Elephrame: An Ideas Network Grows In ChicagoBY: Corey Cummings | November 5, 2012
Both the beauty and trouble of existence is that everyone sees the world through a different lens. Some of the biggest clashes throughout history have begun from this basic human issue, and people continue to struggle to find ways of opening themselves up to other points of view. One Chicago startup is looking to make the process a bit easier, with a new idea sharing network called Elephrame.
Originally launched as an “encyclopedia of ideas” in January of last year, Elephrame has since become a space online where users can voice their opinions and delve into the world views of others on any topic. The name of the startup comes from an Indian parable about six blind men who each come up with completely different images of what an elephant looks like after each touching a separate part of the animal.
“The philosophy of Elephrame is that the more human beings understand reality from multiple perspectives, the more able we are to solve the problems that hinder progress,” said founder Alisa Robinson. “I wanted to have an open and honest place to go where I and everyone else could develop a thorough understanding of others’ opinions, beliefs, and ideas without the noise of the rash condemnation and unthinking dismissal that often dominates dialogue online.”
Through Elephrame, users can post their own topics to get feedback, respond to other topics by making a claim, or vote whether an idea is sound or unsound. Currently active discussions include same sex marriage, abortion, Mitt Romney, and Hurricane Sandy — topics that collectively have nearly 300 claims made both for and against. Robinson said the network has been growing slowly since its relaunch as an ideas network. The founder is currently hard at work turning sporadic users into loyal contributors to the community.
Elephrame is not currently raising funding, though Robinson admitted she’s open to investors. In the future Robinson would like to get sponsors involved with the network, giving companies the opportunity to associate their brand with appropriate discussions or offer targeted advice to potential customers. “This allows businesses to directly offer solutions that consumers are literally asking for rather than offering unwanted and unsolicited opinions,” said Robinson.
As a Chicago native Robinson said she’s happy to see creative minds and big companies choosing to stay in the city. Robinson believes that her company has been built in the same practical and unpretentious manner that defines Chicago and its growing startup scene.
“I want Elephrame to be the central place people come to find ideas about the concepts, people, events, and other parts of the world that define our lives,” Robinson concluded, emphasizing that, as with the Indian parable, people need to come together and share ideas to gain a holistic view of the world. “Elephrame helps us bring all of those ideas together so that we can understand the totality of reality, our elephant, rather than just the parts of it that we encounter directly.”