I just read an interview with one of the founders of HotOrNot. They had some great insights on running a startup business. These guys did most of the work for the site with the two founders out of one of their living rooms. As such they knew it would be easy to code a clone of the system. In fact, they said there were hundreds of clones. How then did they get to the point where the company was making millions?
Here was one key factor. They worked hard to get as many reporters to write about their service. The goal was not just to get exposure. It was to ensure that reporters would only write about their implementation of the service. By the time the copycats came around, they hoped that reporters would have already covered their own site and ignore the others. Brilliant.
These founders worked hard initially. After a few years they got tired and hired on some employees. They started out making money as a paid model. Then they went free to get more users. However that allowed spammers to clog their networks. In the end they reverted to a paid model. They found their profits did not suffer from that move. Eventually they sold the business.
I used HotOrNot for some enjoyment when it first came out. The idea was great. Many people submitted their pictures so it was constantly fresh. Sure there were some clones that added some value. But I found the original brand stuck with me. Congrats to the original founders. I wonder what other businesses they will get into next.
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