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Lifepath.me on eBay (ebay.com)
100 points by bearwithclaws on Sept 23, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

My entrepreneur friends and I have many apps like this that were learning experiences or that never materialized into anything. I was having a conversation with someone just yesterday brainstorming with them how to wind up a project like this and helping them to get past emotional attachments, sunk costs, etc.

The thing is that when someone buys an app you've finished, but that isn't generating revenue, they're buying both an opportunity and a problem.

The opportunity is obvious - maybe you can turn it into a money printing machine.

The problem is the developer cost to maintain and improve the app. Unless it's a complete business that's generating cash already (in which case it would be worth more than $10K), it's going to cost significant $$ for another dev to maintain and build on it.

Most dev salaries are around $50k to $150 per year. But lets assume you offshore it, find some killer talent and pay them $20k per year. If it needs 2 years of work and growth to be successful, that's 400% more than the $10K it costs to buy it in the first place. [Ignoring time value of money]

The point I'm making is that the $10K price tag is arbitrary to a buyer because what they're really getting into is a much larger commitment and quite a bit of risk.

So what to do?

I don't have the answers but I'll throw out 2 ideas:

1. Open source the project and recruit your friends to keep building it. Use the publicity and interest surrounding it to drum up consulting gigs worth more than $10K and funding and credibility for future projects and businesses.

2. It might not be a home run because Facebook has done it, but spend an additional 20% of the time you've spent so far to put in place a payment processing system and charge for the service. You may make more than $10K per year in recurring revenue. Just because Facebook did it doesn't mean you can't too.

Too big to kill, too small to keep. Story of my life. The 'worst' point to be at is $7K per month without any way to grow the business. You'll become dependent on it so you have to continue but it eats up enough time and energy that you can't break free. It's worse than a day job, there you could at least get fired or laid off to get you out of the rut.

A consistent $7k per month doesn't sound too bad - if it's really using up more time than a day job then it should still be possible to flip.

A little more backstory on Dustin's creation of LifePath and Facebook: http://blog.dustincurtis.com/facebook-timelines-and-lifepath...

Slightly off-topic, (and I mean no snark), but how much of the Dustin Curtis brand factors in towards the price?

Or is this inexpensive?

I'm asking because we were thinking of selling one of our assets too and wanted to know what would be considered a fair price for a Rails app (which was once live and is now shuttered).

I think it's selling via ebay and not a regular domain/site selling marketplace as it would be sold for much less.

I don't see how it's worth nearly 10,000 when before Facebook ate their lunch it made $50 a month.

You might not see the value, but someone else will. Value is always determined by the market.

I'm sure that's part of it, but I know he put an unreasonable amount of time polishing each pixel of the interface for months before releasing it.

Edit: he says 400+ hours which is $25/hour for $10,000.

The thing:

1) was built in Rails

2) can be a really decent alternative to Facebook's Timeline, if it finds a new home

3) does not necessarily depend on other people's data

4) has a path to generate some revenue (charging to buy an account if you don't have an invite)

5) has the possibility to go open source


I see all these things, and I can only think how Diaspora should be running to get this.

Diaspora? Is that thing still up and about?!

They email me periodically to remind me that the invite I requested over a year ago is "still on its way".

Google couldn't pull off a good Facebook competitor—do you really think Diaspora will stand a chance?

Maybe my cynicism wasn't clear :)

No, I don't.

"If you buy Lifepath, I'll give you some of my time to help you do whatever you want to do with it."

For me, this would be the most interesting part of the auction, which makes me wonder whether well-known designers (and coders) could auction off their time chunks, instead of offering a fixed hourly rate. (e.g. available for three months this year, to the highest bidder).

Could be an interesting concept. In the current climate where good developers and designers are highly sought after, it might work. However, it would probably also be very sensitive to market changes in demand for developers / designers.

"it would probably also be very sensitive to market changes in demand for developers / designers."

So is your market rate as a freelancer.

Yeah, that's the point. Freelancing rates and salaries take a dive during low demand. An auction is focused on getting a high price for something which is in high demand. If there is not a high demand, you wouldn't have a need for an auction model (when talking services / hours, not physical products).

Unlike a physical product, every developer / designer will have a minimum price which they won't go below. Thus the auction will never favor the buyers. In a low market, buyer will pay only minimum price, hence the auction format loses its purpose, as there will be no bids.

I tried selling my app via eBay and got very few hits to even look at the page (less than 20). My app included: website, special Chromebook app, Android app, partial (80%) complete Windows Phone app code, partial (~10%) iOS app code. I spent a lot of time on it and although it isn't making money and isn't completely polished, the guts are all fleshed out fairly well. It also wasn't costing me any money as I was on the free plans of AppHarbor and MongoHQ (I highly recommend MongoHQ by the way, I pretty much will use it on every future project as it has made worrying about databases a non-issue for me). I'm thinking about trying out in-app purchases but I don't know if I want to invest the time or just throw the whole thing up on github.

