TC50: Udorse Leverages Facebook Photos For Social Product Endorsements

Billed by its founders as a ‘visual endorsement engine’, Udorse is launching today at the TechCrunch50 conference a couple of months after word got out that the startup raised half a million dollars in seed funding from The Founders Fund and convinced Peter Thiel to join its board of directors.

So what the heck is a visual endorsement engine and why on earth would anyone need it?

Udorse allows you to link your Facebook profile to your account using Facebook Connect, enabling the web service to fetch all the photos that you share on the social network as well as the ones that your friends have shared with you. Items in the photos can then be highlighted using the Udorse dashboard, after which they function as actual online product endorsements – or ‘udorsements’ as the startup refers to them – made by yourself, publicly. In other words: showing anyone who cares what you think is cool.

In the example shown on stage, Udorse co-founder Geoffrey Lewis picked a photo of him and a friend who works as a fahion designer. Endorsing in this case is done by selecting an item – the dress she’s wearing – and identifying it with a description and associated brand name, with the extra ability to add links and commentary to the highlighted item. Every time someone sees the photo and clicks the associated Udorse icon or link, they are able to gather more information about the product or directly be referred to the website where it can be bought. Udorse also comes with a useful search engine that allows you to browse product endorsements made by your social circle based on type of item, brand or tags that were used to identify products.

When someone ends up on a product website from a Udorse partner brand – which any type of business can easily sign up for online – following a referral link on a ‘udorsement’, the person who highlighted the item is entitled to 25% of the commission fee in case this person purchases the product as well. The referrer can choose to get cash payment for the tracked referral on his PayPal account or instantly donate it to charity.

Udorse is going live today with Armani and American Apparel.

In my opinion, this is a really well thought-out concept that fits the social nature of Facebook perfectly and particularly the hugely popular photo sharing activity on the social network.

Expert panel Q&A:

Q- Marissa Mayer: I really loved it. I always thought that this was one of the way social networks going to raise money.

Q-Paul Graham: Are there places where you can and cant run these photos? Technically-

A: Can serve them on the Facebook platform, working on plug-ins for blogs, behind the scenes it depends on Javascript.

Q-Tony Hsieh: I thought this was one of the more passionate presentations. But I think its weird for you to get paid for me to dress like you as your friend.

A: You can opt in to share endorsements. You can also donate the revenue to a charity.

Tony Hsieh: It’s sort of creepy, wearing the same outfit as your friends.

A: The technology will let you see other items from different stores and brands.

Q_Marc Andreessen: Do you have any thoughts on distribution?

A-We have a part-time journalist on staff to figure out who are the top influencers who share photos on line. Partners, like American Apparel, are also excited about pushing the app out to users.

Q-Marissa Mayer- Apparel might be a big space, but also electronic gadgets might be good for this. You might have a model around cooperative buying.

A: In the end, we are aiming towards anything that can be included in a picture.

Q-Paul Graham: Are there classes of sellers who are particularly excited about this?

A: We’re getting traction from apparel retailers, hoping to make progress with additional brands.



Extra coverage:
TC50: Udorse lets you tag your photos with product endorsements VentureBeat.
Udorse: Give Product Placement a Chance The Noisy Channel.
TechCrunch50: Udorse is a Visual Endorsement Engine Trends Updates.
uDorse – Earn Money From Your Favorite Brands (TC50) SheBlogs.