Standing In The Unemployment Line? Startup Hour.ly Might Have Work For You.


Hour.ly is web startup designed to find the user work an hour at a time.  It has seen tremendous growth since its launch (ironically on Labor Day 2010) and has been helping put America back to work ever since.

Ever seen those advertisements hanging in grocery stores bulletin boards or university community announcement areas?  You know the ones I mean.  They have a usually have gigantic permanent marker writing asking for a babysitter or someone to mow their grass or shovel snow off their driveway.  Somewhere along the way someone has sliced the bottom of the page to make those tear away phone numbers.  If you don’t know what I am talking about take a look at this one.  Hour.ly sophisticated.ly (pun intended) created the Internet version of these ads.

In a very simple, elegant way hour.ly is filling the niche of finding employment for people interested in walking dogs, waiting tables, acting, as well as working retail or even manufacturing positions. In fact, hour.ly provides access to just under 2800 different work categories!  The key is that listings posted on hour.ly are often “work” rather than jobs.  In other words, hour.ly is the vehicle that links up those with temporary to semi-permanent employment to those that are seeking part time work.

Hour.ly co-founders Brooke & Lynn Dixon (who both were part of the [first] dot com boom) conceived the start-up concept after looking for temporary work, and finding nutty advertisements on Craigslist like this.  Looking for to find a better resource and a better more meaningful way to advertise and find temporary jobs they created hour.ly.

The company is truly bootstrapped in sense that is has zero outside funding and is currently not making any money off of its users or though advertising.  When asked, co-founder Lynn said the current focus is to grow the base of the company and ensure that what they have is viable and useable.  Later this spring/summer they plan on adding in a pay for premium membership but still retain the free forever model.

One of the main problems with job/career websites is the sheer amount of spam.  Take a look at CareerBuilder or Indeed and it won’t be long before you encounter spam.  Craigslist is riddled with it.  But spam prevention is a top priority at hour.ly and they have been able to successfully navigate the spam problem.  Even their craziest job listing ever:  Watch T.V. For $10 An Hour (which screams spam from the title) turned out to be some research job and was actually legitimate.

Hour.ly is super simple to use and navigate.  I did a test run and had a profile set up in less than 10 minutes start to finish.  That includes filling out the “about me” and “experience” section of my profile.  Once that was done I was able to see potential employers that could use my “vast” amount of skill sets, potentially leading to part time work.  Overall, it was a sleek and well-organized experience, a result of serious amounts of thought from the founders (read:  they found a problem and actually solved it, like any successful startup should do).

So what advice does this startup have for other startups?  A couple of things:

    1.) With the growth of accelerators/incubators around the country, startups can benefit from immersing themselves with minded people, and the massive amounts of advice and mentoring that they provide.  Hour.ly took part in an accelerator called The First Growth Venture Network in New York.  Hour.ly found the mentorship they provided was worth its weight in gold. It was also beneficial to be able to ask those with experience and know how questions that would otherwise leave the startup befuddled.
    2.) A period of bootstrapping is more advantageous than one might think.  It will leave the founders hungry for more and allows them to fly under the radar in order to make mistakes while not having the pressure of investors or angels breathing down their neck.
    3.) Co-Founders are key.  This one seems obvious, but there are many startups that think they can make it as a one-man show.  The notion isn’t impossible, it’s just risky and is statistically unlikely to lead to success.  In the case of hour.ly, the husband and wife co-founder combo is unique, and an equation that is working for them.  If your significant other is up to it, it may be a worthwhile endeavor.  If you would like to explore more on the husband/wife relationship in startups, there is a great discussion of it on Quora as posted by hour.ly co-founder Lynn.
    4.) This one follows the logic of #2.  Don’t look for big money right away.  Stick with your roots and make sure that you don’t give up.  Contrary to popular belief investors and angels are not just handing out money willy-nilly.  If, and more likely when, you are turned down by those with capital, make sure you stand by the belief that spurred you into your startup idea.  Your convictions matter; so don’t throw them to the wind if you get shot down once or twice.

