Chris Shipley, co-founder of startup research and consulting firm, Guidewire Group, has spent more than a decade advising and mentoring startups. She's responsible for bringing about 1,500 startups to DEMO (a leading conference for emerging tech startups) stage. On Vator Box, our version of Siskel & Ebert meets American Idol for startups, we try to find people or experts in certain fields who can help analyze one startup per show. In this segment, we brought Shipley in to be our guest host.
Shipley joined Ezra Roizen (Vator Box regular and digital media investment banker) and me. Here are our observations. The company in the spotlight was Diddit, an online activity guide, or what Roizen describes as a Yelp meets OpenTable meets Friendster.
- About the pitch. Paul Gauthier does a fine job giving a summary of a pretty abstract concept. But he could have made it more "real." Because Diddit is such an abstract concept, saying "How this site will be used" can really help illustrate the value proposition. A great elevator pitch leaves you wanting more. This one leaves you wondering why? Some of the best pitches identify a problem. "I don't get enough here to want to dig down into deeper into the business," said Shipley. Additionally, this pitch could have included a problem statement and the solution.
- Just as "How to" sites have taken off and become popular because their results are found in search engines, Diddit has the same opportunity. Diddit is trying to solve an interesting problem. It wants to help people find stuff to do, by giving them reviews for various and sundry experiences, such as vacation experiences in Florida, to languages sung, to snowboarding at a certain ski resort. There is an opportunity to create the review repository about experiences, and have them found on Google. If you search on Google to find experiences for activities, there's very little that shows up in search results. So, there's an opportunity to create that content.
- Diddit allows for any experience to be chronicled. As Gauthier said in the past, he thinks Diddit is the Amazon of experiences. To this end, Diddit's focus is broad. But even Amazon started with a narrow focus on selling books. It was an online book seller with big ambitions. Perhaps Diddit should focus on owning a vertical - whether it be the place to find experiences and reviews of all outdoor adventures, or the place to find the experiences from people doing active sports in a particular region. Focus will help Diddit not only capture a user base but serve them. For instance, Famplosion - another site on Vator - does a nice job focusing on one problem - recommending activities for families to do in a particular area. Yelp, which has grown significantly, initially focused on a specific cities.
- Even though it seems everyone is pretty transparent these days and sharing about their love life to what they had for breakfast, it's unclear how many people will want to write reviews about their experiences, or how often they will share on this destination site. Many people like to share these experiences with their friends, who are typically on Facebook these days. That doesn't mean the site can't be significant. It just means that the dynamics around content creation may likely be more similar to Wikipedia - about 1% of the audience will likely contribute and share their adventures - than a social network site, where many people contribute.
- Diddit should allow people to type into a search box: "I'm bored... what should I do?" This would be one way to lead people to discover activities.
- Diddit needs to create more incentives for people to participate and contribute. That said, the company does a good job with its "Wanna" and "Diddit" buttons. They're a quick and easy way for users to participate and engage.
(Note: We're not experts. We just want to start a dialogue and discuss the opportunities of the companies we highlight. If we were off in our analysis, assumptions and predictions, please feel free to shed the light. This is particularly directed to those at Diddit!)