Postcard from another startup

Over a decade ago some friends and I were talking about an entertainment business run by another friend. After a few glasses of wine we came up with the idea of starting our own. Not to take business away from Brian, but to extend the idea into areas where he wasn't active.

So, PubFun was born. It was going to be an entertainment directory, initially for Perth but we could see that if it worked here, it could be expanded to the rest of the country, perhaps even beyond. But we kept a lid on visions that far ahead, we needed to prove it first.

As well as a comprehensive list of "what's on where", we were going to include band interviews and reviews as well as details of the local infrastucture supporting the entertainment industry - recording studios, the major promoters in town, marketing experts and the like.

Getting a list of a couple of thousand bands and other artists in Perth was easy enough, Brian allowed us access to his database on condition that we didn't poach business. The venues were equally easy, but then we had to start selling the idea of advertising on the site. We wanted content for the bands to be free (have you seen how little most bands are paid?), but the venues were to pay, and this meant a serious sales effort.

Roll forward 12 months, and we just weren't meeting the targets we'd set for ourselves. I was the only person providing finance for the company. That wasn't a huge amount as we weren't paying ourselves, so it was just running costs, but some of those costs were poorly thought out. We had got a very good deal on a 30 second advert in one of the local cinema chains, and we pushed the PubFun website as hard as we could through Google supported by leaflet drops. We had less than a dozen venues signed up which was disappointing. The bands liked the idea of building their own web page on the site, but none who tried had any design expertise, and it showed, so we removed that ability, modified the templates and did it for them.

Another 12 months and two of the partners had dropped out, and keeping the directory up to date was still taking too much time. The venues didn't tell us who was playing and the number subscribers had dropped. The bands were happy, but getting time to interview them still wasn't easy and persuading other people to write reviews for us fell pretty flat.

So, six months later, I handed what there was of the company over to Carol, the surviving member and resigned. The domain was paid for a while, but from that point on, it was all up to her. It didn't survive.

So, what did I learn from that?


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