Ad Blockers And Why They’re Irrelevant

Originally posted internally August 2015 – placed up here due to some popular posts going around on how ‘Mobile Ad Blockers’ will be the end of ads. Pish.

Ad blockers have been around forever on desktop browsers but had a very small impact on the industry. They are super popular, but as a percentage of online buyers I’d imagine very small. Thus, the industry still exists and is as strong as ever.

Ads are most often charged per click and the consequence for advertisers is therefore, financially, not huge as the ad is blocked therefore no click. Looking at the spend patterns of brands we work with and ROI across channels, there is an every increase in purchasing ads on platforms like FB where the ad will be unaffected by the blocker as it’s published within the app (and the desktop ad revenue which has been subject to blockers forever is still their strongest revenue stream).

The best ROI in digital marketing is to ‘own your customer’. Take them from ad -> a contact in the CRM which you can then market to directly. The challenge is creating constantly engaging and valuable content to keep subscribers as both part of the list and engaged with it. This is completely under-utilised in the UK; we are as always behind our American counterparts in ‘Inbound Marketing’ and intelligent use of CRM, it seems (other than my clients).

What will dampen the spirits of the inbound marketer, after the lift in the previous paragraph, is that as more brands become more and more effective at creating great content the difficulty of keeping people on lists will increase, therefore reducing the ROI there.

Perhaps the future is that most great content will be created by brands and that content is aggregated Washington Post style for free consumption by all, but, to ingest the content I’ll know that I am reading a ‘Nike’ post. People will run through Flipboards of brand-created content, maintaining the brand’s relationship with customers.

I may have just had an idea worth implementing …

1. Single Founder – 10 Reasons For Failure Series

 

[su_quote cite=”Your never more alone than when you’re a sole founder”][/su_quote]

Starting a business is about the hardest thing you can do. You’re constantly fighting to stay alive, to grow, your fear of failure and the never-ending onslaught of competition with more money and often a better product or service.

You’ve got staff? You’re still alone

You may feel surrounded, but frankly your staff are there for the wage. There are ways to incentifise staff with equity which bring the relationship closer, but the reality is they’re not entrepreneurs. They’re not you. They have a notice period and if the right offer comes along, they’ll take it. When sh*t hits the fan, you’ll find out that staff are not co-founders.

Your about to fight daily battles

Every day something will go wrong. A member of staff will leave, an investor will apply pressure, a marketing campaign will return nothing, a bad hire, the feature you invested in just won’t work, a competitor launches your product … just better.

When those battles come up you’re not fighting the issue, you’re fighting motivation. You’re gambling your judgement is right without having someone to bounce the solution off of at 2am, you’re fighting your wife or girlfriend who wants you at home on the sofa.

The first battle is easy, but the thirty-first gets grating. The ninety-ninth will test the strongest souls.

You’ll convince yourself that you’re as fired up now as you always were, but it’s not true, it’s getting harder. Every battle won leaves a scar.

Why you need a co-founder

They share the scars

The most obvious reason is they’ll share the scars. If your breaking point is one hundred, you now have a partner that will go 50:50 with you meaning your business can have two hundred crisis before you need to take a break.

Two heads are better than one

And the old saying is never more true than when starting a business. Passion clouds judgement. Excitement clouds judgement. Having a co-founder helps keep your feet on the ground.

You’ll lose your drive at some point … and you might cry

Yep, you will. You’ll be worn down and even if things are looking up you’ll just be tired. At this point a co-founder is essential. They’ll remind you of why you’re putting so much energy and emotion in. They’ll buy you chicken wings and shooters, force you to take a few days off.

They’ll whiteboard out the future, re-envision the future and within a week you’ll be back fighting harder than ever.

Without someone as emotionally vested as you, who’s going to do this?

A lack of energy will lead to failure

Ultimately, regardless of the strength of your product or service, a lack of passion, energy and drive will cause you to fail. It’s much easier to keep your mojo with a partner.

