In the next 30 days, a new social network is going to be released to the world.

You will hear about it on your favorite blogs and on TV.. The news will cover it… And not only will your friends and family members be talking about it, but complete strangers will also approach you about it…

Because the technology involved will not only change how we communicate, it will also change how commerce, both online and offline, happens.

-Official Rippln marketing copy, supplied to affiliates circa June 2013 and reproduced on over 200,000 webpages (Google)

rippln-logoTo borrow a tired joke; If I was to look up the hype in an MLM dictionary, I’d probably see a copy of Rippln’s logo. No further explanation required.

After going live with the marketing copy above and copious similar efforts, here’s a rundown of the Rippln MLM business opportunity today.

Just short of two months ago Rippln’s Facebook page came alive with marketing for a smart watch. ‘Rippln beats Apple to market with James Bond style Voice activated smart watch‘ the hype machine megaphones blared across the internet.

Third-party reviews however were not so flattering. Edward Baig from USA Today wrote:

It’s got some cool features. But it’s also a pricey product with limited mainstream appeal, and one with some features that were either too complicated or didn’t work at all.

Will Greenwald from PCMag was also critical of the watch, writing

All told, the Martian Passport Watch is an interesting novelty, but it’s too expensive and too limited to justify the $300 price. Its OLED screen and speakerphone function feel more like a next-gen smart watch from the late 1990s or early 2000s than a must-have accessory for 2013.

Meanwhile the general consensus amongst Rippln affiliates, as observed on various social media platforms, was that essentially you were paying $300 for a bluetooth extension for your phone.

Rippln’s smartwatch, manufactured by Martian through a Kickstarter project, went live in September and… well I’m not really sure what happened after that. Come September the buzz surrounding the watch had died out completely.

Following the coming and going of the Martian SmartWatch, Rippln then introduced the Photo Guessaroo app.

A few weeks later after Photo Guessaroo was approved by Apple for distribution through their App Store, here’s how that’s going:

photo-guessaroo-apple-app-store-stats-rippln

The latest is what appears to be a task-orientated personal development course, created by Rippln co-founder Jim Bunch. Called “The Ultimate Game of Life”, Rippln are hoping affiliates will fork up $497 for the 90 day course.

Rippln’s initially announced “bigger than email” flagship product, the Communicator App, is still MIA with as yet no confirmed release date set.

How has this translated over for Rippln’s affiliates? In a recent blog post titled “Why I left Rippln”, former Rippln affiliate Wes Wyatt shared some figures:

I’m not sure what the fruit to money ratio actually is – but in my case with 3581 (A number most people in Rippln would NEVER see a tenth of) – I’d earned $32.95.

Those with much lower numbers (The majority of those in Rippln) went in the hole by $1.50 when they activated their account.

The top guy in Rippln saw a LOW 4-Figure Payout.

Shortly after Rippln’s first commission run Rippln affiliates with sizeable downlines began to sell their accounts, with at least one “corporate approved” for sale notice appearing on Rippln’s own Facebook page.

In response to all of this playing out over the past few weeks, Rippln recently uploaded a video in which CEO Brian Underwood apologises for Rippln’s failure to meet expectations.

[0:40] We have a lot of people who have huge expectations. They have a ton of anticipation for the Rippln platform, for the rewards program and for some of those people we have not met those expectations.

And I wanted to number one say, y’know, “we’re sorry”.

[15:12] There’s… a group of people that are, y’know, they’re pissed off. And you know what? I respect that.

They have every reason to be pissed off because what they expected, what they bought into they don’t feel like and it wasn’t delivered when we said it was gunna be delivered.

And you know what? That’s our fault.

Full credit to Underwood for issuing a public apology for Rippln’s shortcomings. At this point it would be easy to declare “I told you so” and leave it at that, however I believe there’s an as yet unanswered question of far greater importance:

“How did we get here?”

brian-underwood-ceo-rippln

Presenting what will hopefully be a refreshingly humbler corporate culture over at Rippln going forward, Underwood (right) reveals

[16:07] I’ve learned a lot, I’ve learned a lot from the skepticism, or from the criticism which I’m taking as all constructive and I think our team is.

