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This morning I had coffee with the founders of Wikipages next to the NY stock exchange. Benjamin Horst initially thought of the idea four years ago when the MediaWiki software first hit the scene. Tracey Donvito joined the team upon the product launch in January 2006. My notes from our conversation follow:
- Ben was looking to create a business directory similar to Wikipedia
- The service launched in January 2006 and they believe it is similar to the Yellow Pages
- While the Yellow Pages is a directory, it is also basically company advertisements. I asked if they are trying to create the same and the reply was that they are creating company information pages not adverts
- WikiPages blog went live September 2006 and has helped increase inbound traffic
- Tracey writes for the NY edition of Metblogs and uses this as a marketing vehicle for Wikipages
- They have approximately 1000 businesses listed – all within NYC and most centered around three communities: Astoria, Queens; Greenwich Village, Manhattan; and the Financial District, Manhattan
- They use Google Adsense to generate revenue – revenue numbers not disclosed
- They are not funded but woudl be open to discussion with VC firms
My biggest criticism for Ben and Tracey is to create a real design/interface. This “throw up a wiki and use Google ads to monetize” is really getting boring. I see it a lot and it just always makes me wonder if it’s a real business. Tracey and Ben are very passionate about their idea and it seems like it could have some traction (will require a lot of work) and I think people would take it much more seriously if it looked like a Web site not a out-of-the-box Wiki software. I am working on a lengthy rant post about this topic for later this week.
The other concern centers around their competition in Yelp and Google. Google has started a program to pay people to create pages for local businesses. They are paying up to $10 per business. Can Wikipages (and the other business directories) afford to compete? The answer is obviously no, so I think it’s important that Tracey and Ben continue to innovate. They need to stay a step ahead of Google in terms of their offering. What about video interviews of the business owners? What about video interviews with customers? Video is hot, and local is not utilizing it yet.