Maybe I'll start a post about it, as I don't want to derail this conversation, but from my limited experience there is too much spam site noise on eBay to sell a legitimate project you've worked hard on.

eBay is the wrong place to sell websites--very high noise and low quality. Look at Flippa instead: http://flippa.com

I tried to sell my website, Lifemall.com, on eBay however unfortunately it turned out to be a wasted exercise. Similarly, I also used Flippa but again no sale. Can anyone suggest another venue for selling a website?

(On a related note, if you're interested in acquiring Lifemall - a nice clean, django marketplace and community, email me)

Give https://flippa.com/ a try if it doesn't sell on eBay

Lifepath.me presents a completely different world view than facebook timeline. FB reminds you of your past shiny happy moments you cared to capture with a camera. Lifepath in its current form is almost a reminder of your biological limitations and that every single day counts. It caters for much smaller audience than FB, because people in general do not wish to be reminded about their death. With the lack of pictures I can see it could become a sort of anti-facebook private diary of achievements that really mattered. I too think that Diaspora with their idealistic vision of social networks would be an ideal buyer here. They could also use some design lessons from this app, they badly need it.

First, I think Lifepath is beautiful. Being a developer first, and designer second, I often find myself having a hard time breaking out of the mold when it comes to designing my applications. Usability doesn't have to mean boring, and I think Lifepath is a great example of that. I could see a company like Greplin taking this and turning it into an auto-generated timeline curated from the various social networks they can tap into. It's obvious that Dustin out a ton of time, effort, and love into this project, so I hope there is a happy ending!

I really don't understand why people are trying to compare lifepath and facebook timeline, from my point of view they are completely different. Facebook creates the time line based on your activity, lifepath guesses your past/future. This plus the amazing graphics made me want to get an account.

It was interesting to read that the price does not include the existing users and data. Which would in my eyes, possibly be the most valuable part of purchasing a website like this. You could pay for or develop something similar for much less that the starting price here.

I think selling people's data after asking them to pay for something like this, even if it's public data on Lifepath, is kind of a shitty thing to do.

My approach would be to inform current users via email or some login notice lightbox about the situation, along the lines of:

"This site is in the process of being transferred to new ownership. We value your privacy, and will not provide any of your data to the new owner without your explicit permission. If you don't want to continue using the service following the transfer, you don't have to do anything (but you can download a snapshot of your own personal data from <link>). If you do want to continue using it, tick this box"

The only problem I can see with that is that most users should rightfully refuse until they know what the new owners plan on using it for, so you need to have a sale lined up and a new privacy/data use policy drawn up before you can do that.

Perhaps you'd keep a copy of the database yourself, and then once the sale happens and terms are hashed out, send the mail to everyone, and deliver a copy of the filtered opt-in database to the new owners.

I think it's actually a pretty good thing to do, both for the seller and the users.

If companies didn't sell on the account details of their existing userbase these users would effectively be frozen out of any future site development/improvements (unless they re-entered all their data).

And since acquiring users is hard, from the seller's point of view an active userbase is probably one of the site's biggest assets (and also a validation that the site has some potential to it).

This is what i meant that the user data is valuable otherwise you would have frozen out the existing users and have a web platform you would have to build up a userbase on again, which if this was the case then you would just start your own project as you are starting from scratch. The only upside is existing traffic to the website. Existing users who turn up one day to realise the content they have added is now gone would be a disaster for the user, then asking them to sign back up to recover that data is another unnecessary step.

That's a super attitude and I wish it was more common. Thank you for showing the way.

I hope to see this finished some day. Poor code or not, the design and concept looks fantastic. The way it shows one's life, from start to end, really gives a feeling of mortality.

I think Facebook plans on finishing it for him.

It's a neat design. timeline with horizontal scroll (lifepath) is more natural than vertical scroll (fb). Of course FB designs this way because of its layout limitation.

On that note: I've been wanting to sell my website www.twimemachine.com for a while now. If anyone is interested: message me.

I'd pay a non-trivial amount just for the PSDs, in order to learn from them.

is the starting bid from sloccount or something? this doesn't add up to me.

What doesn't add up? It's an auction.

My plan is to open source it on Github or something if no one thinks it's worth 10k.

i think the app is really slick, i'm just not sure why someone would pay so much for a niche app with no users. i could pay half that and get my own app with no users.

i would be totally delighted to see this open sourced! I always loved the stuff you do, and was eagerly awaiting lifepath.me :) i couldn't afford to buy it, but was thinking that there should be a kickstarter project to raise the money for you so afterwards we can opensource it!

If you want 10K for the site, you should probably add IE support!

Down-voted for suggesting IE support I suppose. The point was that 50% of end-users won't be able to use this site. I'd have said the same if the site didn't work in Firefox.

You do not make a site that doesn't support the dominant browser, especially not if you intend to sell, and double so, if the end-users are consumers and not businesses who might be forced into using a certain browser.

To you people who put your love for an arbitrary piece of software, above your common sense: Get a grip.

It has a bid! No, not from me.

It's my bid.

Impressed by the design. I'll add a bit of Ruby and business model.

Why is this on eBay and not Flippa?

I'm guessing Facebook Timeline triggered this sell?

If by "guessing" you mean "reading the ebay page that says 'Why I'm selling it: Facebook released Facebook Timelines'" then correct.

doh! i just looked at the pictures.

If only he'd gotten a software patent! </troll>

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