I was very fortunate to be involved from the beginning of Ancestry.com: an internet startup that achieved positive cash flow (by July 1998) before raising outside capital. This required some self-funding, bootstrapping, and using all the online marketing tactics that we could discover. It also helped that we sold annual subscriptions to our online databases. We would collect the money up front, but recognize the revenue over a full twelve months. So we achieved positive cash flow well before we reached profitability.
Before entrepreneurs ask me for advice, I want them to know their company's SIC code (or NAICS code) and to know who their publicly traded competitors are that they can learn a great deal from by doing research at www.sec.gov.
I listened to the eCollege and Audible conference calls earlier today. Audible had its first operating profit in its six year history. Another dot com survivor! Last summer it was trading at $0.50 per share. I bought a lot of shares at that price and sold them on 12/31 at just under $4.00. Now it is approaching $5.00.
Whenever I read news about companies or take notes during conference calls, I store my notes in my personal knowledge base (now a 125 MB file that is powered by Folio VIEWS).
I didn't realize Google offered both News Alerts and Web Alerts, but I must have inadvertantly signed up for a Web Alert about vSpring (a Utah venture capital firm) because I got one today. Google found a web site that contained an article about vSpring that must not have been there before.
So to my previous blog about signing up for Google News Alerts, I must now add, sign up for Web Alerts too for all the keywords/topics you are tracking.
My Bristol-Myers-Squibb 2003 annual report came in the mail yesterday. I scanned it this morning and noticed a few interesting things and had a new business idea as a result. It reminded me of some advice I've given to entrepreneurs in the past that I'd like to blog about: own 1 share of as many companies as you can in the industries you are interested in.
As a shareholder, you'll receive annual reports and other shareholder notices. These are excellent opportunities to see the big picture, learn what the company is saying to its stakeholders, and how it's operations are doing.
I recently demonstrated to a BYU business school class several online tools that I regularly use for market research and competitive intelligence. My premise was that if a business person is omniscient, then the chance that they will create a business that succeeds is 100%. (I suppose there is always a risk of execution failure if you are not also omnipotent, but that's not my point). Omniscience is not possible in this world. But the more knowledge and intelligence you have about an industry and all of its players, the more likely you are to create a successful venture.
So what powerful internet tools can help you gather all known information about industries and companies so that you can more quickly create a successful strategy and alliances for your own business?
My father taught me about SIC codes (now NAICS codes) which the government uses to classify all economic activites.