2 years. I even registered the domain my3words.com.
What did I do with it? Not much. I have no idea if Mark saw my post or not. I kind of hope he did, so that I can feel a little better about not executing. That maybe I inspired him.
However, that doesn't change the bottom line. He executed. Worth-ful. I had the idea, but didn't execute. Worthless.
Hats off to Mark.
Nice work on phone 7 btw. I really enjoy it. I just wish scrolling performance wasn't so damn hard to get right. Since I wouldn't normally get your attention how do you go about getting an app featured in the marketplace? [whoring] My latest app isn't the most awesome thing ever but it's fun for kids and it tombstones correctly. http://wp7.apphab.com/sticker-draw-by-ideaindustries-net/ [/whoring]
Maybe at some point this year I'll pull my finger out and find time to do something meaningful with it, before the window of relevance runs out...
1) building a prototype (which, knowing Mark, I'd say took him at most 2 days)
2) sticking with it for several years and making it profitable, through the thick and thin, the emotional roller coaster, and all that.
It took me a year to complete stage (1) and I'm still on stage (2), three years later.
My web app (a casual MMO game) had the same wave of organic growth in the beginning that Mark's had, was mentioned on top blogs in the game industry, played by news anchors on live local TV news half a country away, etc., (this list goes on and on). Yet my site never got drooled over on Hacker News or Tech Crunch (possibly because I never submitted it to either), and I never had all these people telling me how great I am, how awesome my idea was, and sounding so sure that it will make me rich.
My site has 10x more users than threewords.me, been cloned by many developers in various countries around the globe, and still retains the top spot among those competitors. In fact, it seems that I actually invented a new genre of games with my idea (how many people get to say they invented Tetris, FPS, RTS, RPG, or MMO?)
All this, and yet I'm still barely making more from the site than I could be making from working at McDonald's. Yet I persist. It's been my full-time job for the past 3 years (the web app, not McDonalds :)), ever since I parted ways with my well-salaried software engineering job.
If anyone is tempted to call me stupid or lazy for not making millions from my idea, I'll be the first to admit that maybe I am. I didn't do any marketing or emailing Arrington, or any of the like. Instead I've been focused on building what my users want, developing features, fighting fires, and talking to users (many of whom constantly criticize me for not pushing out new feature fast enough).
Not a single real user ever said to me "Wow, this will make you rich," it's always more like "Wow, I LOVE your game! Please add features X, Y, and Z. They are super important! Hope to see X, Y, and Z working soon!"
Therefore, I sometimes think the startup community needs a dose of sanity. Not every tiny app is going to make millions. The web economy seems like a gold rush for many. If threewords.me makes any real money from this sale, it will be due to the exposure it's received to people participating in that gold rush.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that my comments are not intended just for criticism. If any of you think you know how you could make tons of money from threewords.me or from a casual MMO game (that doesn't have any virtual goods to sell), then I hope you can tell us how you would do it, rather than making assumptions that somehow anyone can get rich by building a free app and getting several hundred thousand people to sign up for it.
(P.S. Mark, I think you're a great guy and your app is very nice, so please don't take my comments the wrong way - I'm just trying to add some perspective to this discussion.)
what is it?? and how is it not earning a livable wage with 2 million users?
I'll just say that it's a very simple skill-based, text-based multiplayer race-against-others game (something like a multiplayer speed Scrabble). It has almost no graphics and uses AJAX.
how is it not earning a livable wage with 2 million users?
It's livable if you have very low expenses, but in my limited experience, 2 million users just aren't enough for a free website to make good money. Maybe I'm hugely under-monetizing the site somehow, but I don't really see a good source of revenue other than from ads.
In short, it's a lot easier to come up with an idea when you don't have to actually do the work to make it feasible. See also: "I have an idea, I just need a programmer or two."
Alternatively, I can connect you with an investment banker who specializes in selling internet based businesses, though I'm not sure if he'll be interested since he typically deals in the 7-figures range... but I could run it by him if you want.
I just think having a simple private auction without attracting the right parties to the table might not get you the maximum the site could get. Just my thought.
Anyway, congrats on the success so far and good luck with things. My email is in my profile.
Yeah, probably true that it's not the best exposure. TechCrunch just picked it up (http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/17/weeks-after-going-viral-thr...) but selling in a simple private auction is only one step up from Flippa. And maybe one sideways.
Thanks for your help, man - will shoot you an email.
I had Dove in mind specific because it seemed like a good fit. Take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U. It summarizes Doves message in a nutshell I think. They might be interested in your thing because it helps position their brand in front of their key audience (which I suspect are young women and your quantcast data shows a major of your audience were also young women) in a way that supports their message without the repulsiveness of commercials or banner ads.
In addition, the social media managers of these brands would love the opportunity to increase engagement with their audience. On a personal level for the managers, it would give them specific metrics they could reference when talking about how their social media efforts are going. On a company-wide level, the more deeply they connect with their customers, the more products they'll sell.
If you did go down the road of talking to brands, I'd position your product as similar to the OldSpice man campaign but a different tact.
Obviously this is true, but it's arguably the quickest.
If Mark wants to flip it quickly to focus on other projects, getting drawn into a negotiation with commission-earning middlemen and lawyers who probably need to respect some formalized DD process, is probably counter-productive.
It may very well be worth milking this one for what it is worth because in my experience one hit does not guarantee a sequel.
