Sarah Ware And Her DC Startup Markerly Are Making Their Mark INTERVIEW

Sarah Ware is the founder of new social bookmarking platform Markerly. She was working at the DC office of LivingSocial before branching out on her own to found this unique tool, that’s intuitive, fun and useful.

Markerly is a social bookmarking tool that sits in your browser like a bookmarklet for when you need it. When you need it or you want to use it you simply click on the Markerly button, highlight text and then you can save that text for later, save it as a bookmark or share it via Twitter or Facebook with your highlighted text and the entire article so others can see what you highlighted and the context around it.

Ware, a New Jersey native, is getting her name out in the DC tech and startup circles. One of the key points to Markerly is sharing and that shines through in Ware’s own personality, reaching out to other DC area startups and helping where she can and soaking up information when she can.

We got the chance to talk to this rock star founder about Markerly, in the interview below:

What is your startup, what does it do?

Markerly is a social bookmarking platform that allows users to personalize what they share to their social networks. Currently users are able to highlight the content that interests them, and save it to books. You’re able to browse any users library and discover the content that they have shared.

Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of articles to read, and Markerly makes it easy for your users to read what you share since the content is already highlighted. Similarly, you’re able to bookmark localized content. For example, say the statistics in a social media article are of interest, you are able to highlight those stats into your books for easy future reference.

You’re also able to give your followers a more personalized reading experience. We don’t always know why someone shares an article. Markerly makes it easy to see the point behind the sharing. It reduces the noise we all experience everyday as readers share articles. There is already a natural habit of copying and pasting stats and quotes into tweets, and we are making that natural habit easier and smarter. Highlight the quote or stat – share with your followers, bring them straight to that point, and track how many people have clicked and shared your article. We provide the amount of clicks the article has received, and we also provide recommendations. The more you use Markerly, the smarter it gets.

Since we focus on the localized content shared within an article, we can suggest articles of interest that are most relevant. If you’re reading an article on a new startup that makes finding preschools easier – a regular search engine would recommend articles about preschools. If you highlight the names of the people who have invested in the startup, our recommendation engine would know that you are interested in startup funding, not preschools. All in all, why would you just share an article that doesn’t have your personal touch on it? It’s so boring and bland. Adding a personal touch to the articles you share makes it more enjoyable and engaging all around. It also makes you look smarter :)

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

The Co-Founders are Sarah Ware (25) and Justin Kline (26)

Sarah Ware is a former LivingSocial employee. Prior to founding Markerly she led an international team launching the Instant product (now Online Ordering). Sarah and Justin both attended the University of Tampa in Florida and she graduated with a degree in Communications in 2008. Sarah also attended college at The American University in Paris at the age of 17 with a concentration in psychology, and is currently taking classes at Georgetown University in Digital Media Management. She’s also worked with radio promotions and production at Clear Channel.

Justin Kline is a former AddThis employee, and Drudge Report advertising manager. Justin graduated from The University of Tampa in 2008 with a degree in Business Marketing. Justin Kline and Sarah Ware both co-founded a daily deal aggregator in early 2010, DigItDeals. Justin is an avid musician and has traveled the world, supporting himself with his guitar.

Where are you based?

Markerly is currently based out of Washington, DC.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

DC has a growing startup culture. There are a lot of events here every week that are open to the public and help hone the community. Because so much effort is put into cultivating the startup scene, I think that the next 5 years will show a lot of changes and make it appealing for startup founders. The city is really young, too. Demographic feels like everyone is in their 20’s and early 30’s.

What problem does your startup solve?

Data collection is huge. We aim to not only give users a personal way to share and engage their followers, but also to analyze the sentiment behind their marks, and provide more accurate reading recommendations. What you share to your social networks is here today, gone tomorrow, and no credit is given to those who share immense amounts of good articles. Markerly will soon be scoring everyone based on what they share online. Each share is a value-add. You are what you read.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

For the past few months we’ve had to deal with a large company that’s been a big pain, trying to bully the company around. They view us as competition, and it always seems easy to squash the new, small guy. Instead of allowing ourselves to get distracted, or giving up like they wanted, it motivated us to work harder and better. The experience has made us more valuable, powerful, and aware of our true market potential. What could have set us back actually gave us a jump start.

Who are your mentors and role models?

