[Op Ed] Peeple App is VC Funding Gone Amok

When black-owned startups have difficulty getting VC dollars, it's maddening when silly apps get millions

(Image: Peeple)
(Image: Peeple)

Peeple is a new app that the technosphere has designated “Yelp… but for people.” The app allows users to rate actual people. That’s right. You can rate ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, bosses, neighbors and anyone else just as you would your local pizza joint.

The Washington Post reports that the app, slated to launch next month, will allow users to allocate one-to-five-star ratings for individuals. Unfortunately, those rated will not be able to do much about a less-than-stellar rating unless the review violates the app’s Terms of Service. The indignant, however, can contest a negative review, after the damage is done, apparently.

You may ask why such an app is needed when the Internet provides a vast commentary area on everything from politics to individual folks. However, venture capitalists are not asking the same. The app raised major capital. Peeple’s shares are valued at $7.6 million.

[Related: Angel Investors Forum Kicks Off In Washington, DC]

Although the inanity of Peeple is infuriating enough, the fact that the app received such monetary success via early-funding efforts is maddening. It brings to mind another seeming waste of dollars in the funding of the Yo app. Last year, TechCrunch reported that Yo—an app that lets you send the letters “Y-o” to other users—raised $1.5 million in funding and, at one point, had a valuation of $10 million. This is the description of the Yo app in Apple’s App Store: You have a list of your best friends, you tap them and their phone shouts, “Yo.” Yo caused quite the buzz last year but the fervor about this useless app has, thankfully, died down.

It wouldn’t be so bad that such ridiculous (and in Peeple’s case, possibly reputation-damaging) apps receive millions of dollars to launch. However, when you compare them to the many black-owned startups that are desperately vying for VC funding, the millions of dollars these apps can raise seems almost criminal.

Case in point—Anita Gardyne, the black female CEO of startup Oneva, a service that provides care for children and the elderly, had an angel investor laugh in her face, after she gave her funding pitch.

In an interview, Megan Smith, the chief technology officer of the United States, cited these statistics: Three percent of venture funding is going to women and less than one percent to people of color.

Yes, investors look at the bottom line when deciding whom to give their dollars. Yet, it’s hard to justify why an app like Peeple, which has the usefulness of a 12-year-old’s slumber party slambook, would receive millions in funds over a service that provides care to the elderly.

Fortunately, there are resources for minority-owned startups when news of apps like Peeple and Yo receiving millions gets too infuriating. Take a look at the links below for advice:

Pitch Your Business To Investors At The Entrepreneurs Summit

11 Venture Capital Sources Taking Notice of Black Tech Founders