I think yesterday Thursday 11th January 2007 will have to go down in my journal as one of the most interesting days in my life. A few months ago I had posted an entry about a business idea that had been presented to me by a colleague of mine, basically the CEO of one of the largest manufacturing companies in this region had the idea of building an online brand and he wanted us to be the team to lead this idea. The idea wasn't new but it had died a very unatural death at the hands of another team and as such he felt that with the upcoming technology boom (apparently an underground fibre optic cable is being setup and its bound to significantly lower the price of bandwidth within the region) he needed to be in the forefront in harnessing the internet as a medium of communication. The CEO is a visionary in his field interms of embracing ICT as a key component of any business, infact his company was once recognised for its cutting edge adoption of technology for its day to day running, I'm told by close sources that as the CEO he leads in the adoption of technology and the rest of the organisation follows and that my dear friend is a recipe for success, rather then the small people of the organisation trying to convince management that new technology needs to be adopted it is the CEO who spearheads that vision and as such the organisation is well placed.
Anyway for the better part of the night, 5 hours to be exact, we discussed sustainable and profitable business models for the web that would work in a market like ours, we don't have the luxury of having internet penetration at high levels and as such before you launch any business that uses the web as a platform it is important to take into consideration the current and future trends within the region. A sticking point in every business model is "How will you make money?" I think that question is even harder to answer when dealing with the web where a hot idea today is cold in the next few months, just look a the number of web 2.0 companies that have closed (Techcrunch Dead Pool) down in the last 1 year or so the numbers are quite shocking which almost brings me to another major question "Are we on the verge of another tech bubble burst?" but thats another point for another day, we had to go through all possible avenues of generating revenue all of which were pegged on us attaining high amounts of traffic which then led to another question "How will you attain the large and active numbers?"...
The Numbers Game
Every business is built upon the "numbers game" which basically means that they all attempt to gain the largest numbers out there based upon the target market they had in mind (am no Harvard business school graduate so you'll forgive my rather layman approach). With the web as your business platform attaining the numbers is key, just look at Myspace.com, the challenge comes in growing and sustaining the numbers, it's one thing to get 100,000 registered users but its another thing to keep them coming back and participating. Our business needs to keep the numbers growing and how do we do this? "addressing a common need identified by the users and adding value to a product that makes it easier to achieve a key objective" we aim to highlight the value of being part of the web community by giving users access to value add that makes them want to come back everyday.
How do you know what users want?by asking them what they don't want..
I was reading the book written by the team at 37signals.com, the developers of the famous project collaboration tool Basecamp, where they say always find out what users don't want from the application, they argue that we spend to much time asking users what they want and forget to ask them what they don't want. A barrier to adoption of any technology has always been the features that make it harder for the user to gain access, this could be in the form of very long registration process, so we decided that we would ask the users what they want and didn't want :-) that way we can build an application that works for them.
I can't go into details of what the business will entail but I can tell you that the social aspect will be a core aspect of it. The CEO even coined an acronym that went something like Building Internet Communities (BIC) :-)
I will keep you posted on the progress of this idea..