PayPal X Contest Winners – Good & Very Bad.

First off the good. AppBackr. They came second, and as far as I’m aware they didn’t break any rules. I’ve personally sent them a congratulatory message and everyone who took part in making PortaPayments sees them as a honest, worthy winner. In the future I’d have no problems in working with them to help them help apps get funded with a tie-up via AndAppStore or help getting the word out to Android developers.

Now the bad, Rentalic. They won first prize yet right from the start we identified them as being non-compliant with the contest rules (they’re entry D914), so to us they shouldn’t have been in the voting let alone have walked away with US$50,000 in cash and been given US$50,000 in fees.

What was wrong with Rentalic?, well, it’s their feature video. The video shown at the top of their entry is a very slick piece of advertising but failed to show a user using their application, which was a clearly stated requirement in the competition rules (in fact we couldn’t even find a single screen shot of their application in the video). There is a second video linked to in the description, but that’s 1:54 long, so pulling it into the main feature video would create a feature video of 3 minutes 23 seconds, which is well above the 2 minute limit PayPal stated in the rules & in emails sent to entrants, and so combining the two would have also make them ineligible.

The reason why this is a problem?, that’s all to do with the initial round of the competition which was a basic popularity contest. Many entries were trying to win a popularity contest with a “rules-compliant” video which showed real-world footage of users using their applications to ensure they complied with the rules. Rentalic didn’t and just used a high quality cartoon advert as the feature video, which is the one most people would have based their voting on.

I’m sure many of the entries could have come up with equally impressive pieces of marketing if they’d decided not to meet the requirement about including actual usage footage in their feature video, and/or skip the one about total feature video time not exceeding 2 minutes, but the rules said you couldn’t, and many entries stuck to the rules, and thus were at a disadvantage from the start.

So the end result; The competition was won by an entry with a TV-worthy feature video which didn’t comply with the competition rules. Given our experience of the PayPal X contest its’ not a huge surprise that a non-compliant entry won, and we wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point in the future, an announcement is made of an investment in, or a purchase of, rentalic by eBay, PayPal or another company/person involved in the funding, running, or organisation of the contest.

[Update : It’s been suggested to me that Rentalic might be a copy of Rentoid. was registered in early 2007 and in late 2008, so it looks like PayPals “contest that rewards innovative apps” may have been won by a copy of a 3+ year old idea]

5 thoughts on “PayPal X Contest Winners – Good & Very Bad.

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  1. I’ve participated in a few of these competitions and there are always reservations with the review process. Similarities exist in these sorts of challenges to VC funding. Pitching to any VC will demand first a business plan, projections and demographic stats. But if you sacrifice these for an active cash flow, clients, active users and a wealth of industry interconnections they’ll understand a written plan is attainable.
    The rules of these competitions are established as a watermark of the funder(Paypals) expectations before the event. I agree, technically they should have have stated sexy (non conforming)videos were required to entice the interest of judges and future journalists, but to do so would be an acknowledge their bias towards poster children of marketing as opposed to technical strengths which will be where the majority of their entrants think they can contribute most. Paypal have probably selected the best projects for journalist write ups and ‘remarkability’.
    So really, I agree with the logic of your criticism as you have quite rightly identified that they don’t logically have to restrain themselves by any rules they set in place. They created the competition and are their own regulators on decision. Thanks for voicing opinion, I hope you’ll contribute more!

  2. Al: I am not sure what you have against Rentalic. Did you even try out the Rentalic site and our videos before all these accusations? Please DO NOT accuse me for breaking any rules which I have not clearly broken. Please try out the Rentalic site and feel free to provide any constructive criticism on how I can build a good service for our communities. That would go a long way than these accusations.

    Here’s my reply to your accusations:
    1) Video didnt show how the app works: Please look at the description of my app on the dev challenge site. There is a video with how the transaction flow works.

    2) Videos are more than 2 minutes: Did you even time them? Our featured introductory video is 1 minute 29 seconds and the how the app works video is 1 minute 54 seconds.

    3) Rentalic is a copy: Are you kidding me? I suggest you take a hard look at the sites. Anybody can build a site for renting. That does not mean they copy each other. Yahoo was before Google and does that make Google a copy of yahoo? MySpace was there before Facebook, does that make FaceBook a copy?

    I suggest that you stop making false accusations and start looking at your own app.


    1. Punsri,

      First off I have no problem with Rentalic as a company/site, What I have a problem with is it being selected as the winner of the competition given the advertised T&Cs and subsequent emails from PayPay received by all entrants.

      You don’t seem to have raised anything not answered in the post.

      1) Your featured video doesn’t show anyone using the app. You may have buried a link to a screen-cast in your description, but that doesn’t make it your featured video.

      2) Your feature video is the one at the top of the entry, not the one at the end of a YouTube link buried in the description. If you’d have swapped them and submitted your “other” video I’d have had no problem, but you didn’t, you used an advert as your feature video, the one that most voters would easily see and access, and if combine the lengths of the two videos to get your ad and the required real-world footage you get a video which is 3:23 long (1:29 + 1:54), and that’s well above the limit stated in the Email from Aaron Kramer of PayPal which stated;

      “You may supplement your submission with other videos, docs, etc. but the feature video must be no longer than two minutes”

      3) My point there is a problem with PayPals competition and not specifically Rentalic. To me an implementation of an old idea which already has implementations that have been running for years isn’t really rewarding an innovative app. I’m not going to go in to how close your site is to Rentoid, others can make their own call on that, but an old idea isn’t really an innovative one.

      As for our app, the companies who’ve contacted us showing interest in it are helping us improve it, so if you have anything *specific* you think we should be looking at I’m all ears.

      These are my views, I still hold them, and even if you believe you didn’t bend or break the rules I don’t share you belief. Please don’t tell me what my opinion should be or try and stop me from expressing it, I have left the comments section open so people can discuss it, and at the moment the only person who seems to think I’m wrong is you, and as you benefitted to the tune of US$100,000 from what you did I don’t see that as entirely unexpected.


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