@GeeknRolla: pownum lets anyone rate any company on its service

When consumers have issues with companies, like their broadband provider or an airline, they rarely know how to complain. But that’s where pownum comes in: the site acts as a “social platform to air opinions about companies”. The name is an amalgamation of “power” and “numbers”.

Co-founder Marty Carroll, launching Pownum at our second GeeknRolla start-up panel of the day, says: “Everyday we’re both dismayed and delighted by the actions of companies. Yes we have social networking and Twitter, but what if we could work together to rate companies?”

How does it work? Users can rate companies and write reviews using Pownum’s mobile apps and widgets, sharing their experiences and hoping the companies take notice. Pownum says it has 20,000 organisations already pre-loaded onto its system. There’s a Foursquare-style gaming element too, where users are encouraged to add their ratings and move up the Pownum rankings, with the aim of advancing from “trooper” to “general”.

Each company rated will have its own Pownum web page (e.g. www.pownum.com/bt) which displays a company’s rating, rating trends over time, reviews, a tag cloud of sentiment and the facility to compare ratings against other companies. Pownum says it wants to bring “unprecedented transparency to the marketplace”.

It’s free to use for users so what’s the business plan? Selling usage data and selling a “right of reply feature” which allows companies to respond to users’ reviews and sentiments – that costs £5,000 and half of the payment will go to charity. The company wants to give away £10 million to charity in the next five years.