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Skimwords is a bit different than the main Skimlinks product. The Skimwords service looks at the content on the page and creates links on-the-fly for products listed within the content. The goal is to drive additional affiliate sales through the newly-found product links. The service is similar to other in-text programs including Kontera and Intellitxt.
Skimlinks is looking for sites in the following categories to join their Skimwords beta: technology/electronics, sport/lifestyle, automotive and fashion.
Check out our interview with Skimlinks CEO Alicia Navarro from earlier this year.
Last week London-based Skimlinks launched the SkimKit, a tool that helps publishers find products that have affiliate opportunities attached. Martin Bryant from Next Web has a good overview from the launch of the SkimKit service.
This morning I met with Skimlinks founder and CEO Alicia Navarro in NYC to learn more about her service and the new SkimKit launch. It was a great conversation because it combined a product demo/pitch with a good industry discussion.
Alicia noted that one of the benefits (actually the main benefit) of using Skimlinks over signing up for affiliate programs yourself is that you will generally make more money because Skimlinks typically receives the highest commission levels while most affiliates will generally stay in the lowest bucket. Skimlinks takes a cut of the earned revenue (25%) but even with the split, you will most likely still earn more. You also only need to signup once with Skimlinks and then you can participate in all of the programs that Skimlinks supports – over 7,500 of them.
The SkimKit is an Adobe Air application that helps publishers find products for the stories they are writing. If you are familiar with how Zemanta helps you find links for your stories, the SkimKit does the same thing for products except that the SkimKit only shows products where there is an affiliate relationship.
The idea behind the SkimKit is to make it super easy for writers (especially teams of writers) to find product links to include in their blog posts and articles. The SkimKit also provides short URLs for sharing links in emails along with direct share links for Twitter and Facebook.
Also checkout Alicia’s guest post about building a startup in the UK.
Skimlinks works with merchants including AmazonUK, Ticketmaster, Boots, eBay, BT and play.com. It looks like the list is mostly UK-based companies. Depending on what percentage Skimlinks takes, it may make sense to use Skimlinks in addition to affiliate programs you are already running.
Here’s a video overview of how the Skimlinks system works and you can checkout another viewpoint on the launch from Jemima Kiss.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about the relative merits of building a start-up in Europe, and of the UK trying to become more like Silicon Valley in its approach to start-ups.
Being an Australian who moved to London to launch her start-up, I can relate a very personal tale about why I chose the UK as the most compelling place to be entrepreneurial.
1. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd
The London web start-up scene is relatively younger than in Silicon Valley, so it is smaller, and more co-dependent on each other. We all want to be successful, and as there isn’t so much competition yet, we aren’t afraid of helping each other. This smaller community means its easier to get to know everyone, and become known. I arrived in London in September, and within a few months I have met, become friends with, or at least know of most web start-ups, journalists, VCs, Angels and other key players. I imagine in the Valley its a little more competitive and crowded, so it is harder to stand-out and become known.
2. Excellent source of cheap smart developers
The proximity of mainland Europe to the UK is a huge boon. We have access to one of the fastest growing bases for outsourced off-shore development in Eastern Europe, with countries like Romania, Ukraine and Latvia sprouting firms full of hard-working, smart, well-spoken developers, with only 1-2 hours time difference from the UK. The developers of my site, Skimbit are based in Romania, and they cost me half to a third what it would cost me to hire local developers; they speak excellent English, are completely up to date with new technologies and trends, and are only an hour away on a plane to visit them face-to-face. Having worked with my team in Romania while based in Sydney, I fully appreciate the benefit of working in similar time zones.
3. Market to an untapped audience with propositions you know will work
Besides being a fan of affordable development resources, UK’s proximity to Europe also represents a huge market opportunity. Everyone is so busy targeting the US, that they forget the rest of the world is out there, speaks relatively good English, and is web savvy. You can take a concept that works in the US, and market it to a European audience, with confidence that the model works, with less competition. Of course, web applications should be international in their outlook, but there are so many web applications that seem hugely popular in the US, that no one has ever heard of here, possibly because marketing efforts for these sites concentrate on the US. In my start-up’s case, there are a few web applications that do some of what Skimbit does, and I consider this a strength, because no one has ever heard of any of them in the UK, so I have validation my proposition is going to work, and an untapped audience to market to in Europe.
4. Benefit from the helpfulness of other entrepreneurs
I’m not the only one who wants to make the UK, and London specifically, an exciting base for global entrepreneurship. The city is buzzing with creative, smart, passionate entrepreneurs, investors, journalists and mentors, and what I have found particularly special is how much everyone wants to help! Everyone tries extra hard to help, get you introductions, give you feedback, lend you advice… It feels like one very extended family here! There are a few key networking events to go to, and within a short amount of time, if you are personable, passionate and polite, you will be surprised how much everyone will give you free help.