18 Reasons Startups Fail – A Founder’s Checklist To Avoid Failure


A friend of mine posted this image on Linkedin and instantly I could relate to a bunch of these. Whether I’ve had the issue myself or helped others avoid one or two, there is a lot of truth in this image.

It seemed a good contents page for a guide, so here it is:

18 Reasons Startups Fail

  1. Single founder
  2. Bad location
  3. Marginal niche
  4. Derivative idea
  5. Obstinancy
  6. Hiring bad programmers
  7. Choosing the wrong platform
  8. Slowness in launching
  9. Launching too early
  10. Having no specific customer in mind
  11. Raising too little money
  12. Spending too much
  13. Raising too much money
  14. Poor investor management
  15. Sacrificing users for profit
  16. Not wanting to get your hands dirty
  17. Fights between founders
  18. A half hearted effort

Growth Hacking: What is it and should I be using it?

A trendy term that means finding ways to grow fast without buying media and ad-space. Examples of this are refer-a-friend schemes, or getting a developer to write a piece of code that automatically sends emails to everyone advertising on a certain website (with a listed email address).

Growth hacking uses analytics, intellect and usually some technical know-how. It’s trendy and when it works can be a goldmine of growth, but, it takes time and not everything works. You can spend months going through experiments, burning time (cash) and not get very far at all. And, if you don’t have great tracking of metrics and results, you’ll get nowhere.

Is it for you? Maybe. Are you very technical and analytics? If so, then this is a seriously good avenue to thing about and there are some fantastic resources out there (take a Google). Also, you need the time to invest in and to ideally make smart strategic choices from the outset (i.e. get someone who knows their onions to help or consult).

If you’re not the technical or analytical type, this is not something you can explore yourself.

Frequently Used ‘Hacks’

TBC…

 

I Need To Grow Fast – But I’ve Got No Cash

This is the situation that faces every pre-funding start-up … and every marketing manager that takes a role without asking what their budget will be in the interview.

There is one truth that’s inescapable, growth costs. It either costs time or money, but since you have to pay the bills, time is money. Many people will quickly reference Growth Hacking and suggest techniques they heard once worked for Dropbox. Assuming you don’t have the technical resource of Dropbox, let’s look at creating a strategy that’s likely to work.

Know Why You Need To Grow

Sounds like a silly question, huh? Growth is good. Period. But, if your trying to grow organically forever, the approach may be different to if you’re looking to achieve seed funding or a Series A round.

I Want Organic Growth, Slow Is Fine

There’s nothing wrong with organic growth, but, you need to be realistic about your expectations. It’s very unlikely you’re going to sustain PR after launch (without budget) or presence long enough to grow quickly. This relies on word-of-mouth, content marketing and good old fashioned grind. In some ways this is much more gruelling than injecting capital into growth even though you’re on a runway. It takes time and you can’t experiment quickly.

Your Goal Is To Find A System

Scattering energy everywhere is foolish. You need to find a system of growth that works and gives your business a predictable trajectory and cashflow. Let me provide a very simple real-life example from a finance business I recently engaged with. They use direct mail extremely successfully, now sending out tens of thousands of letters per week. For every 10,000 letters they achieve 4 new customers, consistently.

[su_table]

Stage Direct Mail Sent Loan Applications Qualified Prospect Draws Down
Records 10,000 13 6 4
Conversion Rate 0.11 % 46% 66%  £16,000 ROI

[/su_table]

It costs 30p to send a letter, so every week the company in question is spending £3,000 and returning £16,000 of lifetime value. Good growth.

The Worst (And Best) Jewellers In The World. A Tale Of Two Rings and a Lesson In Customer Service

Getting married comes with a huge number of expenses, most of which aren’t necessary, they’re ‘nice-to-haves’. The thing about over-priced luxuries is that suddenly customer service plays an even bigger part in the customer journey. I once heard that a third of BMW’s marketing was to prevent post-purchase dissonance and to encourage word-of-mouth marketing; they’re spending cash making sure that people are proud of their purchase. I can well believe it. 

I’ve spent thousands on all types of wedding things over the past months running up to the wedding and the biggest factor as to whether I’ve enjoyed the purchase is the after-care. A friend of mine bought a Porsche last year; the biggest thing he talked about was the customer experience, not the car. 

