By ANNE KADET
Jeremy Liew is "wicked smart," > the "epitome of a strategic thinker" and a "charismatic guy." He's also "socially awkward" and can be "a bit harsh."
I never met the man in person, so how do I know so much about the California venture capitalist? I found his profile on Honestly.com, a website where anonymous writers review coworkers and business associates. Liew, a managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, has been reviewed 38 times and has earned, on average, 4.6 out of five stars. That puts him ahead of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman ("completely hands off") and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark ("a good-hearted geek").
Americans have long embraced consumer-written hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.com and restaurant reviews on Yelp, but the newest targets of the ratings game have feelings they're our coworkers. Honestly.com, which made a splash when it launched last year and has grown to more than a million profiles, faces a slew of competitors, including start-ups like Duedil.com and older niche players like RateMyProfessors.com.
You need a Facebook account to dish the digital dirt on Honestly a safeguard that theoretically prevents fraudsters from rating themselves. Users are prompted to score others on their skills, relationships, productivity and integrity and to add a freestyle review. The incentive to tell all: Your identity is never revealed.
When Honestly went live, critics went bananas, predicting that it would attract backstabbing saboteurs and ruin reputations. And cofounder Peter Kazanjy ("insanely productive," "needs to drink less caffeine") acknowledged that the site was meant to serve as an alternative to LinkedIn, where professionals often leave each other obsequious recommendations in hopes of scoring brownie points.
But some say they welcome the unvarnished feedback. When I called Jeremy Liew, he said that while he wishes the negative comments weren't true, he can't argue with the picture that emerges. "It's a reasonable representation of what people think of me," he says. And here's the big surprise: Most reviews on Honestly are ridiculously positive. So far, almost everyone on the site is a "rock star" and a "valuable asset to any company." Indeed, Kazanjy says 86 percent of reviews award four or five stars.
In the end, sites like these may turn out to be just another tool for self-promotion. When Justin Sharry, founder of start-up myRepLunch (which helps pharmaceutical salespeople schedule lunches with doctors, of all things), joined, he asked his associates to leave him reviews. So far, he's garnered five glowing five-star write-ups: Not only is he "an all-around great person" and a "brilliant thinker," he's also a "dedicated family person." Says Sharry: "I'm humbled."
Is the average worker really so fantastic? No, says Kazanjy. But most people tend to think well of the folks they work with, "and that's a good thing." Others say they can build a better mousetrap. Duedil founder Damian Kimmelman says he gave up on reviews of individuals, since even anonymous writers can be too squeamish for candor. He changed his site's focus to rating small businesses.
Of course, now and then people do let loose on Honestly. Somewhere in America there's an intern starting his career with the tagline "shady and downright pathological" and a career coach permanently branded as a "huge gossip...seriously crazy." Now that's more like it!