Digital David 'Loyalize' Dances With Corporate Goliaths
Russian-born entrepreneur Shahar Smirin has a lot to be happy about. Since his social TV audience platform Loyalize was acquired by Function (X) for a cool $5million back in February 2012, he has engaged a number of media goliaths, including mammoth brands Yahoo! and MTV.
Loyalize is an audience participation company that works by providing live input from passive viewers of televised sporting events, political debates and more. Through the use of smartphones and tablets, viewers can participate in polls and discussions, all with the chance of winning real-world prizes.
Last year, Loyalize worked in tandem with several big broadcasters, including the American Superbowl 2012, the Grammy’s, the Australian Open and the live final of The Deadliest Warrior. In Australia, the concept launched as ‘Fango’ and soon became a best-selling app for Apple’s iPhone. It also works in the background of many hit TV shows, such as X Factor and Beauty and the Geek.
The man behind all of these success stories is 38-year old Smirin. After moving to Israel in 1991, he found work as a sales manager for Converse in 2000 and helped to boost its profitability in Russia from $17 million to $300 million in just three years. In 2006 he moved back into the world of startups and founded Trusted Opinion: a social media site that suggests highly rated entertainment locales. He now splits his time between Tel Aviv, Moscow, San Francisco and London - four well-established startup hubs that have certainly benefited from his presence.
In 2010 he arrived at his best concept yet: Loyalize. Talking about the project, he recalls, “quite early it became clear to me that the company's business model was different than anything previously known”.
Not content with only one booming company, he then expanded his repertoire with Vigoda.ru and later GetTaxi, for which he received a start-up investment of $9.5million from British billionaire business partner Len Blavatnik.
Vigoda has enjoyed global success and is one of the largest online retailers in both Russia and Ukraine. It has similarities with Groupon, offering regular discount vouchers to consumers, and operates in all of the 94 largest cities across these two countries, with offices in 29 of them. The company won a Consumer Choice 2011 Award and last year made profits of $250million.
As social media continues to expand, it is important to keep building bridges between entertainment and social media. The level of user engagement that Smirin’s Loyalize offers is a step forward, and fellow marketers involved in the world of social networking should definitely take note.