Chitra Rakesh has had a long career in journalism, writing for such publications as Patch in Silicon Valley, as well as Hindustan Times and Times of India, two publications for Indians living in America.
However, in the back of her mind, she has always had the idea for what she thought would be the perfect web company – a marketing and promotion website for businesses that would feel like a game for users, all the while introducing them to brands.
Now, after more than one year of pounding the pavement, swallowing rejections and piecing her company together, Rakesh’s dream has finally become a reality with the debut of Chitsie.com.
The idea behind Chitsie.com
With the explosion of social networking and online gaming in recent years, Rakesh had an idea for a website that would feel like a game to users, but would advertise brands and companies at the same time.
“Advertising is a $31 billion industry today, and this is an interesting spin on traditional means of advertising,” Rakesh explained. “Companies can market their brands and build user traction in a super-fun way.”
For example, one of the first promotions currently being featured on the site is a game to name a new cookie bar by up-and-coming San Francisco brand The Inspired Cookie. The top three winners will receive a total of $800 worth of prizes and products from the company.
For each promotion users take part in, Chitsie.com throws in its own incentives as well. Much like popular social media games such as Bejeweled, users can earn “Chitsie stars” depending on their level of participation, and Chitsie will in turn hand out their own prizes, and users can share their gaming achievements with others via social media-like features.
For every 10 stars a user earns, he or she will automatically be entered into a monthly drawing for prizes from Chitsie.com. Users who collect the maximum number of “stars” available in a single month – by participating in every promotional contest offered – will be named a Chitsie “Rock Star” and will be profiled on the website, in addition to winning Chitsie prizes.
Users who are picked as the winners of contests like Name the Bar by The Inspired Cookie will also be featured on the “Chit-Champs” page, the company’s Hall of Fame of sorts.
It’s all part of Rakesh’s unique idea for fun ways for companies to advertise.
“We are trying to create a go-to place for brand promotions, online contests and business games where users can win huge prizes by participating in campaigns. Participation is fun, free and rewarding,” Rakesh said. “In addition, we have also incorporated elements of ‘gamification’ and social media connecting onto the platform itself.”
According to Yahoo! Finance, in the two weeks that Chitsie has been around, it has logged visitors from 39 countries and 268 cities across the world, with United States topping the list.
The story of a start-up
In an interview with Women 2.0, a company that supports startups for women, Rakesh said she was inspired to try and make her idea into reality after covering the tech world for Patch sites in the Silicon Valley, such as Milpitas Patch and Mountain View Patch.
“Patch was my ticket to the ‘who’s-who’ of the Valley,” she said. “I interviewed some really smart entrepreneurs and, while they got free press, I learned the most valuable lessons of corporate America. I began to build my professional network on LinkedIn, and Patch also took me to conferences and events where I met most of my partners.”
Rakesh said she had to learn a lot of hard lessons, trying to make it in the Silicon Valley startup world – most of all, that being in Silicon Valley doesn’t guarantee your startup is automatically successful.
“They say, you’re lucky if you’re in Silicon Valley. Really? I say, you still need to find a way to connect with the right people. [After all], being in Hollywood doesn’t mean you get invited to drinks with the stars, does it?” she told Women 2.0.
Rakesh also named other lessons she learned along the way, such as, “Everyone in the world will not be in love with your idea - that’s fine,” and “People will leave you with, ‘I’ll get back to you” – and sometimes they will, but most times they will not. They don’t have to. Accept it.”
The hard ride was worth it, though, as Rakesh is excited that Chitsie.com has finally debuted to the public.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” she said.