- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
PetSite is a new Zurich-based startup that aims to create a pet community. I don’t have any pets (except for the rats in the subway) but I know that those with pets believe they actually talk and so forth. PetSite is a social networking site for pets similar to Dogster/Catster. PetSite is available in a number of languages including English.
Each pet gets a profile page (like MySpace) where the pet can “talk”. The pet categories include dogs, cats, birds, horses, fish, rabbits, rodents (??), reptiles and ferrets.
This week’s featured pet is “Pepe” the cat – displayed to the right. Here’s how Pepe describes himself, “Hey there. I just wanted to introduce me quickly :). my name is Pepe and i live in Zurich, Switzerland in a nice apartment together with my brother Pepper. We are both 2 years old and love to sleep – play – eat – sleep every day (in this order). I will post some news from time to time here.” Pepe has a bunch of friends which include a dog, and a horse.
The pet profiles page also includes what the pets first day was like, what the pet enjoys doing, and things the pet likes/doesn’t like. Pepe notes he likes, “I love to play with small balls, fake mice, my brother and everything else that i can catch.”.
Petsite also has polls and voting for the pet of the week. The site appears to be currently supported via advertising.
The NY Post and Zootoo have announced a new partnership today which will allow the NY Post to have a dedicated pets content section. The new pets content will live at: http://zootoo.nypost.com/.
The new "pet pages" will include local resource information for pet owners and you can also post reviews of local resources. In addition, the site offers photo and video uploads along with information on pet adoption.
Chris Shaw, New York Post VP of Digital Media said: "The Post is thrilled to be partnering with Zootoo and bringing pets pages to nypost.com. New York City is filled with animal lovers and nobody is more animal friendly than Zootoo."
I wonder if early-adopter favorite Dogster will also begin to offer a white-labeled version of their community and also partner with local newspapers.
One of the most popular questions I get asked when helping startups with their business plans and models is around lowering costs and moving towards profitability. As a former accountant and having been through the spend crazy Web 1.0 boom, it’s interesting to see how quickly startups are attempting to cut costs and attempt to get into the black.
- If being a business person is not your goal find a business partner immediately.
- Consult anyone you know that has run a earnings-based business
- Spend your money when it’s in the bank, not when the deal is agreed to (or never count your chickens before they hatch)
- Spend at least 50% of your time selling.
- Know thy accounts!
- Prove your revenue models before investing in them.
- Don’t lie to yourself.
- Fail fast.
- Hire slow and fire fast.
- Be frugal about everything.
On #9, I’d suggest looking at a short-term contractor to verify the full-time need before hiring. After working at CKS in NYC back in the mid-90′s, I can certainly relate to #10. When I arrived they asked me how many computers I wanted! We had 2 fridges with only beer, etc. Earlier this year I provided 7 ways for startups to reduce their spending without reducing their consumption.
Interesting note… Ted from Dogster was the first person I interviewed for CN.
During my 12+ years building and managing very large corporate Web sites, one thing was always clear. There were defined policies and procedures about how files move to production and "go live". Typically files required multiple signatures depending on the type of file and which app they belonged to. As I moved up the ranks into management, it was my responsibility to make sure that nothing ever made it onto the live servers inadvertently. With Sarbanes-Oxley in place, this required even more documentation for file moves and definable policies for production servers. It was also important to keep all of our servers current – some of the farms I’ve worked with had hundreds of servers in them.
Yet with many startups I speak with, there is (many times) no application documentation, nor commented source code. Over the past week I’ve seen two situations where some policies and procedures could have saved time and money. Dogster CEO Ted Rheingold speaks about his search engine mishap and my hosting provider Mosso accounts for the other mishap.
Ted has a great post documenting the importance of checking files that are moved to production and keeping things in order. His group moved a search engine robots file into production that shouldn’t have gone up. What this did was cause a huge drop in search engine related traffic to Dogster. Ted says it didn’t account for a large monetary loss but had the issue continued unnoticed, it sure could have.
Ted concludes by noting, "it’s about being vigilant in keeping a holistic view of your whole web app and keeping it as small and efficient as possible even as your project gets more and more complex." I’d say I agree and disagree. It’s about realizing that as a startup grows, it’s not as easy to keep track of the files and the people behind those files. I am never pushing extra paperwork and documentation, but there is always some minimum required level so that simple things like this robots file don’t happen again with something more important.
Our hosting company Mosso had an issue last Friday with one of my Web sites. I won’t go into the entire issue now but my site was down for nearly 10 daylight hours. This cost me money on two ends. On one side I was trying to fix the issue all day and on the other side, I couldn’t write content here on CN because I was working on the code issue.
After the issue was resolved, Mosso staff posted the following message:
We did not realize at the time that a change was made to php.ini over 6 weeks ago, but never applied because we had simply not restarted Apache since then. When we made other configuration changes and forced Apache to restart it picked up on the rogue, untested change that was made to php.ini many weeks ago. But initially the warning messages went away – so we thought we were on to a fix. Site owners were unprepared to see a bunch of new messages that "broke" their sites, and it certainly looked fatal.
Again, someone made a change that was probably not documented and was left in development. So when the site was moved into production, all hell broke loose. Some percentage of Mosso’s customers were in some way affected by this issue which ranged from just showing warning messages all day through sites that were not functioning.
I had a great conversation once the issue was resolved with Rob La Gesse who is the new Mosso Director of Software Development about how they plan to make sure this never happens again. I will have more about that conversation when I post my full Mosso review.
As your startup grows, it’s important to remember that as more people touch the code, the servers and the Web services, policies need to be put in place to make sure issues like the ones above never arise.
