People are continually looking for new pieces of information. We go to school, read articles on a variety of subjects, have free websites such as Wikipedia, and use search answer engines such as Aardvark and Quora for the sole purpose of quenching our never-ending thirst for knowledge. But how do you find and access wanted information which people are unwilling to divulge, at least for free, except to their closest confidants? Enter GenApple, an information brokerage company who hopes that their website will help to facilitate the exchange of such knowledge. By creating a marketplace for information, GenApple, just entering public beta, hopes that those who would normally withhold certain privy information will be less reticent to disclose it when monetarily incentivized.
Those with information to sell can create a listing similar to one you would find on any classifieds page. Postings are listed on the website immediately after submission. When creating a listing, the seller has the ability to hide any or all of his personal information which he used during sign-up: all that will show is the username. Conversely, he can show all of his information if he thinks it will aid in the process of a buyer purchasing his information. Potential buyers are able to post listings as well in the “I want to know” section. Here, buyers can state the kind of information they want, along with how much they are willing to pay for said information. GenApple also allows people to create free listings, where users can give away specialized knowledge for free. The knowledge is entered into an information vault for future use and can be any type of text entry or data file. GenApple creates their revenue by taking a commission on the final sale price.
The anonymity of sellers, coupled with the fear of fraud may be an issue for some, and as such, GenApple provides a slew of buyer protection features. They have a standard feedback system where users can rate a seller, and also have a feature where sellers can put forth a veracity statement. GenApple operates under a brokerage business model (they host the listings and process payments) in order to instill trust in the listings being offered. In doing so, GenApple has the ability to hold payment to the seller if the buyer is not satisfied. If a buyer is not fully satisfied with the purchase, they can submit a ticket to GenApple who will then make a final decision as to whether fraud was committed or not and will act accordingly.
Given the nature of this idea, GenApple will surely run into a couple of roadblocks down the road. The most obvious one, is that of insider trading. GenApple explicitly states in the terms of service that the exchange of insider information is illegal, but when has that stopped anybody? To counter this, GenApple has the authority to delete any suspicious postings and will cooperate fully with any government officials if the problem does come about. Additionally, only two employees at GenApple monitor listings. As they reach critical mass, they may find that personally overlooking the listings will be too great a burden for humans to do no matter the number of staff. To help with this, users are able to flag postings, but they will surely need a better system when they grow.
GenApple’s idea is novel and shows promise. If they are able to continually protect buyers as the company grows then they could be successful. We’d give them some more pointers, but why give away such valuable information for free?
The company is self-funded and operates out of an office in Minnesota.