Yeah, I'm working on way too much stuff, and threewords.me started up as a side project that I didn't have any interest in continuing it long-term (more interested in developing http://supportbreeze.com and others).
The press curve has slowed, but a lot of users are still hitting the site (new and returning) — every new feature I get is hugely adopted within minutes.
Whereas hovering other links gives a visual mouse indication and a visual indication over the link.
Is that by design?
And then continue to say, "We promise we won't spam" on the signup page?
How does that work then?
Even with a friendly-reading T&C he'd be free to break it any time, as would any future purchaser. I'm not a laywer but I'd believe T&Cs exist more to protect a site than its users, presenting the general terms and conditions the users can expect a site to be presented under, not a guarantee of of the same.
The flip side is that TOSs typically have some provision for amendment. Such provisions might be invoked by a company's new management. However, the management has to be careful even then, because of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_form_contract
Again, I'm not suggesting that any of this would necessarily apply to threewords.me. This is just my understanding of how it works in general.
BTW, I couldn't find a link to the TOS for threewords.me.
Also, looking at alexa it seems as though the period of hyper fast growth is already a bit past:
Still, it should fetch a pretty penny and to the right party it might be worth quite a lot of money.
Now having seen a wider window of stats on the site from quantcast, all arrows are pointing down and to the right. I agree that he's smart to try to sell it, but only because the longer he holds onto it the less opportunity there will be to capitalize on the original spike.
I didn't suggest that.
I did add this bit after writing that first sentence when I thought of checking to see if that was still the case, and it wasn't:
> Also, looking at alexa it seems as though the period of hyper fast growth is already a bit past:
It shot up, then it shot down... Agreed @ smart move. Best time to sell it, and I can't see it either being very monetizable long term, or 'sticky'.
"Tell us your 3 favorite items at Applebee's ..."
"Thanks for trying the new filet mignon chalupa at Taco Bell. Describe it in 3 words ... "
"What 3 things are most important when choosing your next car? ..."
(I'm sure someone more creative could do better, but you get the idea)
Also celebrities (thanks to @Mazy) like Young Money's Lil Twist - http://threewords.me/liltwist
I also did a test for using sentiment analysis as a monetization point, using the Amazon Kindle (question was, "What do you think of the Amazon Kindle?") which was displayed on top of the dashboard for all users, and it got something like 7,000 responses. The responses weren't amazing, but it is possible to improve them. There was zero targeting on whether or not the "sponsored listing" was displayed, whereas Smashing Mag's results are clean since the only people submitting words are people that know what Smashing Magazine is.
Not asking the offer price, just the number of bids (from HN).
Also, I'm wondering how the process of transferring the actual website would go? Will the buyer usually take over the servers which the seller has setup?
I highly doubt even Mark thinks this product has legs with monetisation, it's a fad at best. He's clever for cashing in now, it'll be dead soon unless the new owner works out how to expand.
Let's just for a second pretend that I'd be an interested party (I won't be bidding).
I would assume that most of the people bidding are not 'players', I'd assume that they would just try to get it for a song and a bit, the equivalent of buying Manhattan from the Indians because they're not aware of what it's worth.
Mark is a smart guy so he won't be going for that.
The second group of potential buyers would be more savvy and would bid higher, they'd be outbidding each other bit by bit, probably in increments of 1,000 $US until they ran out of steam.
With the last moment of the bidding already announced the real players would wait until the very last moment and would then bid based on what the highest of the second group has bid using that as a way to guide their decision, in the hope that nobody else would be bidding a similar amount.
In a 'blind' bid like this, assuming a party really wants to get their hands on it they will have to decide what it's worth to them to get it, rather than to let the market do their valuation work for them. This may very well lead to substantially higher bids.
If I were Mark I'd add two things (if he decides to make the bidding public, which I would not advise him to do):
- Extend the bidding with 15 or 30 minutes after every new highest bid
- keep the identity of the bidders secret, just show the highest bid
Since he's already under way and it is difficult to change the rules once the game has started I don't think that is a viable option any longer anyway.
I imagine that, regardless of whether threewords continues to grow, a related service (like formspring) could add threewords functionality to their own service, then email the threewords userbase letting them know what's up, and re-engaging them..
Is the response rate for those kind of emails pretty good, or would that not be a huge factor in the sale price?
So much better than a support system (done and done) IMHO.
Of course, if you have no interest in working with social space stuff, then okay, I can't argue with that. But the fact you launched this product means there's something there you want to do.
just my 0.02$
I would hate for you to sell for 5 figures only to see a much higher valuation in only a couple of years.
Your concept is well executed and if you have traffic, you should be able to monetize without being too innovative. I like the idea of surveys or branded pages.
Good luck though, with whatever you decide!
If you don't get a price you like, keep the site, add advertisements and collect data. As people's profiles fill up with qualities, you may be able to determine what kind of ads people are likely to click on.
I also like the idea of selling companies a spot where people can comment on their brand or different ideas. The site could evolve into a kind of instant survey for concepts and ideas (from brands). I.E. They post an image of a new design and the users can describe in 3 words what they think. It would allow a company to get instant feedback and know if they have a homerun or not before something is produced or fully developed.
You're talking about doing something that could make you real-world money that goes in the bank. Spend all of your time selling threewords, then use the money from that to fund your other ideas. Being "too busy" means that you're doing something wrong.
BTW. does this page still get a lot of hits? I've seen on my past projects (albeit on a much smaller scale) that those services usually spike for a few days and then quickly die off - what are the current usage statistics?