Editor’s note: Startland selected 12 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2019’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch.
SquareOffs’ elevator pitch: SquareOffs is a microdebate platform used by online publishers and brands to promote meaningful conversation, increase engagement, and create new revenue.
The launch of a new SquareOffs consumer site is expected to cement the startup firmly as the “YouTube of social polling,” said Jeff Rohr, noting the potential to reach 100 million pageviews per month on partner sites in 2019.
Founder: Jeff Rohr
Founding year: 2012
Amount raised to date: $1 million-plus
Noteworthy investor: Howard Tullman (G2T3V), Leawood Venture Capital, Greenway Capital, KCRise Fund, Missouri Technology Corporation, BMD Partners
Programs completed: Pipeline Entrepreneurs, LaunchKC
Current employee count: 6
“The site will feature all of the top debates going on in news, sports, and lifestyle,” the founder added. “This is going to highlight debates from the partners that we work with, from our own writers, and it would also allow the everyday person to create a Squareoff and share it out.”
A SquareOff is a content type built for conversational debate involving a question with two possible answers — giving the audience an opportunity to pick a side and justify the position, he explained, noting that multiple partners signed on in 2018 who utilize the format in varying ways.
The platform provides pathways for partnering publishers — which include News Press and Gazette Co., TastyTrade, Sports Publishers Group, Dear Abby, and KC-based Andrews McMeel — to take ownership and monetization of conversations relating to their content that are happening on social media sites like Twitter, said Rohr.
Click here to read how SquareOffs is creating its own new niche.
“The consumer site will be up within the next month,” he said. “We’re already starting to send some of that to our social channels and we’ve been running tests since the summertime with various categories — looking at which ones are doing well, like sports, food and product review and so on.”
The team, headed by Rohr with experience in business-to-business products at tech startup iModules, benefited greatly from the addition of CTO Rachel Smith, said Rohr, adding the science and development background manifested into a impactful versatility.
In 2019, the startup is expected to expand the team to more than a dozen employees, he added, noting building the audience on the platform as well as new partners are the top priorities.
“Our biggest goal is to make news sites more of a two-way conversation,” said Rohr. “You have these comments just sitting at the bottom of an article and they’re not super productive. By asking a question, we sort of frame the conversation and do what we call ‘curing comment chaos.’”