Karma Launches Service to Avoid Sketchy Online Reviews

May 19, 2015

6:00 pm

Can we really trust the reviews we read on sites like Airbnb and Etsy? As costumers, why should we rely alone on other people’s opinions without making sure they are reliable sources?

That’s the problem Los Angeles-based company Karma wants to solve. Karma aims to change how we trust and transact in peer-to-peer marketplaces. It calculates users’ Karma Scores through social verification, online reviews from supported peer-to-peer sites and “vouches” from other Karma users. So it’s not only about what you have to say, but also if you are trustworthy.

The platform is launching to public beta today and it’s adding support for Craigslist, which will be the first way to measure user reputation on the marketplace. The platform also currently supports Airbnb, DogVacay, eBay, Etsy, RelayRides and Vayable and is able to provide social verification through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare.

“From the Airbnb host with no reviews, to the avid Craigslist furniture seller with a dozen listings, we’re filling in the holes that exist in the reputations of those interacting online by connecting all of their digital presences,” said Zach Schiff-Abrams, co-founder and CEO of Karma. “We’ve focused on making the platform easy to use, too, with our browser extension. Instead of expecting users to develop a new habit and take the extra step of going to our website every time they want to see someone’s level of reliability, the extension brings the Karma Score to you on the peer-to-peer sites you already use. By easily alleviating the hesitancy consumers have in using a service or purchasing goods online, Karma makes it easy and less intimidating to take online connections offline.”

The platform looks at a user’s recent online reviews to determine the score. The weight of reviews varies from site to site based on the level of personal interaction for the service. For example, a home-sharing site review will impact the score more than an e-commerce site.

A 2014 study from the journal Psychological Science found that public trust has dwindled considerably since the 1970s. The data found that while 46% of adult Americans believed that “most people can be trusted” in 1972-1974, only 33% agreed in 2010-2012.

“In a world where bad reviews can influence future earnings or the ability to save some money, both hosts/guests will err on keeping the peace in cause of the greater good,” wrote Erica Ho, of Maphappy, for Mashable, questioning Airbnb’s current review process.

The lack of trust in the modern age shows a critical need for a platform like Karma that can begin building trust among people again.

Karma has recently raised $800,000 from angels and seed investors led by Great Oaks Venture Capital with participation from Wildwood Capital UK.

Image Credit: Flickr/Send Me Adrift

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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.

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