FOWA: How to Turn your App into a Business (Ted Rheingold) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of [Ted Rheingold](http://dogster.com/)’s [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)](http://www.futureofwebapps.com/) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. [Suw also blogged this session.](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/10/03/fowa07b_ted_rheingold.php)*

*Blogged Ted earlier this year at Reboot when he was encouraging us to [learn about cats and dogs](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/05/31/reboot9-ted-rheingold-learning-from-dogs-and-cats/).*

Simple idea: let people make web pages for their dogs and cats. Realised later that this could actually be a business.

FOWA 2007 64

What does it take to be a business? Suddenly all sorts of words like CTO, CEO, Incorporating, Titles… start flying around.

But mainly, being a business is about **generating revenue**, or at least having a pretty good idea where it’s going to come from. If you don’t have an idea how you’re going to make money, you’re going to run out of money.

Important: don’t think there is a new economy. There’s new technology, but **the economy hasn’t really changed**.

Dogster and Catster make money from advertising, partnerships, people subscribing… A lot like a magazine. Virtual gifts. You’re maybe disrupting the economy, but not creating a whole new one.

**Learn your market.** It took Ted a long time to learn these markets. You can’t pretend to know where the advertising goes because you’ve read magazines. Also, get ready to learn other markets. Ted thought at some point they were going to do classifieds, spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, but nobody was interested in their classifieds, so that failed. Don’t get overly attached.

**Get advisers.** People who understand the industry you’re in. But also people who understand how to run a business.

**Learn business finance.** Know how much money you need to spend, etc. Forecasting expenses, revenues. Some of these things are actually pretty basic, but you need to be comfortable with them. Don’t spend any money you don’t have to. If you’re cheap with your employees and your contractors, they may leave (*steph-note: indeed!*), if you’re cheap with your hosting your site might go down, if you don’t trademark your logo/names…

**Sell, sell, sell.** Ted is a designer, not a salesperson. Nobody is going to sell your business for me. Everything changed for Ted when he brought in a business partner. (Not an employee!) Important to choose well. It will be years of partnering with that person, startups don’t usually get bought. You need somebody who is as passionate as you are.

**Make your business a business.**

Very hard to make money on AdSense or that kind of advertising unless you’re serving millions and millions of pages. Sponsors and partnerships are more viable. Even a small market is interesting if it’s targeted. Subscription: emotional thing. Be part of the team. To show their support.

*steph-note: lost some of the Q&A because of running around with the microphone.*

Fail fast. They just removed classifieds three months ago. Important to see if the changes you’re thinking about are really worth it financially.

Q: when did you decide it could be a viable business?

A: thought it would be a kind of passive business where he’d get a check every month from advertising for a bit of maintenance here and there. Month 3, 10’000 people joined the site. A lot! Way more than he thought. Used the wisdom of his crowds to think about it, and then sat on it for a while before making the big decision. Making sure people are using it and spending as little money as possible the whole time.

Hiring is a real pain, specially if you want to be ethical about it (don’t want to hire somebody and lay him off three months later).

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Short FOWA Complaint [en]

[fr] FOWA: wifi foireux et peu d'accès aux prises d'alimentation. C'est suffisant pour gâcher une bonne partie de la conférence pour les participants-blogueurs (surtout si on leur a donné un passe pour couvrir la conférence en direct)...

I’m here to live-blog, which must be a recognised activity as I got a “blogger” pass for it. However: **the wifi is crap** (sorry, I know it’s easy to complain, but it’s making my life difficult — uploading photos is a nightmare), and **the power plugs are right at the back of the room**. I think that crappy wifi and lack of power supplies are two things which can single-handedly ruin a good part of the conference experience for blogging attendees. Oh, and the rows are so tight that unless you sit in the front row, there isn’t enough space to type comfortably.

Do they really believe that people live-blogging the sessions are going to sit right at the back of the room? I take photos too, so I need to be in front. And the whole “power up then go back to it” idea just doesn’t work: there’s a session going on while I “power up” which I might want to follow!

Then, please let me say a word about the £4 sandwich I bought at the break. I know this is England, but… arghl! There are water fountains at the back of the room, but really (particularly when you’re blogging) bottles are way more practical. Which reminds me… I have an empty bottle with me, so I’ll do something smart and fill it up instead of just complain aimlessly (blame a bad day yesterday, food deprivation, and dehydration).

Oh, and next time, I have to remember that these boots are **not** good for sitting cross-legged on the floor. The talk in this room (which I’m only half-listening to, unfortunately) is about accessibility and actually sounds very interesting. I saw Suw typing madly a bit further down the row, so hopefully I’ll be able to read about it.

Aside from that, I’m really happy to be here and see everybody!

SET MODE GRUMPY OFF

**Update**: [Suw wasn’t very happy](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/10/03/at_the_future_of_web_apps_autumn_07.php) either.

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