Friday Apr 29, 2011 by Nathan Burke - Director of Marketing, CloudLock
|Though this column may be called First Look, this post is far from it. Way back in November of 2008, I wrote about a startup in Charlestown called Springpad. From that post:|
I never thought I’d type the following sentence: I’m excited about a webapp that manages tasks and projects.
Yep. I just wrote that.
I’ve seen a million web apps that do slick, fancy things, and have dismissed them with a jaded “meh.” But today I was introduced to something that manages day to day tasks and lists. And I loved it. It’s called springpad
Two and a half years and over a million users later, I talked with Springpad’s CEO Jeff Janer to see what was new.
NB: So, let’s start from the beginning. What’s Springpad?
JJ: Springpad is a free consumer application service, and we help people to save stuff they want to remember, whether they’re out and about via mobile device, browsing the web, or if they just think of something they want to remember. We make it really simple to save it to remember later. In that sense, we’re a digital filing cabinet. You have a place in the cloud where you can store anything that you want to remember, and you can access it from wherever you want, from a mobile device or from the web.
What’s different from a mobile filing cabinet is that we do 3 things when you save something:
So the whole idea is to help you save something, organize it, and take action when you’re ready whether that’s right away or sometime in the future.
NB: Springpad is free, and obviously there’s a lot of value in the data you’re collecting. Can you tell me how you’re monetizing Springpad?
JJ: The consumer is saving things that they’re interested in, and we see that as demonstrating intent. By saving an item, they’re saying “this is something I want to do”, or “this is something I’m interested in”. So by being able to anonymize that and make it available to a publisher, that’s high value lead gen to whomever owns that product or service, and there are a number of ways that a brand can communicate by virtue of an alert or by virtue of the information that they’re providing to that consumer. In a way that’s advertising, but in a way that’s useful.
Our business model is ultimately driven by the notion of deferred intent – or just plain intent – and then the publisher or owner of the product or service can communicate with you to drive you closer to purchasing that item.
NB: So do the publishers or brand communicate directly to Springpad’s users, or do they license the anonymous data from you?
JJ: We’re doing the communicating. We’re integrated with several hundred services, so if you save a product that say, Target carries (we’re working with Target through their affiliate network), we’ll say “hey, there’s a sale here on the television you’re interested in” on behalf of Target, and we’ll automatically associate the link with the TV you saved.
Let’s say for instance someone said to you “Hey, you should see the movie Arthur. It’s pretty cool.” You can go into the app and look it up, and add it to your springpad. On the back end, we pull in the metadata from say, Netflix and can use it to show information about the actors, directors, etc. At the time of saving this, we can see that this movie is currently in theaters, and we then show you links to buy tickets at theaters close to you.
NB: Are all those links basically multiple affiliate links?
JJ: Some of these are affiliate links, some of them are just plain informational links to things like IMDB. Our primary goal is consumer first, and that could be to save time or to save money. So the more helpful and useful to the consumer, the more time they’ll invest in saving things because they’ll get the benefit on the other end.
When I look at all the things I’ve saved, there’s an alert running against them looking for a change in state. If I tag a GPS and the price drops, if a consumer then buys that GPS, we’ll get a cut of that. And if a movie is then released, you can add that to your netflix queue, and that’s not going to give us any revenue, but it’s just useful to the consumer.
So some of these things are monetizable, but some are just useful.
Right now we’re in the process of talking with publishers and brands about something new. Think about all the buttons that are on publishers sites now, like this, share this, heart this, email this, etc., when you think about it, they are all for someone else’s benefit. You don’t get any benefit from that. But then consider all the great content and information brands have that you’re not ready to act on yet. But what about if you had a button to save it for later?
By saving that for later, the brand and the publisher can enhance what you’ve saved and communicate to you through our alerts service long after you’ve left their site. Another thing thats gotten them excited is that in the end the consumer has assembled a database of ‘wants’ that can be used through our API to personalize your experience on a third party site for recommendations (e.g., music you might like on Pandora or products you might be interested in at Amazon).
Our goal is not to be a recommendation service, but to be very specific to the things that you’ve indicated interest in.
NB: How has your user base been growing?
JJ: In March of 2010, we had 40,000 registered users. A year later we had 1.3 million.
What’s been fascinating is that at the end of December, we had 660,000 users and in three months we doubled that.
At the end of December, there were some 5 million items saved, and at the end of March, there were over 15 million. It’s not just about note taking now. People are seeing the value on the other end.
NB: Looking at the back end data, are you now able to see what products are hot right now, what are the most popular places, recipes, etc.
JJ: We haven’t started to mine the zeitgeist yet, but that’s exactly where we’re headed. Here are the hot products for Christmas, the hot restaurants in Boston, etc.
The big idea is known intent. We don’t have to infer what someone’s intent is. We know that. And to keep the trust, we only show them what’s directly relevant to what they’ve saved. It’s been an interesting marketing challenge, as we didn’t want to go out with a message of “we do this, and we do this, and this, on and on”, instead we boiled it down to a familiar metaphor of notes and notebooks, and we excite the users with the features like alerting them of price drops.
NB: In doing some research on what you guys have been up to since we last spoke, I noticed that just about every article mentioning Springpad mentions Evernote.
JJ: From the “save stuff wherever you come across it” and “have a place in the cloud to put it” perspective, that’s us and Evernote.
That’s the digital filing cabinet. But all of the other actions are how we’re differentiated, and that points to the difference in our business models. They’re effectively a storage model where users pay for storage. In our model, the service is free to the user forever, and the action or conversion is the key to our business model.
NB: How many employees do you have right now?
JJ: 12 employees. 7 engineers, and we’re growing this year. We’ll be fundraising in the next couple of months or so, and will be growing pretty dramatically.
As someone that is constantly taking notes and planning a wedding (okay, my fiancee is planning the wedding, I’m just doing the tasks she assigns me), I’ve been looking for some kind of system to get organized for a long time. The most convenient thing about Springpad is that it’s available wherever I am. Since I have an iPhone, an iPad, and am frequently on the web, I can take a quick note in a store and it’s in my notebook when I’m home looking at my iPad. It’s really a great app for someone that has multiple devices, as you’re never separated from access to your online file cabinet. And you can’t beat the price.
Nathan Burke is the Director of Marketing at Waltham, MA startup CloudLock. He is an infrequent writer at MarketingStartups.com and is uncomfortable describing himself in the third person in italics at the end of an article. You can find him on twitter at @nathanwburke.