With wedding purchases, the first one is the venue. We’ve chosen a beautiful venue and I’m sure the day will go well and be run beautifully. The organisation of the planning and communication with them, however, is a shambles. I can’t wait to get married at the location in question, but, I hate that I’ve spent so much money with a venue that is such a pain in the arse. If they’d have made spending that money a pleasure, I’d have been their biggest advocate. As it’s been so difficult throughout, no matter how beautiful the place and how wonderful the day, I won’t recommend them. Simple processes and a decent system would have made it all a pleasure. There is a lesson here, focus on your customer experience and enjoy the benefit of an excellent referral rate and up-sales wherever possible. Provide an average experience and you’ll end up on page one of Google for all the wrong reasons. 

The best example of customer service differential within our wedding experience was in the purchase of our wedding rings. Compare these two vendors:

1 – Wharton Goldsmith (Independent Jeweller, St Albans)

We walked in and were seen to quickly and courteously. There was a wait to see the expert in wedding rings, but that was filled by a lovely attendant who got out racks of rings for us to start looking at. I found a ring that I liked and asked for some changes, when the jeweller arrived. The jeweller asks intelligent questions and we ended up placing an order. The jeweller also explained, as we were going for something custom, that if we didn’t like the ring, we wouldn’t have to take it. 
 
I found out while purchasing that I had been dealing with the owner, which explains the knowledge and passion for jewellery and custom jewellery design. But, what was great was the fact that the courtesy and customer orientated ethos seemed to flow through his staff also. 
 
Once the ring was ordered, they contacted my beautiful fiancée and asked what she’d like engraved inside. I later went to pick up the ring, which is awesome; it fits perfectly and looks great. The ring was ready way before they suggested it would be and the collection experience was personal, polite and brilliant. To top that off, days after collection, without asking or being told, I received a valuation certificate through the post, beautifully printed in a lovely folder. 
 
I can’t wait to recommend them and I’m off to spend more money with them tomorrow. Why? Because the customer service, even more than the product, meant I enjoyed it. 
 
Contrast that with …
 

2 – Kingshill Jewellers (Terrible jewellers, St Albans)

We walked in to this incredibly pretty shop to be met by an attendant who seemed to know little about rings. She was pleasant and eventually brought over the lady who apparently specialised in wedding bands. My fiancée tried on a bunch of rings and elected a plain ring that sat well next to her engagement ring. I paid in full and we left. 
 
I was contacted a week later asking what I’d like engraved on the ring (I’d said I’d like something engraved when purchasing). It was a Friday and I was told that they needed to know urgently before the ring went to be engraved. I scrambled, wondering why they couldn’t have told me this deadline when I bought it, and made a decision. The decision was made even tougher as I was told I was limited to 15 characters. Even to a proficient tweeter, that’s tough. 
 
A week later, after I’d scrambled for a message, I received a call. “Hi Luke, do you want the engraving to go all the way around as we think it will only really take up a third of the ring. Also, you wanted. Script font, but your fiancée chose a 2mm band and we don’t think it will be very legible. You can have Helvetica instead.”  
 
They’d panicked me a week earlier asking me to come up with a 15 character message immediately, a week later they hadn’t even started engraving. I also found out that I could have had 45 characters without a problem.
 
I elected to be brave and chance the script font, I also asked for a message on the inside and that was to be in Helvetica. I was told that would be an extra £50 which I agreed to. 
 
I went to pick up the ring a couple of weeks later. The script was perfectly legible, which was useful as they’d made a spelling mistake. Also, they’d used the script font rather than Helvetica on the inside. 
 
In business when mistakes are made, they should be viewed as the biggest opportunity to win a customer over. Shit happens in life and people know that. If you can solve problems quickly with a smile on your face and apologise for mistakes, you’ll win your customers over. 
 
