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Patricia Handschiegel Archive
In 2002 or so, I had an idea to create an internet magazine, inspired in part by CNET. CNET had done well enough overall, including surviving the dot com bust, and seemed to have a model that worked. I thought about what might make sense in the market and what may not already exist. A freelance fashion business consultant, stylist and sometimes journalist at the time, I found that people got a lot of inspiration from what other, everyday people were wearing. No media outlet really offered this at the time. I launched Stylediary.net in 2004, the first fashion media property that did.
Dozens of copy cat sites and similar concepts have launched since, including one recently at TechCrunch 50. The trend can also be seen today in major print magazines like Lucky, Teen Vogue and Elle.
In 2007, I sold Stylediary to another company. Two months after the sale, I successfully expanded into television/entertainment, catching the attention of big network execs in a matter of hours. I am by no means some kind of business rock star. I didn’t attend Stanford or know anybody. I just focused on creating what didn’t exist, both then and now.
Many refer to this as “gray areas,” and they can be very good for business. Here are my five rules for finding them:
1. Take your time. I want to launch another web start up but I’m patient. I knew the economy would more than likely be tough this and next quarter, and that it’d mean money for young startups would be tight. Rather than burn investment capital trying to survive, I’ll wait and do something when the climate is steadier. Think through everything before you move. There is always time for good ideas done right.
2. Do the homework. Finding what doesn’t exist in a category requires that you become a bit of an expert on what does. Absolutely, at all times, deeply research the industries and markets, as well as your and other ideas. I could have told the half dozen struggling video platforms in the market that it was too late to be the next YouTube and too early for web TV, as well as that professional content (webisodes, etc.) would be easier to monetize – as far back as in 2005. Dig in before you launch – it’ll help a lot.
3. Be your user. Many companies launch sites and features that they think users want based on top level trends, ignoring what’s useful and appealing to their own, actual audience. “ToolBox” was one of Stylediary’s most popular articles because it gave more tactical style advice than just simply saying, “Wedges are hot,” like most magazines at the time. Get inside your users’ world and you’ll see what might be missing – another gray area that’s usually ripe.
4. Wear the watch. Timing is everything in internet business. Too early or too late will more than likely lead to expensive repositioning/redesign, long lean years, or slow, painful death. Gray areas are a lot like forming storms on the horizon. Look for the clouds and map your launch for when lightning strikes.
5. Always reinvent. A winning idea in the market is a good thing as proof of concept helps. But, duplicating it without any variation isn’t wise. This includes better/different features, which a lot of entrepreneurs mistakenly think will do the trick. You have to put a dynamic new spin on what’s already working online to create something in a gray area.
Patricia Handschiegel is the founder and former CEO of Stylediary.net, and the founder of 9 Group, a digital media and internet consulting startup launched in 2008. A respected speaker and industry voice, she resides in Los Angeles. You can find her online at www.dailypatricia.com.
I first came across Patricia when I began to read her comments on TechCrunch and many of the other tech blogs out in the blogosphere. Her comments are always well thought-out and provide an interesting perspective to the topics at hand. I thought she would be a great person to have a discussion with about her site, StyleDiary, and about some of the other current hot topics including ethical blogging. If you want to hear someone who is ultra-passionate about her site and about the Web in general, you need to listen to this interview. I really enjoyed speaking with Patricia and hope we can do more interviews with her in the future.
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Click the start button below to begin the audio interview (or download the mp3):
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Below is a partial text transcript of the audio interview. Please listen to the audio for the entire discussion.
Allen: Can you provide a “Whois Patricia?”
Patricia: I started out my career as a publicist working in high-tech. Most people think publicists do sexy work, mine was not sexy at all – working with ecommerce companies and VOIP companies. But I was this really girly-girl who likes clothes. About 2 years ago I realized that girls, women and people like to look at each other. And so I thought to create a way for people to people-watch online and it worked. And that is the StyleDiary site – which is an online magazine and a social networking site.
Allen: So what can you do on StyleDiary and MyStyleDiary?
Patricia: The way the site the was setup initially was that users were really guarded and worried about privacy back when we launched in 2004. But tons of instant messages are sent back and forth each day. Commenting will be added in the new version which is coming soon. Lots of new features coming. Right now you can see how many people view your pages and if you have an outfit that is popular, you will get tons of hits on it – it will be featured in chatrooms and other blogs and so on.
