I’ve become a regular reader of the blog Sack of Seattle. It’s from Andy Sack, the head of Judy’s Book, which is a consumer review/shopping deals site that is still ramping up and to a certain extent trying to figure out what it’s final business model is going to be. The reason I’m enjoying it is because Judy’s Book is trying to create something big while working with a relatively small staff, and what they are doing is rather time-intensive—it’s not simply creating a piece of technology and letting it loose; it requires a lot of human effort. Much like my own company, Bessed.
Sack wrote yesterday about getting some difficult feedback from a customer who likes Judy’s Book but is frustrated with some changes that the site is undergoing. If I understand correctly, though, some of the changes are necessary if Judy’s Book actually wants to make some money.
Sack responds to the customer’s comments well, but in listening to the complaints, I’m reminded of how difficult it is to create something that people want to use while simultaneously making a profit from it.
It’s easy to create something that people want, whether it’s a product or service. The question is, are people willing to pay, and, if so, how much? If they’re not willing to pay, can you translate the bodies/eyeballs into a workable business via advertising revenue? If you can, how much work will it take to make that process happen, both in terms of finding the advertisers and figuring out how to make their advertising pay dividends so that they continue to want to be associated with you?
In many startups, especially Internet startups, the first step is in building the offering. If it’s good enough to attract attention, you then have to convert some of that attention to actual money. And while you’re trying to get to a healthy monetization level, you still need to provide all the things you provided to begin with that brought you the visitors/customers in the first place. And you have to do this double work with the same staff you had when you were doing half the work, which already seemed like more than twice the work that most humans could reasonably handle.
Even more difficult, if your business has ramped up to a decent level but not home-run territory, and the money’s starting to run low, you may have to shift gears to monetization before you’d like to, thus forcing you to somewhat take your eye off the ball in terms of providing the service or product that brings you customers in the first place.
It’s no wonder that sometimes the details get lost in the shuffle, or that as a business owner you simply have to choose what is the most important thing that needs to get done at a particular time, and live with the fact that there is something else that needs attention but will not be getting it at the moment.
And yet everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days.
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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.