Thanks for writing. Here are my responses.
Siddiq T. Bello wrote:
> 1) How did you come up with the idea for Blinklist/BlinkLife?
We tried to solve problems we experienced. Mike and I had been writing a
book for almost a year – a 490 page behemoth on ecommerce.
it's going on sale soon here (www.mindvalleylabs.com). We needed a way
to categorize the thousands of online studies, reports and articles we
came across. BlinkList was our internal knowledge management tool. It
turned out to be so useful we opened it to the public.
As for BlinkLife – both Mike and I are active networkers, we travel a
lot and have friends across the world. We wanted a better way to stay in
touch with friends. We felt that email, as it stands today, is useful –
but only the first evolution of an online digital communications tool.
Blogs are a second evolution. We wanted to create the 3rd evolution.
BlinkLife is designed to replace email as a way to communicate with
friends. YEs – it's a hefty goal but we're seriously trying to make it
obsolete for people to use email to share pictrues, videos and messages
with their friends. BlinkLife is years ahead. Our odds of succeeding
will be tough – we're going against established technologies and
players. But we're solving a problem that no one else is payign
attention to right now. "How do you better stay in touch with the people
you care about?".
> a) How long did it take you to go from idea to beta product?
We let an idea sit for awhile before we start on it. We don't want to
get carried away by emotions. For example, the first idea for BlinkList
came to us around Jan 2004. We identified the problem but could not
figure out how to solve it. The solution came to us in Oct 2004. But we
had other projects to work on at that time. We let the idea sit for
awhile, ocassionally sharing it with friends. We found that our friends
loved it! So in Dec 2005 – almost 2 years after first coming up with the
idea we decided to start coding it. We come up with ideas every week –
so being selective is an art. But to quote a favourite line from the
movie Babe "ideas that tickle and burn and never seem to go away, should never be ignored. For in them, lie the seeds of Destiny". BlinkLife wassuch an idea.
> 2) What was your approach to consumer research (focus groups, surveys
> a) Had you use them in the past and if so to what effect?
Ummmm…..we prefer to put things up, gather feedback, respond to
feedback within 24 hrs and evolve the product to suit the customer.
Omne of the things we get written up a lot on is how we respond to
customer feedback and advice within 24 hrs. People love this and we in
turn get loyal users who aren;t afraid to speak their mind.
Focus groups or surveys? Never done them.
> 3) Did you do a formal business plan with financial projects? If so…
> a) How did you forecast demand?
> b) How did you model market size?
> c) How closely does your current product match with the plan?
Yes we do. But our business plan is something we evolve in our heads
over time. We launch two kinds of products. Ecommerce products with a
set financial goal. And innovative new products that are experimental
and fun to do – but with no clear business model… yet.
Blinklife is an example of the latter. MindValleyLabs.com is an example
of the former.
We forecast demand for our ecommerce products by doing keyword research on the web. For our innovative products like BlinkLife – we can oonlyhope to put them out and see if they catch on. There is no reliable wayto forecast if these will be hits.
> 4) What resources did you have (financial and otherwise) to implement
> the idea?
We make our money through ecommerce sites. We find hot products and
build sites that sell and market these products highly efficiently. A
good site can do 1 million in annual sales with a 40% profit margin and
require only 1 person to maintain it. This makes us a very cash positive
business. We invest part of this cash in developing experimental
innovative products like BlinkLife and BlinkList.
Using this model we've never needed to take a drop of funding.
MindValley reached profitability in it's second month and we're
continuing to grow, hire, launch new sites and see monthly profits go up.
> 5) Who was the first person you called to move the idea forward and
> what was that conversation like?
We discuss these ideas with our team. We have not yet needed to speak to VCs. We're blessed an amazing team of innovators.