And the final piece of advice from hour.ly for other startups:

    5.) If you are strapped for cash and need a temporary job to get you through until an Angel saves the day or Yahoo buys you, head over to hour.ly and they will hook you up!

If you are interested in hour.ly their main site can be found at the sweet domain hack:  http://hour.ly.  Or follow them on Twitter @hourly.  If you have used hour.ly or are just discovering it, make sure you leave them feedback and/or suggestions in the comments! To keep up with startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry

The Forrst Story: Raising money, goals, and monetization

I recently had the chance to chat with Kyle Bragger about his startup, Forrst. Kyle is the founder of Forrst and in this interview he talked about raising money, goals for his startup, and a monetization strategy.

What is Forrst in one sentence?
Forrst is a community of passionate developers and designers focused on helping themselves and others get better at their craft, providing thoughtful critiques, and sharing their knowledge to build better applications and websites.


 
What’s special about Forrst?
Forrst exists to help bring together developers and designers into a private, friendly space where they can share work, give and receive great critique, discuss the industry, and just hang out with other like-minded folks. It started as a simple utility designed to allow me to keep track of interesting development and design resources, but quickly grew into something more. Today, we’re over 21,000 members strong and growing healthily. As we continue to grow, we’re soon going to allow companies and startups to tap into Forrst talent. I think we’re in a great position to solve a real problem that exists right now — hiring excellent developers and designers can be really tricky, and Forrst is going to make that process less painful and more rewarding.

Are you bootstrapped, or funded?
We’re funded by Gary Vaynerchuk and Dave McClure/500 Startups (and our round is still open). I bootstrapped for the first four months as I built out an MVP and got initial traction, but once it was clear there was something more to what I was doing, I raised a little money from Gary so I could pursue Forrst full-time. After more or less running Forrst entirely on my own (along with some design help), I decided to raise an angel round to grow the team and really kick things in to gear — to that end, Dave invested in early January.

What is your monetization strategy?
We’ve got a few revenue sources right now. We sell Acorns (on site credits that are used to promote posts), have a single ad unit running on the site, and are going to soon roll out paid Supporter accounts. We sell ~1,500 Acorns/month right now, and have 750 people pre-registered for Supporter accounts, which go live on March 1st.

What is the backstory to Forrst?
The original Forrst was intended to be a simple tool I could use to keep track of code snippets, interesting design patterns, and so forth. It had a few basic social features (following, profiles), and as it would happen, getting a few of my colleagues using the service ended up being the thing that really sparked the beginnings of the Forrst community.

Thanks to Kyle for the interview. All the best to Forrst. For more startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

Why About.me was acquired by AOL for millions four days after launch

Why About.me was acquired by AOL for millions four days after launch

About.me is an online profile aggregator that attempts to be the go to spot for finding peoples online identities. For about 3 and a half months About.me was in private beta, and you had to have an invitation to sign up. Four days after About.me opened up to the public, they were acquired by AOL. it surprised a lot of people to hear that AOL was going to acquire the four month old company for several million dollars. Reports on the deal varied from $1.3m to $10m.

A lot of tech pundits were caught off guard with the acquisition, but I believe there are three key reasons why About.me was able to succeed so quickly.

1. Demonstrated traction:
In 3 months About.me had a little under half a million people signed up for their invite only beta. Their average rate of signups was over 100,000 users a month. Active users talk, b.s. walks.

2. Provide Value:
Anyone can buy a domain with $5 hosting and throw together their own personal website, but About.me allowed users to be up in running in no time with an artsy page. It didn’t try to do to much, but it nailed it’s (admittedly narrow) focus of being a fun hub to your social graph.

3. They leveraged their connections:
A large part of their successes was being able to get big names on board quickly. Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose were some of their biggest supporters out of the gate for example.

Why do you think? Did I miss any reasons to About.me’s success?