It might be like that in the US, (I will soon find out, as I head to Silicon Valley in a week!), but I suspect the distributed nature of tech centres in the US (Silicon Valley, New York, etc) and lack of public transport in the Valley may work against the creation of as close knit group. There is a lot to be said for meeting up for a few drinks with an experienced investor and businessperson, and to constantly be bumping into the same group of people at each networking event, which enhances the perception of intimacy in the London scene.
Of course, there are some huge disadvantages to being based in London. Cost of living is sky high, and funding of start-ups, although getting more common, is not as easy to get as in the US. The weather is also a little more gloomy, although you can conclude that makes it more compelling to work even harder indoors! But the wonderful thing about London is that you truly feel you are at the heart of global events – even though you have your head down working hard, you are always aware that there is a world of politics, art, theatre, music, sport and travel all around you, and I think it provides a very necessary balance, as well as a useful motivation, to keep working hard.
Alicia Navarro is CEO and founder of Skimbit, a social decision-making tool to help research and make decisions, with the help of others. Alicia is an Australian based in London.
Last week I posted an interview with Alicia Navarro, founder and CEO of Skimbit. About 24 hours after the interview went live, I received an email from Alicia. You see, Alicia tracks the word ‘Skimbit’ and she received an alert about a site posting an interview with her. Except the interview wasn’t here on CN, but on another site, bloggertrail. They copied my content. Normally these bastards copy the content exactly the same, but in the case of bloggertrail, they put it through some sort of Web blender. And they didn’t even link back to the original source.
Here’s my version of the content in question:
"I met Alicia Navarro when I posted my selections for the Mashable awards. Alicia is the founder of a social decision making tool called Skimbit out of London. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the tool via our email exchanges and I asked if she’d be willing to participate in an interview so that ya’all could learn more about her service. She agreed and our conversation transcript is below. Allen: Can you provide a brief background about yourself? Alicia: I’m of Spanish-Cuban descent, born"
And here is the bloggertrail version:
"I met Alicia Navarro when we posted my selections for the Mashable awards . Alicia is the owner of the amicable preference creation apparatus called Skimbit out of London . I’ve enjoyed guidance some-more about the apparatus around the email exchanges as well as we asked if she’d be peaceful to experience in an talk so which ya’all could sense some-more about her use . She concluded as well as the review twin is next. Allen: Can we yield the short credentials about yourself? Alicia: I’m of Spanish-Cuban skirmish, born"
Alicia should be excited. No longer is Skimbit a company, it’s an ‘amicable preference creation apparatus’. If that’s not the funniest thing today, I don’t know what is.
I refuse to link to the site but if you want to see bloggertrail, just go to bloggertrail.com.
I met Alicia Navarro when I posted my selections for the Mashable awards. Alicia is the founder of a social decision making tool called Skimbit out of London. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the tool via our email exchanges and I asked if she’d be willing to participate in an interview so that ya’all could learn more about her service. She agreed and our conversation transcript is below.
Allen: Can you provide a brief background about yourself?
Alicia: I’m of Spanish-Cuban descent, born and bred in Sydney, Australia, and now living in fabulous London (as is almost every other Aussie). I have worked in web and mobile application product management for many years, for big companies and start-ups, and finally swore to myself that the next company I would work for was my own! I had the idea for Skimbit years ago, before the whole web 2.0 craze, and it was funnily enough in a failed job interview with Google that I resolved to finally go for it!
Allen: What is Skimbit and where did you come up with the name?
|"Skimbit is a social tool for making group or tricky decisions"|
Alicia: Skimbit is a social tool for making group or tricky decisions, like organising various aspects of a holiday or wedding, choosing a TV or car, or moving home etc.
It skims the best bits of sites you like (that’s where the name comes from!) and presents them in a way that makes it easy to compare and analyse. Your friends and family can then view your findings, give their feedback using a variety of mechanisms, and this feedback is then automatically aggregated and represented in a fun graphical way. This makes it easy to pick a winner! You then have a set of tools – like maps, checklists, notepads, etc – to help act on the decision.
Allen: How does the service work?
Alicia: When you find a site you like, you click the button we install into your browser, and the title, description, image and decision-making criteria are skimmed and added to your project page. Eventually you have one page that has all the results of your internet research in a way that enables you to sort/filter/compare based on decision making criteria like price, location, number of beds, etc. This is quite unique as far as we can tell.
You can then invite people to view your findings, and everyone can give feedback via ranking, rating, thumbs up/down or comments. We compile these results and show you a summary of results in a fun graphical way, ie. ranking is represented by a horse race, and the winning horse represents the option with the highest average rank.
Allen: Why is Skimbit different from other social shopping sites?