[16:55] We made a mistake of not doing more trainings and creating more clarity and more leadership.

[17:17] What we want to do is to encourage you again…(t0) give us a call, y’know communicate directly with us. The last thing that we want to do is create you as an enemy.

What we want to do is learn from you and your frustration.

This is in stark contrast to Rippln’s previous corporate culture, as evidenced by Jonathan Budd’s response to the initial BehindMLM Rippln review.

Budd’s foray into the discussion (April 23rd) began with

First off, Appreciate you Oz for trying to do a good thing & sharing what you know with the industry. I can respect that, and can respect you looking out for people.

But then just a few short days later (April 25th) deteriorated into

For all those criticizing our model, it’s become apparent to me you have very little education in how businesses are being run in the app space today. I recommend you go educate yourself so you can be a proper informant to the market place.

To all the opinions about whether or not you like how we are releasing rippln to the world, what our marketing is, etc… that is your opinion.

If you think you could do a better job getting 210,000+ users in 11 days, by all means… I encourage you to leave the world of commenting & go become an entrepreneur.

Budd (a Rippln co-founder) even went so far as to demand I supply him with an alternative business model for Rippln to “incorporate” into their business model:

Can you please share exactly how you would create a pricing model to meet all the massive costs of scaling our infrastructure, technology, & offices around the world so that the ripple can exist for our customers?

Please, by all means… provide us a detailed example of how you would run the financials of our company, price our products, and I’d be happy to look at it, and incorporate all your relevant feedback.

I’d love to see your suggestions for exactly how you would run the financial side as well since you seem to have so much experience.

Thank you for your time. Good bye.

After the above comment was made Budd was never heard from again, with discussion of Rippln’s business model continuing on without him.

This mind you was back when Rippln released their first compensation plan, which in my initial Rippln review panned as a simple recruitment driven scheme pegged onto an app distribution platform.

Shortly after that review went live Rippln began to publicly distance themselves from their original plan, eventually going on release a second model that gutted the commissions tied directly to recruitment altogether.

This unplanned and abrupt shift of commission strategy is important to note, as I believe it is the core reason for the state of Rippln today.

Despite all the “we haven’t launched yet” and “we’re in beta” talk that was used to smooth over the recruitment driven compensation plan backflip, it’s important to note that Rippln’s original business plan was not cobbled together overnight. It was the end-result of a plan hatched in early 2012 and carefully crafted until it was ready to be released into the wild.

Wes Wyatt explains,

I joined a company called iZigg in the Spring of 2012.  I did so NOT because of the SMS Messaging they offered – but because of the promise that they were just about ready to launch something called AppCraze.

It was going to be a way to share apps and get paid for it.  That’s all I had to hear!  I LOVE apps and Social Media – and couldn’t believe I’d have the chance to profit off of sharing both!

Sound familiar?

I attended my first event in Columbus, Ohio – and it (AppCraze) wasn’t ready – but it was coming!!!

I attended my next event in Atlanta, Georgia – and it wasn’t ready – but it was coming!!!

Thankfully I missed the Cabo (Mexico) event where they talked about it – but it wasn’t ready.  But it was coming!!!

And I also missed the TWO San Diego, California events where they talked about it – but it wasn’t ready.  Guess what though?  It was coming!!!

Are you getting the idea yet?  And YES – much like a dog that takes off running again and again for the fake throw – I clearly can’t see when I’m being played!

It’s OK though – because the Las Vegas, Nevada event I attended was going to have it!  Wanna venture a guess as to whether or not it was ready?  NOPE!  But it was coming!

Then a full two years, hundreds of conference calls / emails / texts, and 7 conventions / events later – Rippln (NOT AppCraze) launched in Dallas, Texas.