Allen: Have you considered creating a digg-type system where people can vote great outfits to the home page?
Patricia: We have a lot of that type of stuff planned for the future. We want to encourage people to write articles and then we would have a digg-like feature to move them to number one on StyleDiary. Ultimately the site is still under a lot of development and it’s growing everyday.
Allen: What’s the team like at StyleDiary?
Patricia: We are still a bootstrap company. I went through the Web 1.0 and learned from so many startups then about what to do and what not to do. We only have a couple employees, my partner handles all the technology and me. We have some people who work on sales and some freelance writers. We wanted to stay as lean as possible.
Allen: What do you think is the coolest thing about being an Internet site owner and what is the hardest thing?
|“The hardest part is that one minute you are Tom Cruise in TopGun and one minute you are Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch.”|
Patricia: I think the best part is that I really, really, really enjoy this. I really like to put stuff together. Just watching where stuff goes and where we can take it. We are working on raising capital and that is a whole different thing.
The hardest part is that one minute you are Tom Cruise in TopGun and one minute you are Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch. The ability to be able to lose is a lot higher stakes in the Internet business and a lot of people underestimate it.
Allen: A lot of the people who come to CN are aspiring web app creators are trying to get funding. What has been your experience so far… easier than you thought? harder than you thought? Any tips?
Patricia: When we launched we funded it out of pocket, because Internet prices are still pretty low. I think first and foremost, we had the option to take capital along the way. We kept the idea that we wouldn’t do that until it could really add value to the site. You have to decide if that is going to be ideal for you or not. We wanted to try to make money on our own because that would make us the most attractive to a VC when we were ready.
I would encourage anyone that it is a game and you have to learn about it. I encourage everyone to read all the magazines including Business 2.0. If you are reading a site like TechCrunch that talked about some site that got funding, write down the VC firms behind the companies. And to make sure you talk in their language. Keep them updated is important – we keep them posted on how we are doing and how we are progressing. And think like they do. If you want an advertiser, think like an advertiser. And absolutely be honest about it.
Allen: Which web apps do you use on a regular basis?
Patricia: I am the biggest trialware user out there. The biggest application where I am trying to find the right one is in the photo editing area because I do a lot of photo editing. I like sites that allow me to share photos and documents. Business applications that will host something for me or allow me to collaborate in some way.
Allen: Let’s talk blogger ethics – what are your thoughts in this area?
|“My best advice is to: Just try to be someone that people want to work with again or listen to again or engage in again.”|
Patricia: I think what is really interesting transition going on. I don’t think people realize that blogs are media sources now. Whether it is just an opinion or news, whatever the blogger is writing about. I have never seen people so tuned into what bloggers are saying. With great power comes great responsibility. I think you have to recognize that the pace and focus is changing. So people come in trusting you. I think when you break that trust you hurt the chance of everybody being successful. It is lucrative to not be ethical. It is not just about disclosure but also about what they are writing about. That stuff can hurt credibility. What people need to remember is that consumer trust is important and let’s not break it. Consumers don’t like being duped.
My best advice is to: Just try to be someone that people want to work with again or listen to again or engage in again.
Allen: One of the topics that came up after the Future of Web Apps conference was about the fact that there were no female speakers… what is your take on the male/female issue when it comes to the Web?
Patricia: I think there is one thing people need to understand. This industry is not that old. And a lot of the women in it are still climbing. My exposure is to a lot of women in middle management but not that many on the forefront of technology. But I don’t think that is a bad thing. I think the evolution of women in technology is still evolving. It’s coming, it’s coming. I don’t know that very many women find technology or engineering as attractive. I don’t think you have ever seen the playing field as level as it is today. We are in a real sweet spot right now.
Allen: Anything else to add?
Patricia: We are having a blast. We are bootstrapping, I am exhausted working around the clock. I am absolutely having the best time.
Thank you Patricia for spending the time with me today. Your passion for what you are doing come through loud and clear. I hope others felt your passion and learned something about StyleDiary and your views on ethical blogging and the VC process.
If you would like to participate in a conversation on CenterNetworks, or if you have any comments or questions, let me know.
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