Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Startup Thought Process Series: Commuter Rants

Series Initation Note: This kicks off a series on my conversations with folks starting digital media companies with the objective of assisting the enterpreneurs.

The Startup: I met an owner close to rolling out a site for commuter rants. Simply put, the site is a forum for commuters to rant about their commute.

Our relatively brief conversation focused on helping him with the vision/ raison d’ĂȘtre for the site. Snippets of the conversation are listed below. These are really interconnected factors, however you need to be able to think through them linearly once, before you iterate through the options and interdependencies. As with a few startups, these answers may change with time, however, it helps to have concrete thoughts about these questions at the start of the journey.

I. Market Potential
The entrepreneur's first area of uncertainty was: how frequently would a commuter rant at his site? We broke that down into market sizing and frequency of usage.

i. Who is the target user of this site? What is the market size?
What kind of commuter? Someone who takes the NJ Transit or Metro North to and fro work? Or does it include someone stuck on the D.C. beltway on a Friday evening? The idea here is to understand an existing unmet need and customer behavior tied to this unmet need.

For sizing, there are several ways to generate the numbers- by geography, by demographics, etc.

ii. What would the growth and usage trends be like?
Would they be like that of Twitter (where 30% of the users tweet once never to return) or like that of Facebook?

II. Business Model and Market Strategy
We are really thinking about distribution channels, partners, customer relationships, core capabilities and revenue models here, all of which can be expressed pithily as:
Would you prefer a B2C model or would you modify the site for a B2B model?

Note: We explicitly kept aside market defensibility to assist in brainstorming.

A> B2C Model
i. How would you grow the B2C site?
Would you eventually develop features tied to hyperlocal search to enable customer stick? E.g. Regulars in a train compartment can connect with each other?

ii. How would you monetize the site?
Through Ads, and possibly, viral content (to help folks cool down, for starters)?

B> B2B Model
i. How would you grow the B2B site?
After an initial push to bring on site users, would you consider tying up with media companies who may leverage feed from this site? E.g. TV Weather and traffic update has a ticker running at the bottom which shows "selected"/ "near real time" commuter "rants"?

ii. How would you monetize the B2B site?
How many media companies would buy into this? What would such features be worth to the media companies?

III. Product Strategy
Would you roll this out as an independent site/ platform? Or,
Would you leverage existing platforms like the iPhone and/ or Facebook?

The questions for you:
1> How would you have looked at this differently?
2> Would you invest?
3> What changes, if any, would change your investment decision?

What do you think?


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