Archive for September, 2006


Do I Have a Domino Rally Business Model?

September 25, 2006

I’ve become a big fan of venture capitalist Josh Kopelman’s blog Redeye VC, although I wish he’d post more frequently. Last week he offered a post titled Domino Rally Business Models that centered around startups that require everything to go exactly right for any chance of success. He used this example of a business model that requires that all the dominoes fall perfectly:

“If we can negotiate a deal with the top 10 publishers on the Internet AND cost-effectively convince millions of users to install a co-branded plugin AND convince advertisers to buy a new form of advertising THEN we have a billion dollar business”

That’s a lot of “ifs” required to reach the final “then”. As a VC, Kopelman wants to see fewer dominoes that must fall, more than one path to big revenue, or solid plans that make domino-toppling more likely.

Kopelman offers a concrete example of the latter when he was building

When we started our two major dominos were (1) can we get sellers to list inventory, and (2) can we get consumers to buy stuff. To offset the risks of the former, we went out and signed contracts with dozens of used book, CD and movie stores to list their inventory — launching with over 1 million items available. To offset the risks of the latter, we launched with partnerships with all the major price-comparison shopping engines, providing us with quick access to millions of price-sensitive consumers. While we didn’t eliminate the risks, we were able to credibly convince our investors that we were able to position the dominoes in the right place.

The obvious question for me is: how many dominoes is Bessed requiring fall into place?

Let’s see. Our challenges are three-fold (maybe more, but these are the biggies):

Create enough content – Because it’s a human-powered search site, can we create enough search result pages to reach critical mass, which means…

Driving Traffic – Getting people to a site is always a challenge, but I think much of number 2 is wrapped up in #1. Creating a lot of content should drive traffic, but there has to be a LOT of content.

Monetizing the traffic – Right now we’re just using Google’s AdSense program, which maybe 500,000 other sites are doing. Adding other ad options could mean higher revenues, but I’m more concerned with traffic and content right now, which is of course what makes Adsense so attractive to me and others. But of course you need people to actually click the ads.

Here’s some numbers for you. If you have 1 million page views per day, but only get $1 CPM ($1 per every thousand page impressions, which can easily happen depending on the content of the pages in question), you end up with only $1,000 per day, $365,000 per year. If your site can get a $10 CPM, you’re talking $10,000 per day, and $3,650,000 per year. That’s still pretty small potatoes unless you’re content with being a small company, and let’s not forget that you need a million page views per day, which isn’t exactly easy.

Using these numbers, what does it take to have a $100 million company? Being generous and using the $10 CPM, which I think a site like Bessed could probably get as we drill down to content that brings higher CPMs (such as financial products, luxury retail, etc.), here’s the equation, drawing from my high school algebra:

($100,000,000/365 days) = $273,972.60 per day

X number of page views / 1000 x $10 CPM = $273,972.60

I can’t remember how to solve for X, but I can do a workaround to tell you that it would be necesary to serve up roughly 27.4 million page views per day to reach $100 million in revenue. Looking at this page, that’s roughly the number of searches that the MSN search engine does each day. Less than Google or Yahoo, but still, you’re talking the big, big leagues.

Now you can of course think a bit smaller. $50 million in revenue only takes about 13.7 million page views each day (which is about what does in # of daily searches, according to the site linked to above).

Thinking even smaller, 2.74 million page views per day gets you to $10 million in revenue. Much more doable, but still we’re talking wikipedian proportions, so we’re still talking major traction.

And, of course, to get to those numbers under our current business model means many, many, many pages created by a combination of real human editors and visitor submissions. A tremendous amount of work done by a tremendous number of people, almost all of who do not work for us today and will not work for us tomorrow unless we can get this built on a small scaller scale, show it’s feasible, and then go after investor dollars.

That’s a tall order, with unlikely success. I’m going to do it anyway.


Book Review: You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader by Mark Sanborn

September 25, 2006

I’m a huge reader of non-fiction in general and business-related books in particular, so I’ll be using this blog to share my reviews of what I’ve read. Today it’s the new book from Mark Sanborn, who scored a big hit the last time around with The Fred Factor.

I also post these reviews at; you can see my complete list here. (I actually only have one previous one thus far–Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big.)

Away we go…

Last weekend, after a week walking past a broken bottle on the sidewalk near my home and thinking, “someone should clean that up,” I grabbed a broom and dustpan and cleaned it up myself. While I had self-interest due to my child regularly falling on the sidewalk for no apparent reason, this was still unlikely behavior for me. What spurred me on? The new book from Mark Sanborn, You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader.

