I recently wrote an article for Connect Magazine about business incubators and Provo Labs in particular. It explains what we are trying to do at Provo Labs and why we think it will work.
One thing we have learned already since December is that our internal team needs to focus on one major project at a time and get it to completion, rather than having 5-10 simultaneous projects that are "on the brink" of completion but aren’t generating any value for customers.
For the last 2-3 weeks, most of our development team has been working on getting LDSMedia.com launched. It is the largest LDS search engine in the world. Our new version rolled live yesterday. I like the new author search and title search functionality. It makes it easy to find any article or book by any author. I especially like doing keyword searches in the title search box. (For example, do a title search for the word "debt" and find 142 articles or book chapters that contain the word debt. This feature will be invaluable to anyone wanting to do a quick survey of Mormon literature on any topic.)
Next the developers will be working on our PlugNSearch technology for the next few days. I described what PlugNSearch will enable in a post on March 24th. Phil Burns described how PlugNSearch fits into our web site management software framework on April 9th.
Shortly thereafter the developers will fix up our world history search engine and then we’ll likely put our entire Provo Labs team on our new genealogy search engine project. Both sites will be designed like LDSMedia.com — easy to browse and to search — and the major databases will be listed after any search along with the number of hits in each database. This makes it extremely easy to navigate through search results.
We’re hiring our first search engine marketing employee on May 1st and soon thereafter we will be bidding on tens of thousands of keywords on Google, Yahoo and MSN. (And of course we use web analytics software to track our results.)
The constant temptation in an incubator is to start more projects. But each one costs money and requires a ton of energy and attention. So we are trying to launch some of our projects without incurring any payroll costs. For example, we have a blog network project underway where 4 individuals own 20% of the company and Provo Labs owns 20% of the company, but besides an investment of some server space and startup costs, we won’t have any payroll expense. The ROI on this "investment" will be excellent.
As incubator projects mature, they attract dedicated full-time employees and then Provo Labs doesn’t have to nurture them so much anymore. This is when success really starts to happen: when a talented team focuses enough energy on reaching customers and solving real problems.
This happened last year when FundingUniverse.com, a company that helps entrepreneurs meet angel investors, attracted its management team and got new life. FundingUniverse was recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal online Startup Journal and got some good coverage of its new online video pitching service.
This is what is happening now with 10Speed Media, a company that we incubated that grew out of the Blastyx vidcasting vision of Phil Burns. It then merged with Big Idea Communications (a PR 2.0 company) and BusinessJive.com (a business podcasting company.) Under the leadership of Chris Knudsen and Judd Bagley, 10Speed Media is really starting to rock, landing clients in multiple states already. 10Speed Media can dispatch a vidcasting crew virtually anywhere to capture events or interviews that companies want to promote and then get online distribution for video clips.