This week, we look at Filrtbox, a startup that lets you monitor media sources and filter out what's most important to you. In this segment, Chris Shipley, who's mentored thousands of startups as co-founder of Guidewire and DEMO executive producer for 13 years, is our guest host. Shipley joined Ezra Roizen (digital media investment banker and Vator Box regular) and me to analyze this monitoring tool.
Here are our observations and advice:
- Ari Newman, Filtrbox founder and president, does a nice job defining who his customers are and the business model. One suggestion for Newman is to set up the pitch by describing the problem he's trying to solve. Often the best pitches start off with a problem statement.
- There's some controversy about a freemium business model, particularly during today's economic environment where some investors are embracing companies that can charge right off the bat. But Shipley, Roizen and I believe the freemium model is one to pursue, as long as the free service is fully complete and useful, and not an anemic version of a real product. Filtbox's basic service allows you to search for up to five topics or filters. Beyond that, a person has to pay $10 a month to use the service. While charging for value is a good model, Filtrbox might want to expand the filters to engage the user more and get them hooked on using the service. As Roizen said: “I haven’t gotten enough out of the relationship to want to do that [pay] after having a limited experience because of the five filters.” The $10 tollbooth is a fine model. The question is whether the tollbooth comes up too soon.
- Filtrbox appears to be focusing on too many constituents. It’s targeting marketing/brand managers, sales professionals, and investors. For marketing professionals, there appear to be a number of services out there already. Radian6 helps PR and ad agencies capture the buzz around their brands. BuzzLogic captures the same buzz and tries to insert itself into that buzz to lift its clients presence or image within the chatter. Clearly, there is a need for such services. To compete effectively with startups focused on one constituent, Filtrbox may want to focus on just brand/marketing managers, rather than sales professionals or just purely sales professionals, but not both. Both require different needs. Going after both will result in not being able to satisfy either very well. Helping sales professionals generate leads requires a different set of tools than what marketing professionals need to build their customer's brand and image.
- Filtrbox might want to consider some useful features, such as tools to prioritize information or tools to provide “related” topics for each filter. For instance, if you suggested that you’re interested in “Vator” as a search, you might want to see related information about “Entrepreneur.” In other words, having relative taxonomies could improve the service through recommendations.
- Filtrox should consider going deep into a vertical to make a really useful product that charges $100 per month. Filtrbox should figure out a price point for a high-quality product. And, the pitch should be: If you have this tool, you won’t be fired.