading it up with some impressive new UX/UI elements.

To me, the key part of Stamped is The Guide. It’s an area that allows you to quickly get recommendations on places to eat/drink, books, music, television/movies, and even iOS apps. And these recommendations are granular: you can get social ones from your friends, or popular ones from tastemakers in a particular field.

It’s the kind of system that will work very well at scale. Of course, the same is true of a lot of services. The tricky part is getting there.

I believe the new app is loaded with enough user delight to pull that off. Not only is the app fast, little UI touches make it a joy to use. Better, you can now do stuff within the app. For example, if a friend recommends a song, you can listen to the entire thing inside the app if you hook up your Rdio or Spotify account. (And you can buy it from iTunes if you want to.) If someone recommends a movie, you can add it to your Netflix queue right from the app. You can buy books (you’ll be dumped into the browser to buy on Amazon). And you can quickly find new apps to download and go right to the App Store to get them. 

Even more compelling may be the web experience that Stamped has created alongside the app. Each user now has a full profile page of the things they’ve given their stamp of approval to. It’s effectively a de-facto “best of” list for all of your favorite things.

If a friend wants a list of your favorite movies, it’s right there. Another important use case: I’m constantly asking and being asked for recommendations of places to go when traveling. Now you can just direct someone right to your Stamped places page and use the map view to show them your picks. Incredibly, the website element is just as well done as the app is.

But, as an investor, I’m now incredibly biased about all this. Though — no shit — we wouldn’t have invested if we weren’t excited about Stamped. Here are some of the other takes about the new Stamped: Bits, Business Insider, Digits, The Next Web, Mashable (yes, I’m linking to Mashable — the post is legit), and TechCrunch.

As for the celebrity investor element (“Ellen! Bieber! Seacrest!”), I know the natural inclination may be to roll your eyes. But I really believe each of them could end up as a valuable part of what this service can become. Like it or not, those individuals are extremely influential tastemakers for large swaths of the population. Yes, their reach helps a ton, but it’s more that they each work with the underlying element of the service. And they’re really using it!

I’m also excited for the opportunity to invest alongside my friend Tom Conrad. As everyone knows he personally programs each and every Pandora station himself, and has for years. So he clearly has great tastes in music that morph in real-time to coincide with pretty much every citizen of the United States. 

You can find Stamped in the App Store here.

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