Danielle Morrill is hands down one of my favorite female founders and definitely a role model for me. Some others whose examples I’d like to follow are Dave Morin, Tim O’Shaughnessy, Kevin Rose, and Ashton Kutcher (because he’s a nice marriage between Hollywood and Startups which is really cool). Some who I consider personal mentors and just fabulous people are Shashi Bellamkonda, Minh Ngyuen, Paul Singh, and Jonathon Perrelli.

Whats one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?

Spoiler alert: In addition to highlighting, we are currently working on doodling so you can easily paint on top of any site before you share. We expect to see a lot of funny doodles before people share articles. Besides the fun part, it makes a lot of sense for business, too.

In the next couple months we are going to go mobile too – meaning mobile integration and soon thereafter, highlighting integrated right into your favorite apps and shared directly to your social networks!

What’s next for your startup?

We are 4 months in so we are still focused on features and development. We want a major facelift once our new features are fully integrated and will be focusing a lot on partnerships. Right now we are sealing in advisors and this fall we’ll be accepting investment to grow our team.

What was it like going from LivingSocial to Markerly:
Ha. I get asked this question a lot when I’m out and about. What attracted me to LivingSocial in the first place was it’s startup environment. I had been working on a daily deal aggregator but knew it was time to kick the can. From day 1 it was a complete startup. When I started our small inside sales team didn’t even have a manager. We just made calls! As soon as management was brought in and they started to make the sales team more corporate I ended up with an opportunity to join the travel team and launch Instant.  So, I kind of escaped the corporate feel and was excited to work on a startup again. That project really motivated me. My first two months I closed about 80 deals! I just loved it. I ended up getting promoted to a leadership role, which was really awesome. However, Instant came to an end and when I came back I had to make some choices. As much as I love LivingSocial, things really changed at HQ while I was traveling and when I returned it just wasn’t the same for me. As much as I tried to get back into the daily-deal grind it just wasn’t enough of a challenge for me. Sales gets that way, you know? I always play around in my free time with startup ideas/research/etc and I decided to just take a leap of faith and do it. I do think LivingSocial prepared me a lot for starting my own business since survival really depended on self motivation and standing out. I met a lot of great people there who inspired me to make strong moves. Even Tim, the CEO, is a huge advocate of taking risks and is a true startup founder himself. He’s a good guy, that Tim.

So you get to highlight stuff as opposed to just “pinning” right?

Right! It’s very similar to the Pinterest model, except you replace images with text, and boards with books! It’s content-heavy. Browsing someone’s books gives a really neat insight into who they are.

What’s the startup scene/culture like in DC?
The startup culture in DC is actually pretty happening! The city is really young, and there is a huge focus on cultivating a community. There’s a #DCTech twitter community and FB group, InTheCapital which is a publication that highlights a lot of startups and puts on events, there’s the official community called Fosterly, and accelerators like The Fort and Acceleprise. We have pitch competitions, and there’s a lot of money in the area! That money, effort, and attention is being put towards startups in the area so it is actually a good spot, and definitely growing! New entrepreneurs are always welcomed into the community. It really isn’t a political city.
What’s the first thing you would do for Markerly with a one million dollar investment?
Full time mobile developer, part-time in house designer, another full time java and scala developer, and free lunch to a couple of interns! Oh, and swag! Obviously!
Closing thoughts:
Everyday we share articles. They are here today, gone tomorrow. We don’t know who to follow based on what they share, and we can’t browse someone’s library to see all their shares in particular categories. We are bombarded with articles and we want to get straight to the point, and back to task, and we want to be able to reference the main points of what we read when we need to and easily (certain stats and quotes). Not only does Markerly allow you to do all that and personalize what you share with highlights (and more soon) but we are going to be scoring everyone based on what they share to their social networks. We are opening up a new world where you can really read vicariously by browsing libraries, and nothing is ever gone. There’s no value-add to sharing today. Markerly is the smart and personal way to share all of your favorite content online. Not kidding, all of our users are very intelligent! In two years the movement will be well underway.
Promotes to our community
Distributes to other communities
Provides stats on your reach
Makes bookmarking easy
Makes organization easy
Makes reading more efficient for the person you share with
Makes referencing and searching of any previous article you shared easy
Provides recommendations based on what you highlight so you can discover new articles of interest
[Soon] See everyone’s score based on the quality, quantity, and topics that they share
Really, what’s the point of sharing any other way? We are working on a lot of back-end things that will make it even more of a utility for some other pain points we all experience when browsing the web today, too, that I can’t really touch more on yet.
Links? We’ve got em:
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