 
First of all, I said, “look don’t worry about the wrong font on the inside as I don’t want you guys to have to get the ring re-cast, just correct the spelling mistake.” Nice and easy as they’d just left off the last letter (when I say ‘just left off’, I’m being kind … An engraver only really has to get one thing right). 
 
I explained in the shop that now we needed a quick turn around as our wedding was coming in days. I was told that Friday was the earliest. I also explained that I didn’t expect to pay the extra £50 for engraving as both pieces of engraving had mistakes and I’d just wasted more than £30 in fuel coming into the shop to point out the problems. I was told that the lady would need to talk to the Director. 
 
I then received an email saying I would be expected to pay £30 and that they would waive all the normal charges for requested changes; the only change was of course the inner engraving for which they were trying to charge me. I pointed out that I’d saved them more than that in not requesting the ring was re-cast and spent more than that in fuel due to their mistakes. I then got an email letting me know that the charges would be waived, but the tone was that of them doing me a favour. 
 
I picked up the ring today, spelling mistake corrected, but, the ring didn’t even fit my fiancée. After my previous experience of their handling of mistakes I have no intention of asking them to correct it, I’ll be returning it tomorrow morning and asking for a full refund. I’ll then be waking across the road with a smile on my face, looking forward to purchasing a ring from Wharton Goldsmiths.
 
 

So What Can We Learn?

  1. Tiny investments in customer service go a very long way
  2. Mistakes are the best way to polarise a customer, they’ll become a huge advocate or a vocal disgruntled purchaser (bad news travels 7 times further)
  3. After sales care will make people talk about you even after the purchase is over 
  4. Especially with luxuries, you have to earn every penny the customer and the money you’re demanding

Earned Plug For Fantastic Jeweller In St Albans – Wharton Goldsmith

The large title text about the Independent St Albans Jeweller called Wharton Goldsmith will resonate well with search engines, and they deserve it. 
 
========= Update 02 August ========
Today I went to return the ring to Kingshill Jewellers and was told that it was our fault that it didn’t fit. I let them know my lawyer would be in touch. 
 
I then walked across get road and spent three times as much in Wharton Goldsmith and enjoyed spending the money. 

Is An Idea Worth Pursuing?

You may have one ‘killer idea’ that’s going to take over the world, you might have lots. One of the most critical steps in the entrepreneurial journey is deciding which idea is the one to invest time and money into (and remember, time is money).

Here are the questions I ask myself about an idea or prospective investment, before I jump in.

Do I know anything about the industry / market I’m looking at?

It’s easy to spot perceived gaps in the market. The next question you must ask yourself is, ‘why hasn’t somebody else done this?’

The difficult truth is that your idea isn’t original; lots of people have had the same thought. You’re not the only genius in town and you’re probably not the most suited to exploit the gap either.

So, what’s the good news? You may be the most motivated. The above points are serious though. If you’re going to launch a business you need to very quickly become an expert in your field. You need to understand what has gone before you and failed, what has succeeded and most importantly, why?

If you’re not at least an expert-in-the-making on the industry/market you’re looking at, you’re not ready to dive in.

Are you solving a problem (that needs to be solved)?

Every time someone is purchasing your services/products they are actively making a decision to delay a holiday. That £5, £5,000 or £50,000 that you charged them, could otherwise have ended up cocktails on the beach while enjoying a massage.

People pay for an easy life, more money (services that turn £1 into £2), luxuries and essentials.

Which one do you fit into? What need are you solving? If it is not a need, it’s a luxury. If it’s a luxury, are you better than a beach holiday, mojito and massage?

If you’ve identified a need, who are your direct and indirect competitors and why is your solution better?

Try and sell it.

Create a presentation / flyer / one page website / etc and go and sell your product/service before it exists. If you can sell it, great. If you can’t, ask your audience why they won’t buy your product or service.

The greatest businesses are designed by their customers and arranged by their executive to be profitable.

Aim at money, not users

Seen the silicon valley companies gain huge investment and valuation without making a penny? Ignore them. These are by far and away the minority of funded and valued businesses. Businesses are about making money. Anything else is a hobby.

Will you enjoy the work?

