Amen gets major feature boost and new investors

Since launching last year Amen has been one of the great hipster hopes of the Berlin startup scene. But now it’s about to drop a major update as it attempts to go mainstream, GigaOM has learned.
I’ll confess: when Amen’s first version launched last September, it didn’t grab me. It’s a tool that lets people say that something is the best or worst something ever (“Pizza is the best food ever”, “Nickelback is the worst band ever”, etc) and, while the plan to build up a very valuable reputational database is interesting, I found the mechanism itself fun… but a bit dumb.
However, Amen version 1.5 — which is set to go live in the iTunes Store on Wednesday morning — is a significant improvement that will put those rather reductionist posts in a broader context.
There are four major feature boosts coming. Posts can now be accompanied by photos and can also be commented on. On top of these elements of engagement, the app’s becoming a lot easier to use: it will now auto-suggest both Facebook friends and music tracks (using iTunes as the database) as users compose their posts.
Interestingly, the Facebook and iTunes integration is two-way: Amen says Facebook approached it to fast-track its posts into the Timeline and Open Graph, while each music track that gets mentioned becomes available as a 30-second preview and potential iTunes purchase.
“We feel now it has everything in it we wanted for launch — we were very quick in getting it out because we wanted feedback, but now it feels like it’s complete,” CEO Felix Petersen told me. “It shows up much better the value of the aggregated data when you know you can click on any object and get a description around it.”
Petersen said his favourite new feature is the addition of pictures. He stressed Amen wasn’t becoming a picture-sharing app as such, but noted that “if you say it’s a ‘best poodle ever’, it’s so much more fun if you can add a picture of that poodle.”
One spot of bad news, however, is that Amen’s turning off the ability to post to the service from the web. Petersen said this was for the same reason it doesn’t have an Android version yet, and won’t for the foreseeable future –- the company is focusing purely on iOS right now.
“We just want to concentrate on one platform to make sure we do it right,” he said.
Amen founders Felix Petersen, Caitlin Winner and Florian WeberAmen’s team have pedigree. Petersen’s the guy who founded and sold to Nokia the social mapping service Plazes. CPO Caitlin Winner also hails from Nokia and the MIT Media Lab, and CTO Florian Weber was Twitter’s first developer.
The company also has quite an impressive roster of investors, including Ashton Kutcher’s A Grade fund, Soundcloud founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, and Index Ventures.
Alongside the upgraded app, Amen’s also announcing that it has picked up new backers in the form of Sunstone Capital (whose $1m takes the seed round up to $2.9m), and Path CEO Dave Morin, through his Slow Ventures vehicle.
Maybe Amen’s simple big idea really is closer to being fully baked.