So here I am at Vienna airport, waiting for my flight home. I still have a couple of hours to go, so I am contemplating about everything that has happened in the past year. It was a startup roller coaster and to sum it up, it's interesting to see how one thing leads to another. And as always, you don't see it coming. So strap in and continue reading.
Googling for business
In the beginning there was the Smarthousekeeping project. With Smarthousekeeping we wanted to revolutionize the way how hotels manage their daily operations in housekeeping and technical services. During one year time we talked (read: tried to sell) to every hotel that actually counts for something in our part of the world. The idea was, to sell through a web channel. It did not work out for us, no matter how much energy or money we have thrown in to the fight. So one day my team and I were searching for solutions and we came to a conclusion that the problem lies "with our part of the world", that "our part of the world" just isn't ready to buy business software on the internet. The action guy that I am, I immediately started to search for business contacts in hospitality industry. I am a tough and motivated guy, but the things that Google was throwing back at me, while I was manually searching for those email contacts, were just disturbing. If I was really, really, reaaaallllyyy into searching, I could get 10 emails per hour. You can believe me, when I say I really tried to do that for 8 straight hours. After a week of manual search bonanza, I felt like I finally had something. After a week, I had 200 contacts and I was finally ready for my Mailchimp marketing blitzkrieg to test the market.
Houston we have a problem
So I fired up Mailchimp, imported my hard earned email contacts (god, was that a proud moment) and wrapped up everything in a nicely designed and polished campaign. I clicked the send button and just stood there, amazed at how easy it is to testing the market is these days. Feedback was soon flowing in from all corners of the world, and I was more than ready to start another mailing action. But the mere thought of spending another week, praying to the Google gods for the fine quality contacts was killing me. So I started searching for solutions. I hired some students, you know, outsource the manual labour. Apple is doing that, so let us not reinvent the wheel. After a week there was a "Houston we have a problem" moment. The problem was that two guys could not come up with more than 300 contacts in one week. That was not a good result. After "back to the drawing board" moment, I searched the web for solutions. And of course freelancer.com and elance.com immediately popped up, so I started looking for people willing to help. I was surprised by the response I got. In a matter of minutes, there were dozens of guys and gals willing to give us a hand for the right buck. However, my love for Freelancer and Elance was fading away every minute that passed by. I had a feeling I was a deer, hunted by a pack of hungry wolves. I found a couple of cool guys so we started working together. Well, at the end of the week we had a 1000 business contacts, but this enterprise was not cheap. Let's just say that 1€ per contact was not enough and all we got was an e-mail and their word that it should be ok. It wasn't.
I know, Steve Blank in the book The Startup Owner's Manual is emphasizing iterating everything a young company is working on, but the hard reality was that we were losing precious time and money. So I sat down with my team again and started brainstorming and we came up with an idea, that we should create a search engine, just like Google or Yahoo. But our search engine would return information about the people. After a couple of months of hard work we came up with Datafy.it - our big data search engine for business contacts. Our vision is simple. Help small companies, like ours, quickly find customers around the world. Datafy.it helps you to search for people by industry, position they hold in the company and country. And the funny part is that we weren't even thinking about monetizing it, but other companies came to us. We have just built a tool to help ourselves.
So if you have ever spent hours, days and weeks searching for people on the internet, you can give Datafy.it a test ride.