Running a business is a tough, all-time and all-emotion consuming process. If you’re not going to enjoy it, do yourself a favour and don’t do it!

Does your idea stack up?

How much does it cost to make/deliver? How much will you deliver for? Are you in profit? How many people will buy? Therefore, how big will your profits be? What niches can you expand to after your original target?

Then … Cash-flow, cash-flow, cash-flow. You may be a billion dollar company in year five, but if you can’t pay your bills in month six, you’ll never get there.

The most common mistake when putting start-up spreadsheets together is not valuing the founders’ time. Remember, you won’t always be fulfilling that role, so what will be the cost of someone replacing you? That’s the sensible figure to project with, even if you anticipate paying yourself pittance in the beginning.

Lastly, it always costs twice as much as you expect.

After all the above … are you convinced?

If after all the above you’re convinced then you’ve crossed the chasm from excited and enthusiastic to informed and ready. One of the most frequent traits of entrepreneurs in their first few startups is that they continually kid themselves. They can be realistic and sensible about everything other than their own venture. Don’t be that person. Be your biggest champion as well as your biggest challenger.

Do you want this to be the biggest part of your life for the next two years?

If you’re reading this, you’re already smarter than most. You can do anything. Starting a business is a commitment that is deep and far reaching. Ask yourself truly, do you want this idea to be the biggest thing in your life for the coming two years? If the answer is ‘yes’, go for it!

Acqui-Hires, The Bosman Ruling, and What We Can Learn

This article is in response to Ben Narasin (@bnarasin’s) article in TechCrunch, [‘The End Of The Aqui-Hire?’][1] Ben writes an interesting article on his frustrations of typical deal-structure in acqui-hires (read it). Ben, like many early stage investors, invests in people; great people can make bad idea work, bad people will kill an awesome idea.

Early stage investment is risky by nature and the investor is always backing the team over the idea. It’s high risk, high reward. When the business doesn’t work out, Ben says,

…the concept of that time and upgrading of talent being compensated through an acqui-hire that pays back investors and rewards the founders with new elevated roles seems like an all-around win — and it was for some time in some cases (though I don’t know a single seed investor I respect that would fund someone with that intention in mind). … but, the problem, as Ben suggests, is that more often than not the acquirer places a lot of the reward in staff retention. Ben suggests they pay the ‘minimum needed to stop the investors blocking the deal’.

Two things have struck me; the first is that if this is truly a problem it’s the fault of the investor, and two, shouldn’t we all learn something from the Bosman Ruling?

I’m both an investor and an employer. In both scenarios, nothing is more irritating than having your staff poached after you’ve effectively given them an education taking them from ‘potentially excellent’ to ‘excellent’.

As en employer, I watch my staff make costly mistakes time and time again and then slowly improve to become more rounded professionals making less mistakes and turning out better and better work. We invest in their improvement and development because we believe in them as people and believe they have the propensity to offer more and more value to the business.

As an early stage tech investor, we’re investing in great entrepreneurs and an idea. Often the idea is great and we believe that the people could be the leading lights in whatever technology or area they’re dabbling in. We invest, then those people spend months or years delving deeper and deeper into a niche of tech and at the end of the road they’re world-class experts in that market and area of tech.

In either case, someone comes to gobble those people up, through an acqui-hire or through simple head-hunting. With an acqui-hire, you get some reward for your input into the individuals. With simple head-hunting, there’s nothing.

Is this fair? Well, it depends on which way you look at it …

In the case of employment, in theory you’re only ever paying what the member of staff is worth at any one point. So yes. BUT, people like to feel like they’re ‘moving-forward’. A degree of staff churn is inevitable even if the employee likes their job and you offer a competitive package. So if humans will be human, then ‘no’, inevitably a lot of the investment you put into your staff is lost along the way.

But, as an employer, you could be the head-hunter. You could buy in senior talent that someone else has decided to train up. It’s an equal playing field, but again, this comes with inherent difficulties. Capitalism and a free market is what it is and we all enjoy the same benefits and suffer the same challenges.

