Today I feature an interview with the founder of PicClick, Ryan Sit.
PicClick is a site that helps you shop on eBay and Etsy by displaying the images from listings and minimal text. It's a much more efficient way to find items than standard search.
I first heard of PicClick when it was mentioned as a sponsor on "This Week in Venture Capital". When the host, Mark Suster, said that PicClick was a bootstrapped company and one guy, it got my attention and I contacted the founder.
Ryan Sit is a prolific startup veteran. Along with PicClick, he is cofounder of TopicFire and VP of Special Projects at Tsavo Media. He was previously founder/CTO of DropShots (currently advisor & equity owner). He has run quite a few startups, some with partners, some completely solo. He's had his ups and downs in the Internet space, and has cultivated a breadth of experience.
Tell me about how PicClick got started.
PicClick actually got started as a visual Craigslist browser named Listpic.com. It was awesome and grew really big, but eventually Craigslist shut it down. It's a long story, but some of the story is here. Through developing Listpic I was able to create and refine a visual browser for the web. Plus I learned a ton about quickly gathering data from outside sources. After Listpic got shutdown I eventually applied my learnings to a new site for visual eBay browsing at PicClick.com. The lesson learned there is don't be afraid to try something, it may fail, but you'll always learn something.
Who created the design?
I designed PicClick. After doing a number of startups, I've learned how to do most all the important work myself. I like to do quick and simple startups, and being able to do all the work myself, lets me move very fast. If you want to do startups, it is awesome if you are really good and learning anything fast. Don't let not knowing something be a barrier. Keep in mind you need to start somewhere, I've been picking up new skills for many years. It doesn't happen overnight.
At this point do you have any employees for PicClick?
No employees. It launched over a year ago, and was just slowly growing through the year passively on the side. I just slowly tried and tested new ideas until it really jumped. Then I started spending a bit more time with it. For this idea it was a good fit for that type of slow growing strategy. Other ideas I spend more time growing. For PicClick it was a lot of SEO where you need to make a change, wait for a long while and see what happens, then iterate again. Interestingly, PicClick is a fully passive business. Most days no work needs to be done to maintain it.
You've received press on Lifehacker, Mashable, and Digg to name a few. How did you get PicClick's name out there? What is your marketing strategy?
Whenever I do a new business, one of the factors I consider is marketing. Is the idea good enough to get a lot of press? Is it in a niche that a lot of people talk about? Also part of it is crafting a good pitch. Making what may be boring, and angling the story into something interesting and valuable. Last it is about your network and relationships. After doing a number of projects, I've built up relationships with some of the writers.
Why did you decide to run PicClick as an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship?
Main thing is liability. I've had some legal problems in the past, and didn't want that to be a problem. The more interesting thing is why it isn't a C corp. This particular business I knew would just be a cash flow business for me personally. If you want the startup to later get funding, or give out stocks, usually you setup a C corp. A tip with that, setting up a C corp is hard to setup, file, and close, so don't worry about setting it up right away. Wait until you get some good traction, then invest the money into setting it up. That is unless the idea has a lot of legal risk.
You've been running the site for a while now it and gets good traffic. Other than it helping you with your own eBay use, are you making money with it? If not, do you have a business model in mind?
Actually the site does well financially. It monetizes using the eBay Affiliate program: http://www.ebaypartnernetwork.com
It is one of the oldest and biggest affiliate programs. The thing I'm most happy about is that PicClick helps sellers on eBay and Etsy selling over 1 million dollars worth of products each month.
You've recently added Etsy products to the mix. Why did you decide to do that?
1.) Etsy has an awesome collection of unique products. I just love their service.
2.) A lot of people love and talk about Etsy. It was a great fresh way to get a lot of new press about PicClick. Interestingly, Etsy has no affiliate program so I make zero money from that part of PicClick.
Do you think you'll seek funding in order to take PicClick to a new level?
Probably not for PicClick, funding usually makes things more complicated. It's just not a good fit for PicClick. For some other projects I'm working on funding is more part of the plan.
PicClick now sponsors This Week in Venture Capital. That's not an inexpensive sponsorship. Was that funded by PicClick revenue?
Yes, it is funded by PicClick. I've been trying a lot of new ways to market PicClick. A lot of typical types of marketing hasn't worked well for PicClick. Usually I'd recommend SEO, SEM, and social marketing first. With sponsoring TwiVC I was hoping to grow the brand and get a lot of web influencers to know and help spread the site.
Are there any free/low cost resources/tools you use to help you build your startups?
For the first version, I usually try to do everything myself. After that I bootstrap it up. I'd recommend reading Guy Kawasaki‘s book, Art of the Start. After it starts generating some revenue I sometimes contract out some of the work, for example SEO, blogger outreach, re-design. I recently tried http://99designs.com/ and LOVE that service for design.
note: see PicClick's logo design contest at 99Designs.
Are there sites or blogs you can recommend for bootstrap startups?
The best place to read about Web 2.0 startups is at my other startup: http://topicfire.com/Web-2.0 or follow http://twitter.com/BreakingWeb
It aggregates the hottest news on topics in real-time. Besides that here are some other sites I read daily for tips and ideas:
The main things are:
- read Guy Kawasaki's book, Art of the Start
- start now
- learn fast
- launch fast, gather data, iterate
There are ideas where you need employees, funding, offices, etc. But there are also lots of ideas that take at most 1 month to program, are simple, and make money. Simple ideas can always start small and grow big, like Twitter or Facebook or even a new one like Blippy. And with simple ideas you can try things faster, and learn faster.
Thanks to Ryan for the interview. Keep up the good work.
Are you like Ryan? Building sites on your own and finding success? Contact me and let's chat.
Next post: Advertising your Startup, Part II