This could be a potentially risky post, considering the number of people who read this before meeting me for business discussions. But I am a big believer in honesty and openness as the key to my business success, so I will persevere on this front until it proves fatal.
I am embarking on an investor roadshow shortly to secure the funding I need to take Skimbit to the next level. To do this, I obviously need a robust budget and business plan. Obviously, I have versions I have done a few months back when seeking funding from the bank, but that budget was based on surviving on £25,000, which meant stripping things back to absolute bare-boned essentials. I could continue to operate in this way, but the truth is, it will kill me, and to get to market faster and make a real impact, I need staff and I need a marketing budget. So I now need a new budget and plan to reflect this alternate path.
The challenge is coming up with customer growth figures. All revenue projections hinge on customer numbers (unique users for www.skimbit.com and new clients for Skim-in-a-box), but I can’t get around the fact that it is all pure estimation. My other entrepreneurial friends who have secured Angel funding say that of course it is, and that I should be prepared to defend wildly optimistic figures as the basis for the kind of revenue projections that will interest Angel investors.
Now, this is where being an inherently honest person gets me into trouble as an entrepreneur. I have trouble saying my site will be used by 20 gazillion trillion people in 3 years, because although it is possible, it is largely luck that determines what site becomes the default for a particular category. You can certainly influence luck, and I absolutely intend to try, but I can’t tell you with certainty that Skimbit will achieve this. I can give sensible estimates based on the uptake similar sites have achieved, but it is still all totally finger in the air stuff.
And with business plans, the advice I have been given is to aspire to deity-like status, which again, I have an issue with. There aren’t many deity-like sites out there, and I am pragmatic enough to accept it may not happen to Skimbit. And it needn’t: a good quality site can still generate a healthy profit without being the new Facebook. And in my opinion, a presentation to investors that stated this, is surely more believable – and therefore I am more believable – than promising what is clearly a wildly overstated estimation created purely to seduce investors. I can’t believe smart successful Angels are so gullible as to believe it, so why state it?
So, I am making a stand. I will propose what are sensible realistic growth numbers, and clearly state that although I might not change the world, at least I will make it a little better, and if you approach that task with integrity and transparency, there are enough people out there that will respect that, and make you profitable. Well, that is my hope anyway.
How do I intend to do this? The trend for social shopping sites seems to be to push products (that of course they have a vested interest in), or to try to alter the way you search (which people find intrinsically suspicious). I have adamantly stated from the beginning that Skimbit won’t alter the way you search: you have your way of searching the internet, which you trust and understand, and I don’t intend to replace that. I do offer an embedded Google search in Skimbit, and I do earn a little money if you click on a sponsored link from the search results page, but everyone knows that, and its a fair and transparent contract between me and the user. Also, there is an advantage to using the Google search embedded in Skimbit, as Google over time works out what sites are more attractive to people that use Skimbit’s embedded search, and over time the results are even more relevant to Skimbit users. Again, nothing surprising or evil in that.
And I do offer advertising on Skimbit: currently its Google ads, but I will soon offer advertorial-type ads directly to advertisers. This will be transparent, relevant, and hopefully useful to the user using Skimbit to research a purchase decision. I will be launching another innovative advertising format (to be announced) with the goal to create unintrusive yet appealing forms of advertising that users are willing to engage with. Its the Holy Grail, of course, but worth aspiring to.
Anyway, wish me luck as I tread along this path of honesty and openness. I may not make as much as other ruthless players, but I do believe I will make more than enough, without compromising my morals.