Julia Cordray and her friend, Nicole McCullough, co-founded what Cordray describes as a “Yelp for humans.” Unfortunately, the creator of the Peeple app has experienced intense, international online criticism, including death threats - especially when someone released her home address, phone number and email address. The person who posted Cordray’s personal information did so with the intention that the information “might be useful to anyone interested in killing her.”
The incident was the latest in a string of backlashes that Cordray received as a result of her app - one that is not even up and running yet. People were (and are) angry with her and are not afraid to express their ire. They believe Peeple is an app that will promote online bullying.
In response to the negative criticism, Cordray states that, “All the people that backlashed against our company were accusing our app of being a bullying app, when they actually bullied us instead. I hadn’t even done anything. What kind of crazy person goes online and threatens somebody who hasn’t even done anything?”
After the release of her personal information, Cordray insisted there was a terrible misunderstanding about how the app would work, and went offline for a few weeks. She shut down the company’s social media accounts and declined interview requests from around the world.
Now, the Calgary entrepreneur says she wants to clear up a few things. First, she wants people to know that bullying through the app was “never, ever possible.” Moreover, she has considered people’s feedback and has made changes. Finally, she insists that Peeple is a real product that will be released in December. It is not a hoax or joke. “You can quote me on this for the rest of my life.”
She stated that, “I wish I could say this was just a really big marketing plan to go viral, get the attention and prove to the world why we need the world’s largest positivity app. That’s a genius marketing situation. But that’s not what happened.”
According to Cordray, she and McCullough came up with the idea for Peeple because they wished to know more about the people around them. She believed that an app that provides information about the character of a person - based on recommendations - could be useful to clients of her recruiting company.
Cordray said she raised the necessary startup capital from private investors in two weeks - although she will not say how much she raised. An article in the Calgary Herald claims Peeple has raised $270,000 in private capital, with others reporting the company’s valuation is at $7.6 million. Cordray reveals that the company currently has 29 shareholders and is in negotiations with major venture capitalists.
At the time, Peeple planned to encourage users to rate people on a 5-star scale. The Washington Post gave a harsh criticism, reporting that, “It’s not merely the anxiety of being harassed or maligned on the platform - but of being watched and judged, at all times, by an objectifying gaze to which you did not consent.”
Cordray disagrees with that characterization of Peeple and points out that the app will only rate a person who has opted in. Apparently you cannot be rated unless you sign up as a user. And users can delete reviews they do not like and block reviewers. Users will also have the ability to deactivate their profiles.
One has to wonder about the purpose and quality of the ratings if users can simply delete the negative reviews.
Cordray emphasized that, “We do appreciate that the world is waiting and watching us. There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of.”