Rippld Builds a Social Network for Creative Professionals

4/11/12Follow @XconomyDET

When Rippld co-founder Adrian Walker started an independent film-production company two years ago, he was frustrated by the lack of online platforms for his fellow creative professionals to use to network, post portfolios, and share jobs. He wanted to showcase the people he used for sound work and CGI effects because, as he says, “the creative industry is a high-reference industry.” He also saw the fact that his clients didn’t have their own network of creative professionals to draw from—creative professionals whose work was of the highest quality, and whose work he’d happily recommend—as a major pain point.

“We use each other for jobs all the time,” Walker says of his fellow creative professionals, “and I didn’t see [a digital] ecosystem out there for people who want to tell their story visually. I looked at platforms like LinkedIn, but …” he says, wrinkling his nose. (True, few would argue that LinkedIn is a favorite with creatively inclined visual storytellers.)

Instead, Walker joined forces with fellow co-founders Lander Coronado-Garcia and Wilbert Fobbs, who are all graduates of the University of Michigan, to create Rippld, a platform for creative professionals to network, exchange ideas and services, share projects, and bring in outside clients. On March 15, Rippld introduced its initial offering “behind the curtain” (you can request an invitation online) and a hard launch is set for late summer or early fall. Rippld is first recruiting members of small, independent shops in metro Detroit as users, but hopes the site will catch on globally.

“It’s a good feedback loop for us,” Walker explains of the decision to target locally first. “The Detroit creative community is connected in a lot of ways, but does everyone at Green Garage know everyone at Pony Ride? Does everyone at Pony Ride know everyone at Detroit Creative Corridor? Do the Detroit Creative Corridor people know the people at QuickenLoans? People are going to find connections that move their business so much quicker.”

Users will have a profile page; a “portfoliofeed,” which is a newsfeed that shows new portfolio additions; the ability to message and post; a board with available projects that users can bid to work on; and a place to post visual, video, or audio portfolios where they can tag other users who collaborated on the work. “It’s a way to show what you’ve worked on and who’s worked on it with you,” Walker adds. “You can easily see who’s connected. A lot of platforms do this well, but not for our industries.”

But what about sites like 99Designs? Don’t they already offer a similar service? “Our project board is where the dynamism happens,” Coronado-Garcia says. “You can search for projects or scout for talent. Creative folks can bid on projects, but, as opposed to 99Designs, where people are just trying to get it done as cheaply as possible, this is intended for people educated in quality of design so it’s not a race to the bottom.”

Rippld is adopting an interesting strategy for a company that seems dependent on user acquisition: Screening everyone who comes into the system to make sure their work is of the proper caliber. “Internally, we joke that Rippld is for the top 10 percent of creatives in the world,” Walker says, noting that the screening process will initially be mostly subjective. Coronado-Garcia adds that they may eventually institute a system where members “up vote” new applicants—once you get a sufficient number of people to endorse your work, you’re in.

Rippld also isn’t preoccupied with monetizing the site, at least not at first. “We don’t want ads,” Walker says flatly. “That’s not to say we won’t go there, but right now we want to keep the system beautiful. That’s the huge separator between us and other sites.”

Good thing, then, that Rippld has the support of TechTown and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, and will begin fundraising in Silicon Valley over the summer.

“The important thing is helping people earn money and create value,” Coronado-Garcia says. “This will be a must-have for creatives. We’ll be able to extract value at some point, but first we have to minimize friction and get people interacting.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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