Are you familiar with Empire Avenue? I met with co-founder and CEO Dups (aka Duleepa Wijawardhana) for coffee this past Wednesday in San Mateo, CA. Dups is one of a team of 5 that built and operate the Social Stock Market Empire Avenue. In all the pictures I’ve seen of Dups he is always smiling and he is no different in person, though he does blame his persistent smile on his 3 hours of sleep per night that has become typical for him. After chatting for about an hour with Dups, I had a much better grasp on what Empire Avenue is really about and felt grateful for time well spent.
(Please note all quotes in this post are paraphrased, I was not recording or taking notes, Dups if I got something wrong let me know.)
Value is relative and Virtual Currency.
While discussing virtual currency and the possibilities it represents, Dups was quick to point out to me that value is a very relative thing. We all see value in different things, it’s not always cash in hand. Sometimes it is virtual currency or even a Castle upgrade for your personal empire on Empire Avenue. The fact is people will trade resources for almost anything, and if I understood Dups bullish position on virtual currency it seems he has a strong belief that virtual currency can in fact drive profits and opportunity for a tech start up.
Good questions make good conversations.
You’ve probably heard that you can learn a lot about someone by the questions they ask.
Dups: “What do you hate most about Empire Avenue?”
Me: “I can’t really think of anything.”
Dups: “What would you change if you could change one thing?”
The follow up prompted a long explanation about how I was not a heavy user of the site and eventually I did come up with the fact that I had asked fellow EAV member Laurie DesAutels a few questions about how some things worked.
Dups: “Yes, you need more information about how the site works. We know that, we can do better there.”
Putting the Social in Social Media
One of the topics we covered in our discussion was social interaction. When I was queried about why I had reached out and invited Dups to connect while he was in town it led us to discuss the “in person” versus “online” connections. It’s definitely clear that you can establish meaningful relationships online. The best example I know of this is Shonali Burke, she met her husband online and he flew half way around the world to marry her without ever meeting in person. Online relationships and friendships are great but at some point human beings will want to communicate directly with each other. We need and crave this connection.
Many people have observed that as EAV supports a broader range of services than Klout. EAV also does activity based scoring and one’s share price may be an alternative to a Klout score. Dups did not think that Klout considered them competition and he indicated also that EAV does not consider Klout competition. He was very clear though that he does not believe you can fashion an algorithm to truly analyze influence. In fact he went so far as to say:
Dups – “Show me any algorithm designed to measure influence, and I will show you where it is flawed.”
The most convincing supporting argument that Dups mentioned was the fact that different cultures measure influence differently. Think about that for a minute and you will see why any algorithm designed to measure influence is flawed. There are simply too many variables that cannot be included that will prevent the results from being accurate.
Robert Scoble vs Joe Hackman (Influence Part 2)
One interesting point that Dups brought forth to further his position on influence was when he asked me:
Dups – “How many Twitter followers do you have?”
Me – “Just under 3,000”
Dups – “Ok, well you may have under 3,000 followers and Robert Scoble might have a whole lot more but I’ve met you and you have the same influence over me as Scoble.”
What a great explanation. So I’ve long been planning a podcast about measuring online influence and now I have a must be present candidate in mind. Clearly Dups has put a lot of thought into the subject.
Check out EAV
So I am going to give Empire Avenue a little plug here. I think they have some pretty interesting things going on, it wouldn’t hurt you to create a profile and link up your social networks. You may not have time to “play” the stock trading game but consider it a hedge against some kind of explosive growth in the future. If Dups is right about virtual currency you might just find some value that you might be missing out on.