“In the Studio,” PublikDemand’s Courtney Powell is Building a Better Business Bureau for the Social Age

Editor’s Note: TechCrunch columnist Semil Shah is based in Palo Alto. You can follow him on Twitter @semil

“In the Studio” begins the summer by welcoming an entrepreneur from Austin who worked in various roles at different startups before she tried to return a cable box to TimeWarner, an experience which motivated her to assemble a new squad, form a new company, and move west to Silicon Valley where she now leads a small team based out of 500 Startups that may be sitting on the next big idea.

Courtney Powell is the CEO and co-founder of PublikDemand, a social crowd-based platform where individuals can initiate and/or join campaigns (or “demands”) against Fortune 1000 companies. (Currently, they support demands against nine larger companies and plan to expand as demands increase.) Their platform is different from other “social good” or corporate social responsibility programs — on PublikDemand, customers of companies can use the power of the crowd to lodge complaints against those large entities and pressure them into changing policy. Within the last six months, PublikDemand has served as the catalyst for a California man who became so fed up with his service from AT&T that he initiated his campaign against the company on the site itself, has created targeted leads for AT&T competitors, and has even caught the eye of Netflix’s Reed Hastings in his fight to preserve Net Neutrality.

On the surface, PublikDemand is tapping into some large, global trends — the explosive growth of crowd-sourcing (embodied by Kickstarter), the ability of social networks to capture, aggregate, and channel negative consumer sentiment, and the next generation’s reluctance to accept the norms of larger, established institutions. With PublikDemand, Powell and her team have created a social media-based “pressure valve” that enables everyday people to collectively pool their complaints to create a bigger swarm that larger companies will have little choice but to deal with. In this brief discussion, Powell explains how people can use PublikDemand today, how they will add new companies over time, and how the company’s platform can amplify customer complaints to bring about real, tangible change.

Note: This discussion was originally recorded on April 23, 2012 in San Francisco.