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Mattermark (Formerly Referly) Wants To Be The Data Signaling Platform For VCs (techcrunch.com)
58 points by aaronbrethorst 1090 days ago | past | web | 42 comments



Wow, Referly only generated $33,883.38? All that press and effort and only 33k in commissions? That is seriously terrible.

I don't know what all the fuss is/was about, but in terms of affiliate marketing money, that's not a large amount of revenue for one solo affiliate, let alone a whole company...

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Sorry, but why exactly is the founder of Referly posted on HN as if they actually have credibility? I've seen a bunch of posts by them, but if they can't generate $40k in revenues... do they actually know what they are talking about?

There are too many snakeoil salespeople that talk authoritatively on subjects, but don't actually have success to back them up. Referly definitely seems like someone in this category.

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Shows how far a loud voice can carry.

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And thus why they changed direction to Mattermark.

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Bingo.

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Why is it terrible? Sure, money was lost. But terrible it is not.

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I meant that it's not a lot of money, it's wasn't very successful for the amount of time/effort/marketing/press it got.

It was all over TC and other publications. One would assume that would correlate to more success, but I guess that would be a false assumption.

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"Press" coverage does not a success make. It does, however, buy a lot of cheap VC money for later investments. One thing to learn from this is that media coverage won't do much for you if the business model is skewed. Still, there is always Cherry.

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not very many startup business models work from day 1. Startups are interesting if they are growing, not necessarily a foolproof business model; you are consistently patching the holes.

If you get a lot of press coverage, it probably means you are a good hustler and marketer, which is pretty vital to your success. If the market is bad, switch markets. Kudos to Danielle & Kevin.

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Bigger thing was the opportunity cost for the team; that team probably was worth $50-100k/mo to be working on something else. Which is why they pivoted.

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I've never understood this reasoning. It requires that the grass is always greener somewhere. Its as if people have endless opportunities. They certainly do not. Plus, they took a gamble. Did they lose? I can't say they did. Unless they are owed money. If someone on the team took a job over a better one, then they, and only they, carry the cost of doing so.

They pivoted because their business model did not make the money they wanted to make. No one could have predicted it. They took the dive, and saw what there really was. Nothing wrong with that.

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I wasn't arguing that they did wrong at all by trying (although I actually hated refer.ly but not the founders from the beginning, and told them this; mostly because CPA/affiliates is a scam-filled shithole, even if sometimes profitable, and the whole lie down with dogs/fleas thing).

But sticking with something past the point where it's clearly failed is where the opportunity cost argument comes in. If they'd stuck with refer.ly for an extra year after it was clearly doomed just because they had nothing better to do, that would be wasting opportunity. Pivoting into something more interesting, either with a new business or the same corporation, is the best thing to do.

A team which could easily do a bunch of other cool stuff clearly has higher inherent opportunity cost than a team fresh out of college without a lot of ideas. This is kind of why medical startups often suck, because you do need to involve MDs, and MDs have a $250k+/yr job practicing medicine (with high social status as well) as their best alternative -- so anything short of a potential big win isn't worth it for them.

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- Yes, the whole affiliate thing is iffy to start with. Do agree it is something shaky to base your business on.

- Sometimes is very hard to measure how far off you are. Being in the game skews your whole perspective. Experienced or not (sadly).

- The could is what my argument is against. Everyone has opportunities. Measuring them by what could happen is a bit naive. You analyze the situation and chose that which conforms to your current needs. There might be other opportunities, but they were not as reasonable for those who had to make them option. It is rather simple for an outsider to argue the point. It is the team member the one who has to live with the decision. I don't think they lost at all. They were part of a YC startup, made connections, and ultimately can profit from the whole experience.

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The biggest problem here is that on average (as in, the vast majority of start-ups that never get mentioned anywhere outside their niche) a majority of successful start-ups don't generate any buzz or otherwise measurable data because they are too busy developing their product.

Maybe that's what the product does, tries to gather data on start-ups that produce little in the form of buzz but a lot in the form of revenue. It doesn't appear so. Danielle helped me a couple times when I was using the Twilio API, she's a nice person. Hopefully this works out for her.

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Hmm, I'm skeptical, but would definitely like to be wrong. There are a lot of people trying to be the VC data source (VentureSource, Dashboard.Io, Datafox, internal proprietary tools), but the problem is that most aren't that useful at capturing what's valuable. @PayBackTony has the right point below - the problem is that the majority of relevant data here is qualitative, and by that very nature, harder to capture. Additionally, there really aren't that many VC's out there - I assume the goal / scope is to go beyond that.