In the case of acqui-hires, at least the investor is seeing something back from a failed venture. Ben has been frustrated by small slices of the acquisition pot not coming back to his investment team, but, he does also say, “pay them the minimum to keep them from blocking the deal”. The investors could block the deal and any respectable investor (and Ben is one) would block the deal if it wasn’t fair. Frankly, if the business has failed, then getting 10¢ back on the dollar isn’t a bad place to be (that said, you American investors should look at the tax incentives here in the UK on start-up investment when looking for start-ups to back; they offer a lot of protection when structured right).

**A Lesson From Football (Soccer) In the world of football, players are in contract for a set number of years. If another club wants one of your players, you negotiate a transfer fee. For the players coming through the youth academies and the youngsters brought in, the club invests time and money taking them from ‘ok’ to world class. If another team wants the finished product, they pay. Big.

The Bosman Ruling came in some years back. In the football world, clubs would always demand a transfer fee, even if the players were out of contract. This was obviously illegal and players would then let their contracts elapse and move onto new clubs demanding signing bonuses in lieu of the transfer fee that had been avoided. Clubs have had to wise up to this in their contract structure and in how they work with players.

So what can we learn?

If we know at the start that we’re, as employers or investors, going to invest heavily in making great people experts, then we need to take responsibility for the value that we want to extract from that time and effort. If we need something above and beyond the potential ‘acqui-hire’ bare minimum, or, the basics of the employee duties, then we need to structure our contracts differently in investment and employment.

In investment, this would be setting out the terms of an acqui-hire from day 1. In employment, this would be slightly more complicated; perhaps an agreement that when a member of staff wants to leave that the employer takes responsibility for finding them a new job but then also reaps the benefit of the recruitment fee. A small reward for the training and development put in, but a reward all the same.

Take Some Action…

I share Tom’s frustrations, and agree with his idea regarding the floor price of recruitment. I think that the action point lies with the investors and employers, though. Tom has raised an issue that he, I and all others in this bracket should solve ourselves.

<span style=”text-align:center>”(…this was written too quickly as I’m under pressure to plan my wedding! So excuse typos and anything non-sensical).

What Do You Think?

Science Vs Society – Robots and CompSci Will Screw Up Society

The more I think about technology, the more I fear it on a sociological level.

I love technology, it’s my living and my favorite hobby. The problem is that part of the way people like me make money is by making life more convenient or efficient.

My team over at Nudge Digital frequently go into companies and aid efficiency by removing paper, automating administration, using technologies to better customer experiences; basically, we reduce the human input. The great companies use this is an engine for growth, staff are re-purposed. Others use increased efficiency to cut costs. Both are reasonable and responsible things to do as a business owner with a responsibility to share holders.

Here’s the thing. The more successful we are in robotics and computer science, the more we remove jobs (as margin always need to increase and consumers drive prices down). The jobs that are inevitably removed first are the ‘less-skilled’ jobs, i.e. administrational, operational. Why? Because they are often easier to emulate and automate with a computer, and increasingly a robot. As this progresses, we also start removing the need for skilled professions. Book keeping will be almost a thing of the past in years to come. Accountants will have to actually learn to do more than put numbers in boxes on a tax return to warrant a consultancy fee (a cheap computer can do that).

As we remove more and more jobs, especially at the administrational/operational end of the corporate spectrum we are putting society in a dangerous place. The amount of unemployment will increase, while those that can retain employment will be more and more valuable. 

The difficulty is, though this is going to be gradual, it is also inevitable, and the types of job we’re talking about account for a HUGE percentage of the british workforce (if anyone has the stat, please get in touch). What do they do? The state is already crippled financially and can’t support them.

Perhaps some of them will re-train to become skilled tradespeople, but that market is already crowded due to the influx of highly skilled Europeans. Maybe they’ll attempt to learn to code, but that market is also crowded with average coders, and they’ll need to be exceptional to fight for jobs with those with traditional training and years of commercial experience.

We have a hole coming in society. It’s not a commercial problem, it’s a sociological one. The only way to balance the hole emerging is for innovators to create enterprises with the need for more human jobs. But, that’s not too likely.