With AOL’s acquisition of Bebo yesterday, and now discussion of a possible KickApps acquisition by AOL, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some other content candidates for AOL acquisition. If AOL is going to get serious about stepping back into the major leagues, they need more top notch content sites. All of these acquisition ideas would work well with Userplane, AIM, ICQ and Bebo, all AOL-owned companies.
This NY-based startup is targeted at moms and would be an excellent complement for AOL’s branded Web sites. CafeMom is currently serving 100 million pageviews and an average of 200 pages per user per month. This would make a great place for Platform-A and could be an extension for the Bebo "engagement marketing" platform. (our coverage)
A niche social network for barking and meowing, Dogster and Catster could fit into the AOL branded sites as well. An acquisition of Dogster and Catster by AOL would give both sites new distribution opportunities along with a new advertising partner. (our coverage)
I am guessing that a decent percentage of TripAdvisor users are already AOL customers, either as dial-up, broadband or Web site visitors. TripAdvisor is currently owned by Expedia but I think the match would be better with AOL — could replace the AOL Travel site. The TripAdvisor network serves pages to 60 million unique visitors a month and includes 8 web sites including my favorite, SeatGuru. (our coverage)
It seems in the time since I started CN there’s been chatter here and there about SimplyHired being acquired by someone. It’s a better acquisition target than going after a job site as SimplyHired would give AOL the best of both worlds: all the job listings from the major job boards plus the ability to enhance listings to generate even more revenue. The publisher job board option would give AOL a potential "in" to publishers to push Platform A and other potential partnerships. (our coverage)
Which services do you think would be a good fit for AOL?
Editor’s note: KickApps is a sponsor on our sister site, HTMLCenter.
Yesterday, Dave McClure, Ted Rheingold, Hiten Shah, Jia Shen and Todd Vernon took to the stage for a panel about startup analytics. The room was packed and the discussion was great. The guys dressed up like pirates and said "AARRR" 24,217 times. Here are some of the net takeaways.
If you do good analytics you can make booty (booty is the pirate term for money). You must test, test and then re-test all of your marketing ideas. Just because one is doing well, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better one still.
There are five parts to the customer lifecycle:
- in other words… AARRR
3 business models
- get users
- drive usage
- make money = and hopefully its profitable money
- you must turn the users and the usage into money or get bought
Pretty graphs mean nothing if you don’t do something with it – and perhaps give one metric to each team member to manage
If using landing pages, do lots of tests – the panel said that mentioning the referrer was beneficial "Welcome from Forbes"
Below $20/month is a good number to hit, people seem to stay with this and won’t go through the hassle of cancelling
Hiring a blogger part-time could be a good way to build seo for the company terms
Ted from Dogster explains that by making dynamic landing pages increased registrations
- They got 2,000 registrations but lower numbers of activations – 60%
- Not all activations become active members
- Realized that the terms that they want to rank for don’t appear on the home page
- Got more traffic via organic changes than in a month they spent $90k in online ads
Lijit realized that by testing different entry pages, they were able to increase signups and activations by a large percentage.
Dick Costolo, CEO and co-founder of Feedburner, has been giving me a lot of free advice lately. I got to see him and Steve Olechowski at the Future of Web Apps and hear a little bit about being acquired and working for Google. Then he gave a must-watch presentation on their entrepreneurial experience and has been writing some great blog entries on similar topics. Dick’s got four start-ups under his belt and I took notes constantly.
I first met Dick in June 2004 when Kevin Werbach took pity on me and gave me a pass to attend Supernova. Not only had Dick just decided that txting ruld, but that making it easier to share and consume RSS feeds was very important. He was right on both. What they did with Feedburner was stunning. They made structured XML mark up extremely sexy and business-friendly.
My notes from his talk:
- When hiring, looks for talented-at-anything people, not just position-perfect people. Plans will change and if people can’t move, it’s a major loss.
- Launch late and launch often. (By this he’s suggesting to not launch until you have a lot of features ready or almost ready. Launch with a solid core set, but then keep releasing new features quickly, some of which may have been ready at launch, but held to keep excitement up.)
- Don’t write pre-launch long-term business plans. They’ll be void within months of deployment.
- Keep your org chart as flat as possible for as long as possible. Reporting chains hinder fast, flexible development.
- Speed of execution is a competitive advantage. When you fear “Why won’t Google just copy your product once it’s live?” The answer is becasue we are fast and nimble and they are slow and hamstrung.
- Develop your service and business models the way an optometrist tests your eyes. They try 40 different combo’s of A vs B. to methodically find the best combination.
- Make it as easy as possible for the Markets to determine what your most valuable offering is. Allow them to tell you what your business is. Open, accessible businesses get scrubbed and reviewed by the business people of the world. The wisdom of those markets can often finds your true value offering much faster than you can in your board rooms. Secret, private companies do not get such benefits.
- Open APIs and the like make this happen ever faster. Dick thinks open APIs are a great business advantage as the Markets can even faster scrub your offerings. Even if it means your competition can benefit from it too, you will always be 2 steps ahead of them because you’ll be leading and they’ll be copying.
- You ALWAYS spend more money than you plan. Be brutal with your revenue forecasts and slash them to as small as they could be if nothing new happened other than what you’ve proven. [Ted note: trust me, only count on revenue you’ve already proven. Plan for growth, but do not require your company to achieve it.]
- Compete on your merits, not the short comings of your competitors. Your outward case for your company should be what you do better than anyone else, not that others do it worse than you.
This article was contributed by Ted Rheingold who is a passionate thirty-something accidental entrepreneur and founder of Dogster and Catster. He writes about the biz and passion-centric online communities at the Dogster, Inc. company blog and his personal blog, Spidey Senses.