But NOT within iZigg as all of us were led to believe – but as a separate company with separate fees.

And that led to Rippln’s first recruitment driven compensation plan going public. In his apology video Underwood confirms the plan was changed for “legal reasons”, which we already knew as lawyers were called in to go over the plan after the BehindMLM Rippln review was published.

Quite obviously, “AppCraze” was the predecessor of the Rippln Communicator app, which was initially built to work within Rippln’s original recruitment-driven comp plan.

In changing the comp plan they inadvertently had to also change the platform they had so carefully spent over a year developing and getting ready for public release via a series of launch phases.

Publicly of course Rippln state that they weren’t prepared for the numbers of signups they received when they launched Rippln as the cause of the Communicator delay.

But does that hold up? They spent a year fleshing out the plan and launch, had everything ready to go and then had to abruptly change the comp plan mid-launch of Rippln.

The Communicator platform was the core of Rippln’s platform and commissions structure, it was supposed to be out first before anything else was attached to the Rippln name and it just co-incidentally got pushed back around the same time as Rippln’s initial compensation plan was dumped?

Not buying it.

The simple fact of the matter is that Rippln was never meant to be what it has turned out to be today. Brian Underwood and his fellow co-founders aren’t navigating unchartered territory by choice, they’re doing so because what they spent a year coming up with wasn’t run by a competent MLM attorney.

Toss in the brushing aside of initial criticism with “fuck you we know what we’re doing” type comments from Jonathan Budd, megatons of marketing hype and affiliates signing on in droves on the promise of getting paid based on how big their downlines were (as opposed to volume pushed through it, which was not a primary commission generator in the original plan), and that’s precisely why Rippln is where it’s at today.

And it’s also why the Communicator App is MIA. It took over a year for them to come up with Rippln v1.0, so it’s no surprise that scrapping how the Communicator integrated with the initial plan and integrating it into the new plan is taking so long.

Now Rippln are evidently throwing what they can at their affiliate-base, hoping that enough sticks until such a time as they’ve figured out what to do with the Communicator.

Clearly the current model of pushing third-party products and services through a traditional MLM backend isn’t really working out. With this comment, published to Rippln’s Facebook page just hours ago, probably spelling out what most of Rippln’s affiliates are currently going through:

Thank you because my first 2 payments were so low, I didn’t qualify for a check and yet I still pay my monthly cost. If that is not belief, I don’t know what is. I’m hanging in there.

How do I think this is going to turn out?

I think deep-down we’re simply looking at the law of  diminishing returns in action.

The law of diminishing returns: used to refer to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.

The whole “get paid on your social network’s activity” model is certainly not new in MLM, with countless failures having launched prior to Rippln coming along.

What was going to make Rippln work, at least initially, and drive momentum were the recruitment commissions they initially had offered. Underwood essentially admits this when he concedes that under the old model, Rippln’s top affiliate Michael Rutherford

[12:45] was anticipating six figures his first month. And the reality of it is if we would have launched the licensing model, he would have achieved that. Very quickly in June.

With that “licensing model” (Underwood’s fancy name for the initial recruitment-based comp plan) tossed out of the window, what really differentiates Rippln from the countless failed social network MLM startups before it?

Not much.

Underneath Rippln all you’ve got is a social network full of affiliates hoping that they’ll earn some money from purchases made by their downlines… who are also only in it in the hope that they’ll make money from purchases made by their downlines… who are only it in the hope that…

…well, you get the picture.

Rippln might have had to shift their entire focus away from what they initially had hoped to bring to the MLM industry… that however is not what their affiliates signed up for or were sold on.

 

Footnote: The YouTube video featuring Rippln CEO Brian Underwood and cited in this article can be viewed below. It was uploaded roughly 12 hours ago and at the time of publication has been viewed 418 times.

Rippln’s website currently advises visitors that they have  over 1.4 million members.