How do we prepare for this oncoming dilemma with an already broken welfare state?

Pulling The Plug On A Startup : The End Of Loccit.com

What Was Loccit.com ?

I have a box of photos (remember when we had to print photos?!), ticket stubs, notes from friends and other sentimental bits. It sits in my loft (attic) and is one of the only things that has moved with me to every house since I lived with my folks.

Now, we don’t print photos, we don’t keep diaries, tickets are emails, letters and notes are SMSs, emails, IMs, Facebook messages … we have nothing that reminds us of the past. When you’re 80, what will you have to look back at?

We looked at the social landscape and built Loccit. The original version integrated with lots of APIs (including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) and pulled in all of our users’ most important moments and compiled it into a timeline of your life.

The original Loccit.com was released in February 2011. We’d built Facebook Timeline, but 9 months before Timeline existed.

Facebook Announced Timeline

Timeline was launched in September 2011. The speech by MZ was incredibly close to my original investment pitch. There were sentences and points that were almost identical. Facebook had realised the same opportunity that I had, that this mass of data was an incredible personal history.

We couldn’t compete with Facebook and we didn’t want to try.

The Pivot

We decided to go after the personal greetings card market. In early 2012 we had the most advanced social web-to-print product creation technologies in the market. We could automatically create posters, calendars, photobooks and more using your favourite photos pulled in from Facebook.

We’d seen the advertising spend of Moonpig and other large competitors and knew that we couldn’t out-spend them, couldn’t out-shout them, so, we had to out-think them.

We created some very clever (even if I do say so myself) viral marketing gadgets during the purchase process, some viral Facebook apps and let them loose. Things were shared hugely, but we never achieved a truly viral feature or campaign (viral is correctly defined as a situation where for every user that registers, more than one more user goes into the funnel, not as something that’s just shared a lot).

We didn’t manage to achieve traction or sales that were going to sustain the business. With marketing spend, we could have. But, we would have needed several million pounds to get there.

The Next Pivot

We looked at where we could go with the runway we had left. We talked to loads of our users, got out on the street and assessed the landscape. We went back to our roots.

There was overwhelming feedback that suggested there was a call for a great simple personal diary app online. Our active users were proactively writing diary entries at least once a week.

We re-created the interface as a book-like diary with turning pages and served that basic need.

The diary was successful and we continued to load 100 odd users per week with spikes when we hit the press for one reason or another. The reality of the situation was, though, that we didn’t have the cash to pay for users and at the rate of subscription we weren’t going to hit 1m users in a hurry.

So Where Now?

We made the service paid for. We started at $2 / month. People, we found, would pay for the service. Just over 1.5% would oblige. That’s a pretty good conversion rate, but, there was a cash gap.

The business was burning cash every month and there was none left, so, for now, we’ve had to switch the service off. We’re open to conversations with investors.

What About My Diary?!

If you’re a Loccit user, don’t fret. The service will be switched back on in the next few months, or, we will compile for you a beautiful PDF with all your Loccit content and get it through to you.

My Prediction

If I was Google, I’d be looking at this space very hard right now. The deep integration of Google Plus with the Android OS makes the personal history space a good one to aim at. If I were Google, I’d be creating a Loccit.

Independent companies looking at this space, in my humble opinion, don’t have much of a chance. The space is too valuable, it needs to be done in partnership with a big gun, or, at some point, you’ll be shot down in the same way the original incarnation of Loccit was shot down by Timeline (as was our biggest competitor, Memolane).

Consequently, I predict that we haven’t seen the last of Loccit and whether it’s with us or without us, Google will have a Loccit of its own soon enough.

To Our Users

Thank you. We had a roller coster ride with Loccit.com. We enjoyed every moment of it and still believe in the concept. Sadly it didn’t come off for us. We vested a lot of time and money trying to make it work for you and us, but unfortunately we failed.

We’re forever grateful for the experience you gave us and certainly hope that you find a great way to accomplish the same thing Loccit provided.

Unfortunately for all of us, Loccit.com is currently another photo in the box in my attic.