You’ve probably noticed how emoji and stickers have spread like a virus all over every messaging app under the sun. Well, New York-based startup Basno is hoping its digital badges platform can tap that trend for sharing cutesy visual stuff, too. And it’s convinced a group of outside investors to take a punt — today announcing the closure of a $1 million round from Index Ventures, RRE, MESA+, Plough Penny Partners, Empire Angels and others.
The round tops up its first tranche of funding back in 2011: a $225,000 friends and family round that included entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
It says the new funding will be used to expand and deepen its proposition. Which specifically means moving away from (Foursquare-style) faddish gamification, whereby badges are earned for unremarkable actions, and towards more impressive achievement-based awards — meaning badges that carry a certain cachet and/or have some kind of reward or incentive to encourage their display. Like badges for running a marathon, or completing a Tough Mudder.
Here’s how Basno describes its new emphasis:
That means building a place where people can create and collect badges that recognize real accomplishments, skills, commitments and expertise (think running a marathon, not checking in to coffee shops). That means getting badge owners real recognition and real value (think VIP access, not just points in a game).
“We are growing the team,” adds CEO Nicholas Thorne when asked about its plans for the new funding. “Focus is on creating deeper badge owner experiences, developing better self-serve tools for badge issuers and onboarding more high quality brands.”
On the rewards side, examples of the sorts of offers that are being attached to Basno’s badges include entry into prize-draw contests, access to VIP events and loyalty discounts on products or services.
“Rewards are mostly dollar value in the near term: owners of a badge that will become available this week will be entered to win a $250 gift card from Foot Locker, for example. But the opportunity exists to expand beyond exclusives into access: cutting lines, meet-ups, etc,” adds Thorne.
“Badge issuers themselves are seeding this ecosystem initially (e.g. Virgin America giving badge owners bonus miles) and are bringing their partners to bear. We have a good head start in the athletics vertical, so we will begin to roll out exclusive value from some of the big names in that space over the coming months.”
Beyond the surface similarities to sticker sharing, the bigger underlying trend here is of course the quantifiable self — aka the increasing options and ease for people to measure, slice and dice their own participation with a service/gadget. Basno is clearly hoping to ride that trend by becoming a vehicle of choice for brands to reward their most measurably active customers.
Where do these badges go on display so that others can appreciate the boasts they represent? On Basno’s website “first and foremost,” says Thorne. “We are big believers in the mobile web and are already serving the majority of our traffic through mobile browsers,” he adds. But it is also supporting badge syndication to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and also for embedding in blogs and email signatures. “Wherever else we see people wanting to put their accomplishments on display.”
Basno’s business model is freemium — focused on badge issuance, with issuers paying to “take advantage of premium distribution, analytics and design tools.” Which means it’s going to need to be able to demonstrate that badges not only bring a warm glow to their owners but act as a soft marketing channel for the brands who commission them, bringing in additional custom.