Tech startup has Del Mar roots

By Kristina Houck

Have something on your mind you want to blurt out to the world for immediate feedback?

There’s now an app for that, and the company that developed the app and corresponding website has roots in Del Mar.

Blurtopia is a social media platform that uses pictures and questions or statements to start online conversations.

“We call it the real-time opinion network for the things you’re passionate about,” said Blurtopia CEO and co-founder Ryan Bettencourt. “It’s a conversation starter.”

The concept of Blurtopia originated last summer when Bettencourt, 37, noticed a woman taking photos while trying on shoes at Westfield UTC and texting the pictures to her friends. The woman said she needed advice on which shoes to purchase for a party that evening, Bettencourt said.

“I thought, ‘We can do that in a much smarter way,’” said Bettencourt, a husband and father of two daughters.

After a series of brainstorming sessions with Blurtopia’s other co-founders — some of which took place at Board & Brew Del Mar — the app was developed and launched in October 2012.

Blurtopia has about 50,000 users, and is averaging 1,000 new users each day since version 2.0 was released a few weeks ago, Bettencourt said. The updated version has a sleeker design and allows users to easily share their “Blurts” via texts and other social media outlets.

Bettencourt said the social media platform is growing because 90 percent of its users contribute content to the community. Blurtopia also encourages feedback, while other popular social media sites don’t, he added.

“The reason why people use this so much is because we have really high levels of engagement,” Bettencourt said. “People send something out with the expectation that they’re going to get something back. They’re asking for feedback. They’re asking for people to get involved in the conversation rather than just broadcasting something.”

Blurtopia is not only gaining attention from the public, but fellow entrepreneurs.

In June, Blurtopia won $5,000 at Interactive Day San Diego during Shark Tank, a local version of ABC’s reality TV series of the same name. In addition, the social media platform was selected from 11 semi-finalists and won $10,000 at San Diego Venture Group’s PitchFest 2012. More than 100 applicants applied for the event.

“I enjoyed pitching and sharing,” Bettencourt said. “I’m passionate about what we’re doing. It’s just one of those things that’s fun and useful to use. Ultimately, our mission and passion is to inspire these little lightweight conversations on the things that just pop in your mind and you’re curious about. We think we do that as well or better than any other platforms out there.”

With Bettencourt living in La Mesa and the other three co-founders hailing from North County, the Blurtopia team continues to meet in Del Mar to perfect the product.

Their new favorite meeting place? The beach.

“We’ll just paddle out there, surf and talk through our ideas,” Bettencourt said. “This is like a central surfing area where we actually tackle hard problems.”

While Bettencourt believes Blurtopia could become as popular as leading social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, the team is also focused on building a widget so others sites can offer the “Blurtopia experience.”

“We do think there’s potential we can get a lightning strike, but we’re not depending on that,” Bettencourt said. “We’re extending what we do outside of just our platform. We’re building a widget system that basically takes the experience of Blurtopia and embeds it elsewhere, so you can embed it in your own site, your own blog, and take advantage of that engagement.”

To learn more about Blurtopia or sign up for an account, visit

www.blurtopia.com

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