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Not to sidetrack too much, but was there ever a postmortem on Referly? I thought it was a great idea, and the Referly homepage currently only shows stats that ostensibly show strong usage. I still think a user-curated affiliate referral platform has a lot of potential. My only criticism of Referly was that it was too overtly publicized as a platform for publisher to make money versus platform to display your curation talents (a la Pinterest, Tumblr, and even other blogging platforms), a subtle but important distinction. I think a platform built with curation in mind first, and then a secondary means to make commissions would do well.

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There are two actually: http://www.daniellemorrill.com/2013/03/zombie-startups/

and http://www.daniellemorrill.com/2013/04/double-tap/

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Actually one more as well: http://www.daniellemorrill.com/2013/03/numbers-in-action/

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I'm adding this as another data signal for my "are we in a bubble index"

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This seems like a good idea. There are a lot of wealthy traders in NYC, but the richest guy in the city is the one selling all the traders neatly packaged financial information.

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Correct but keep in mind that was a different era and also that involved a hardware (bloomberg terminal) component that was a barrier to entry (in addition to the data gathering that is). Also there are many more well healed participants in that market I believe.

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Neat idea, though I wonder how large the market really is for selling data to VCs.

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VCs might not need this (yet). But I can see this selling like hotcake to the impending ballooning new group investors in the startups scene enabled by the ranks of wefunder.com, fundersclub.com, etc. Go Danielle and team!

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I think it'll also prove useful for companies wanting to make acquisitions or poach employees, journalists, and as sales leads when companies reach different growth stages and require new/more tools and services.

The mailing list will be worth something too.

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This was my thought exactly. Even with seed funds and angel investors, the number seems small (AngelList for example shows about 18K investor accounts).

Perhaps the amount of money they have (and you can charge them) offsets this a bit.

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This is really big with Israeli VCs: http://www.ivc-online.com/

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Think Hedge-funds.

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So that's what all those blogs were about! Remarkably similar to what Paul is doing with Dashboard.io except he's been doing it for a while. Not that that's a big negative, I think it's good when smart people are seeing similar opportunities at the same time.

Best of luck!

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dmor,

I just won a $100 bet by calling this. Thank you.

Anyhow, their marketing strategy has been very fun to watch and unfold. It has literally been done live on this site and most people did not get up in arms offended. Which is the smart way to do content marketing. They have also launched a business with what is simple an excel spreadsheet of data. I know they have code for it, but they could have launched with off-the-shelf software. Imagine that!

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It was funny having insider information under FrieNDA on exactly what she was doing (dmor and kevin are awesome SF YC founders, talked about some other startups with dmor, etc.), and seeing this bet.

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Someone took that bet?!

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The bet was:

Mine - refer.ly would die and a new company would arise. The new company would be about business meta data. Then as she published the blog articles, I modified to state they would be selling data to VCs. I knew the so called pivot to compete with medium was a bluff, because there was no financial incentive to do so. Plus this team had always been very data driven.

The other bet - They would pivot into a medium with social features (AKA a social blogging platform(whatever that means)).

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"I knew the so called pivot to compete with medium was a bluff"

Um you are wrong about that. I worked with someone who was helping them, with, let's call it branding, on that idea. So unless that was part of the elaborate ruse, they were thinking of doing the pivot.

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Danielle's new blog strategy now makes a lot more sense! :)

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Intriguing and promising idea. I think the most interesting market here is angels; the bigger firms already get a good look at the most promising deals. If the execution proves successful, Mattermark should become accredited investor and ask for a small number of shares per deal in each VC (or angel's) fund in lieu of a subscription fee.

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It's a neat concept. However, with any product or service that's so narrowly defined - wouldn't you be concerned about your markets size? There are only around 500 active VC firms in the US... How much would they pay for the intelligence?

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What happened to Referly? That seemed like a good idea.

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Wirecutter is a better execution of "product reviews" than anything I ever saw on Referly. I never wanted 15 different opinions of varying quality and unknown provenance about the 5 best headphones; I wanted one great comparison, which Wirecutter consistently is.

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Yeah. I would love to read a retrospective about refer.ly if one exists.

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Amazon referrals are too good that there is no reason to use referly. If anyone clicks on an Amazon referral link, and ends up buying something else on the site -- not just the item you blogged about -- you still get the money and leave the hard part to what amazon is best at -- suggesting things you might like and getting people to checkout.

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Data is always nice but most investors invest via gut, but this is probably more about not missing a company than finding a company.

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This seems really useful for everyone, not just in investors. Learning about customers/vendors is useful.

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