Like Sanborn’s previous book, the best selling The Fred Factor, this book is another small (102 pages) package with lots of advice on creating a real impact regardless of your position in the world or within your company. The premise here is how to be a leader even if no one’s put you in charge (or, in my example of sweeping up the broken bottle, even if no one notices). By taking the initiative regardless of expectations or official job description, you set yourself up for rewards down the road, including, in many cases, that lofty title you didn’t have before.

You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader is a good book for anyone needing motivation doled out in bite-sized chunks. And I’m sure that Sanborn’s past success will ensure this one has a long run on the bestseller’s list. That said, if you read a lot of these types of books (which I do), I can’t say Sanborn’s breaking new ground here.

The beauty of The Fred Factor, of course, is its “hook,” a nice story about an overachieving mailman — which is then extrapolated out to teach us all how to have a positive impact in our small slices of the world. You Don’t Need A Title to Be a Leader tries to do something similar, but the “hook” of being a leader regardless of your title is a little less meaty. As a result, while everything in the book is great advice, the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. It’s just not as cohesive a message as Sanborn intends. (By the way, the book’s title comes from the reply a contract worker gives after happily accepting a critical assignment without the promise of receiving a lofty title on the other end.)

I’ll try to give you an example of what I mean. The heart of the book is the Six Principles of Leadership, which include The Power of Self-Mastery, The Power of Focus, The Power of People, The Power of Persuasive Communication, The Power of Execution, and The Power of Giving. Those all sound fine, but having just read the book, I already have forgotten what half of them mean or what I’m actually supposed to do to put them in practice. There’s good stuff in there, but it didn’t light a fire under me. (Although it caused me to think that maybe I should be the one to sweep up that broken bottle.)

While the book as a whole doesn’t strike me as a classic, I did dog-ear some pages that struck me, so let’s highlight some strengths:

  • Sanborn does a good job of finding stories of regular people who aren’t changing the world, but are doing things that anyone else could have done but didn’t. For example, one of his first stories is about a school administrative employee who, without direction, secures temporary classroom space when the junior high burns down.
  • In the “Power of Focus” section, Sanborn’s story of a man out of ideas on how to stop squirrels from invading his bird feeder ends with a powerful idea. This may be the best thing in the book.
  • Under “Power of Execution,” Sanborn offers some good advice about the danger of following “best practices.”

Sanborn is at his best when he offers compelling stories that show instead of tell. You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader could have used a little more showing and a little less telling.

e-mail me:

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world. 


The Idea

September 23, 2006

So, it’s 10:19 on a Friday night and I’m in front of the computer again. I spend a lot of time here. Lately I spend a lot of time here because I’ve become obsessed with this idea.

I’ve always been fascinated with search, and have always wanted to start a business around it, but I never could think of something truly unique that wasn’t already being done better than I could do it myself. Like many people, over the past couple of years I’ve also become fascinated with blogs, wikis, social networking sites, etc. One night about 8 or 9 months ago, right before bed, an idea popped into my head that I haven’t been able to remove.

The product of that idea is Bessed, a human-powered search site built on WordPress. It’s not quite a search engine, not quite a directory, not quite a wiki, and, really, not quite a blog.

Here’s how it works: Each blog “post” is actually a search topic/keyword/category. Our Bessed editors seed the topic with 5 or 6 of the best sites for that search, then we open it up to you for comments. Use the comments section to tell us what other sites should be included for that particular topic, what should be excluded, what should be higher or lower in the rankings, or just leave a comment about the topic in general.

While our Bessed editors ultimately control the search results, the comments from visitors play a crucial role in determining what those results should be, and how they should be ranked.

We call it “search without the spam.” And the equation to get there is simple:

Search Results + Searcher Feedback = Better Search Results

So we’re not Google, we’re not Wikipedia, we’re not Digg–we’re a hybrid that has echoes of all those things.

Bessed is something different, something I hope is different enough–and interesting enough–that people will use it to search for what they want while also helping it reach its full potential by contributing their comments. In some cases, I hope they’ll use it as a meeting place to talk about a topic of interest to them.

All right, my son’s got soccer tomorrow morning, so I should get to bed. I’m looking forward to fleshing out our business plan in this blog, and I’ll be grateful for any constructive comments you have along the way–on the idea itself, its feasibility, our progress, my sanity, etc.