Startup Trials: Quipol Looks To Disrupt Online Polling In A Crowded Market

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It’s a tender situation, being a startup, isn’t it? Here you have what you think is a great product, maybe it’s even a little disruptive, but you’re not naive enough to think that you’re the only one who’s ever thought of this idea/product. At any moment, some giant or more well-funded startup could make your idea/widget/feature/tool/product their priority and with a little marketing spend, you’d be toast. Bootstrapping, you rely on your users’ feedback to tell you what works and what doesn’t, iterate, and hope that your user base grows organically until you have a sustainable business.

That’s the hope, right? The same goes for Max Yoder, a 23-year-old designer from Indiana — except that in Yoder’s case, he launched his startup out of his bedroom in Indianapolis. Yoder recently graduated from college, at which point he went to work at Compendium to learn about startups, media software, and to help pay off his student loans. To help his cause, he was selected as an Orr Entrepreneurship Fellow last year, and has, over the last seven months, been building his startup.

Recently, Yoder took off to work on Quipol full-time. Quipol (pronounced “kwi-poll”) is a web app and embeddable widget in beta, designed using HTML5, CSS3, Ruby on Rails, and Responsive Design, to let content producers create simple, one-question polls that can be embedded in blog posts and web pages to encourage feedback from their audiences and help them reach more readers. It’s part polling system, part commenting tool, but the fact of the matter is that there’s plenty of competition — and this has been done before.

There are awesome sites like GoPollGo (full disclosure: Founder Ben Schaechter used to be a developer at TechCrunch and is a friend), which let users create realtime polls with plenty of Twitter integration. There’s Poll Authority, Poll Everywhere, Precision Polling (scooped up by Survey Monkey), and CMSes like WordPress have their own polling functionality, thanks to startups like PollDaddy.

And that’s where Quipol’s real competition comes in: The already-in-place polling widgets owned or offered by content management platforms. But Yoder thinks that Quipol can be a good complement to some of these, as well as to commenting platforms like Disqus and Livefyre. So, Yoder is hoping that both through the simplicity of Quipol’s design (it looks great) and its “universality”, the service can offer some differentiation from others already occupying the space.

At this point, the Quipol embed code works with WordPress.org, Tumblr, Squarespace, and Blogger, and everything but the social commenting works well in Posterous and Facebook. What does that mean? Users can vote and comment as they normally would on Facebook and Posterous, but if they choose to share their comment to their social network, the social post will link back to the poll on Quipol.com — not its embedded source. Unfortunately, in this case, Posterous and Facebook don’t play nicely with Quipol’s javascript, but Yoder says he’s currently plugging away at some workarounds.

Interestingly, Quipol currently is without customization options, it only comes in 400 by 600 form, another thing Yoder is currently wrestling with — this is where that user feedback comes in. But, Quipol still does what it does well enough that it’s a great tool. The commenting uses Twitter and Facebook authentication to keep out the spam, and the linking in Facebook and Twitter offer a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” voting mechanism, with the ability to comment if your opinion doesn’t fall into one of those two buckets.

Votes and comments can then be monitored by Quipol creators from the site’s admin layer. Readers, however, can’t see the results of the Quipol unless they vote, and the admin layer provides the essential analytics, until users provide enough data on what they want to see, which will enable Yoder to scale the analytics offerings. He also soon plans to add YouTube/Vimeo video embedding in the media portion of Quipols in the near future, which will look like this, for example.

It’s a really simple tool, and Yoder has designed a great product — the question is whether or not there’s a real business here, or whether it’s best suited as a feature for a larger entity. Quipols work best when they are embedded into contextually relevant blog posts to help bloggers engage with and grow their audiences (the growth part happens via Quipol’s social commenting functionality, Yoder says).

And what better way to test it out than in a blog post?