Open Thread Thursday – Serial Entrepreneurship and the Genealogy Industry

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

Serial entrepreneurs are those that seem to continuously produce applications or start-up websites in the hopes of being “the next big thing” a la Ebay, Groupon, Twitter, etc. The genealogy community has seen several applications and websites come about as a result of the efforts of serial entrepreneurs, most recently the new genealogy-focused search engine Mocavo which came on the scene last week.

Very often these products and services either wither and die on the vine or are snapped up by other genealogy vendors. Some questions to consider:

Is this “incubator” model a good thing for the genealogy community?

Should some of the products be more thought out before they are released?

What role should the online genealogy community play in developing and supporting these products?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

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I’ve been following the blog conversations about Mocavo over the past week and I haven’t weighed in with my opinion only because of time constraints. I do know that Cliff Shaw, creator of Mocavo, has created other products in the past – including Backup My Tree – and that both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage both now own some of his past creations.

Another serial entrepreneur is Paul Allen, one of the original founders of Ancestry and the creator of GenealogyWise which was recently acquired by the National Institute of Genealogical Studies.

My take on serial entrepreneurship: it is a good thing for both the genealogy industry and the genealogy community. That is why I think conferences like RootsTech are so important – it does help bring different industry people together to collaborate and plant those seeds, those ideas which then get tested, mulled over and eventually placed in the incubator.

It is the “incubator” and “birthing” process that is approached differently by each entrepreneur and the process can really make or break a venture. This is where my concern lies right now.

There are some ventures that have taken a “go slow” approach and have actively worked with the online genealogy community – namely the bloggers – to help build some quality applications and websites. Examples are WikiTree, Vintage Aerial and tpstry who seem to “get it” in terms of how to approach the development and launch of a new idea. While “getting it” doesn’t guarantee automatic success and automatic adoption by the genealogy community, it does go a long way in involving the community and building a better moustrap.

Signs that a venture “gets it,” in my view:

  • A marketing and publicity plan that involves social media and one that has some forethought. This means all methods (press release, blog post, Twitter account, Facebook page) are ready to go when the product launches.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled upon some new genealogy venture on Google and then found there is no press release or way to get more information.
  • Community involvement is key but it doesn’t mean you should expect the community to build your product for you. Too many ventures are released and the birth is premature. Often, I can’t figure out what the rush is. You only have one chance to make a good impression and there aren’t any “do overs” or “re-launches” when rolling out a product.
  • Listen. A very simple concept but complicated as well. The tricky part is figuring out who to listen to. The loudest voices don’t always have the best information. Do your homework, understand the complicated demographics of the genealogy industry and the changes underway and then choose those groups that would best help your venture grow.

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This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure statement:  To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors and organizations including WikiTree, Vintage Aerial and others, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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