9 Q&A: Based in Blue Ash, REPP co-founder explains new tool for managing your reputation online

CINCINNATI - The web has truly connected us: from buyers and sellers, to friends and potential mates. But you don't always know what you're getting into when you meet someone online.

REPP, a Blue Ash-based startup, is working to make the web a little more transparent with a new service that allows people to verify and share their identities, photos and background checks with others.

Co-founders and newlyweds Michael and BreeAnna Bergman are the brains behind REPP. Not coincidently, they met online. REPP came from BreeAnna's unsuccessful attempts to check out her future husband online.

The company was launched in the summer of 2012, and is a fall 2012 graduate of the Brandery, a local consumer-based business accelerator. REPP also was named a Top 50 global startup by  Startup Open.

9 Questions for Repp co-founder Michael Bergman

1. What are the primary needs Repp is working to fill with its services?
While the Internet is great at making the world smaller, it also leads to information problems. Our info is all over the web without any of our control.

So how do we know what others are finding about us and where do we go to find correct information on others? REPP provides individuals the ability to control their information, including their online identity, background checks, and social media, and then share such verified information with whomever and however they want.

The thing is that not only do individuals have these types of challenges, companies do as well. Businesses like dating, commerce, peer-to-peer, and networking sites need the ability to easily provide transparency on their systems, leading to better and quicker transactions.

2. What are the different ways Repp is meeting those needs?
For individuals, we give each of our users the ability to verify their own ID using the same tech that financial institutions and government agencies use, allowing them to show others that they've been vetted using time-proven techniques.

They can also use our patent pending system to run their own background checks, curate the information, though we don't allow them to edit out anything, and then provide context around any records. This is really a truly unique strategy, as we're giving everyone the ability to share their background and be a part of the conversation, versus the norm, where it's done behind closed doors.

Now, when someone is trying to check you out, you know what's out there and you now have the option to say, "Hey, I'll just give you my REPP Profile."

3. Who do you see as your competitor(s) if anyone?
While there are sites that allow you to check other people out online, we really don't see them as competition. Many of these sites are just an access point for potential misinformation about third parties. When you use one of these sites to check up on someone, you risk the problem of false positives, having no context around any criminal records, and wasting your precious time doing due diligence.

As each REPP Profile is created by the owner of the information, you get verified, curated data. Additionally, many platforms that provide ID verifications leverage either weak methods, such as social media, which can be gamed, or too strong of inputs, like you bank account data, which is scary to hand over. We seek to provide that perfect balance. The only inputs we need are your name, date of birth and address.

4. What makes Repp unique in the social media space?
As increasing amounts of our relationships take place online through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, individuals want quick, easy ways to know more about each other. So, with REPP we give every user full control of their profile and how they want to leverage it.

If a person wants to put their unique REPP website on LinkedIn they can do it. If they want to have their own verified Twitter profile, they can do that and they don't need to be famous to do so. Some reports say that 83 million Facebook profiles are fake or dupes, so with REPP you can now show proof of a real person behind each account.

5. Why do you think Repp's service is valuable for users?
We see a twofold value in REPP. First, creating your own REPP profile is great in helping you know what's in your background and taking control. Think about how many people check out their credit scores, isn't knowing what's in your background just as important?  The other real value is safety. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of people being worried about meeting a stranger in person for a trust based transaction. Everybody has some sort of safety mechanism, whether they tell a friend to call them to make sure they're OK or meeting someone at  public location, which are both good ideas. With REPP they can swap profiles and quickly have more transparency about each other and know if that person they're meeting in the mall parking lot for a test drive has a long list of felonies.

6. How are users most frequently using REPP? What applications do they seem to be most interested in?
We have been seeing all types of uses. Everyone loves to find out what's in their background, so they enjoy going through the profile creation process, as they can create their whole profile in minutes.

We also see a nice amount of people that use REPP Profiles for online dating. They'll share their profile with people they're chatting with to show they're real! Finally, we've seen professionals, like realtors, use REPP as a marketing mechanism, which is a great industry we're looking to work with.

7. Where are you in the startup process?
We launched our open beta in May and are offering free REPP Profiles during this time (they'll be $24.99/year afterward). We've also created a great partnership platform that we're currently working with businesses to implement;  without much work on their end, online businesses can quickly allow their users the ability to verify themselves.

8. What are the company's driving goals?
Our goal is to give individuals the ability to control their information and use it as they see fit. Whether they just want to use it for their own personal use, or share it with others to provide transparency and assurances. It's time that everyone has an easy to use way to know more about themselves online and others.

9. What's next for Repp in the near future? New products, services? Growth plans?
Currently, we're growing the team to help us add new services, including business checks and profiles. We are working on some exciting partnerships and always seeking out new companies who want institute verifications within their site. 

Want more info?

Do you know of a great local company or non-profit in start-up mode? If so, email holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

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