Alicia: We feel quite passionately about this… Skimbit was designed primarily as a useful tool for making internet research and collaborative decision-making easier, rather than as an outspoken community that will eventually be advertised to within an inch of their lives :) There are social aspects, but its not as in-your-face as other social sites. We believe there is a huge proportion of the population that don’t use social sites (other than Facebook of course!), don’t care what strangers think or do, don’t have the time or inclination to share their personal life with strangers, and just want to get about their life more effectively.
We forget sometimes working in this space that there are a lot of people out there that aren’t like us… and Skimbit is aimed at them. We do have a ‘public projects’ section, but we find most users like to do Private or Shared projects, and we are fine with that. We like to think of ourselves as just-social-enough!
Allen: Is Skimbit just for shopping?
Alicia: Not at all… here are some examples of how its used: Compiling lists of competitors, preparing bibliographic information for a school project, picking a cottage for the weekend, deciding which sofa to get for the living room, collecting ideas for themes or colours for a wedding… it’s a tool for collecting results of internet research, so the end result doesn’t have to be a purchase. In fact, you don’t even need to pick a winner… think of it a bit like social bookmarking where more than the URL is bookmarked.
Allen: I know you are located in the U.K. – where is the service accessible from?
Alicia: It’s a global site – www.skimbit.com. As it’s a social tool, its location independent. Use it wherever you are! We don’t sell anything on it, we don’t mind where you are from. We have users from Iran, Poland, Russia, Taiwan… everywhere really!
Allen: What’s the team like at Skimbit?
Alicia: There is little ol’ me that has done much of this on her lonesome for some time. I have had an amazing team of offshore developers and designers. And now I have a finance and marketing person in house. We are looking to grow further soon!
Allen: Funded or unfunded? Looking for funding?
Alicia: Up until now its been self-funded (painfully – someone donate me some new shoes please!) and we have been lucky enough to get a government-backed loan due to the innovative nature of our white-labelled product – Skim-in-a-box (www.skim-in-a-box.com) which we license to other portals and companies like wedding planners, concierge services, interior decorators etc. We have one amazing client already, Wedding TV, who have recently launched their version of the Skimbit service under the name Decision Manager at decisions.weddingtv.com. We are thrilled as it’s a world first to offer this type of social decision-making service as a white-label hosted solution.
And yes, we are embarking upon an investor roadshow in January/February to get Angel funding. Interested parties please do contact me to be included in the process.
Allen: Who are your competitors? How does this compare to another new startup: The Point?
Alicia: Our main competitors are sites like Kaboodle, Osoyou, and eSnips. We all have similar ‘skimming’ solutions. However, as far as I can tell, Skimbit is the only site that is a generic internet research and decision-making tool, that ‘skims’ everything you need from a site to be able to analyse it later, and that provides such a useful feature set for giving feedback, performing analysis, and seeing the results of that process. And we really believe that the fact we don’t overly push the social aspect of the site will appeal to loads of busy people. We think there is room in the market for more than a few players, this space is about to explode! We aspire to do a simple job effectively, without too much fuss, and give busy people a useful tool for their day to day internet research and decision making, and we know there is a massive market of people who are after such a service.
The Point seems to be about campaigning issues – quite different from what I can see.
Allen: What’s the business model look like?
Alicia: For our free Skimbit.com site, we have contextual ads based on the type of project you are creating. We can offer advertisers compelling advertorial-type exposure, which we anticipate will be hugely compelling. Our clickthrough rates are higher than average, because people using our site are specifically looking for something, and are more open to relevant ads shown on project pages.
We are also launching the Skim Spot in January, which is a sponsored project that our community is invited to give feedback on. The advertiser gets a community of people engaging with their brand, exploring the different options on their site, and exposure on our homepage. We are in talks with some big names to be the inaugural partner for this type of innovative advertising proposition.
And finally, we have Skim-in-a-box, from which we earn setup and license fees on a monthly basis. We also retain revenue earned through the embedded Google search on all site instances.
People first question always seems to be ‘What is your traffic like?’, but we are a young company and are building that up. What we DO have is very different and equally indicative of success: we have a delighted client in our first few weeks who is licensing our technology, we have interested press due to our unique focus on the less social members of the public, and we have a genuinely useful tool that can add value to your day to day life.
Allen: What is the greatest business lesson you have learned in your career?
|"You can’t do it alone. Well, you can, but you go a little bit insane."|
Alicia: You can’t do it alone. Well, you can, but you go a little bit insane. Since I moved operations to London from Sydney, I have been surrounded by supportive and helpful parties, and am finally getting an inhouse team, and it makes such a difference. However, would I have changed anything I did? Nope… I’m pretty proud to have gotten as far as I have on my own, particularly as a single non-techie female working from home while working a full time job in Sydney. :)
Allen: Which new RSS feeds are you reading these days?
Alicia: I think Leisa Reichelt’s blog www.disambiguity.com is fab, and the fact she is another Aussie female in London has nothing to do with it! I love her view on technology and on usability.