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Three great questions about Genlighten

Posted On: July 20th, 2008 | Posted by: Dean


As I mentioned in the previous post, we’ve sent e-mail to about 760 local genealogical societies over the past week, inviting them to partner with Genlighten and to encourage their volunteers to offer lookups through our site.

One of these societies sent me a reply yesterday that went something like this:

“Our society met today to talk about your proposal. We have a few questions:

1. How much do you suggest we charge? [for lookups they would offer on our site]

2. Is there a contract you expect us to sign, and if so, what’s in it?

3. If we try offering lookups through you for a while and decide we don’t want to anymore, how easy is it for us to stop?”

I was thrilled to get this message. First off, it’s hugely gratifying that someone in our target audience has taken the time to seriously consider what we have to offer. Second, the questions they’ve asked tell me they’re giving real thought to what sort of business relationship they want to have with us. In other words, they’ve readily grasped our business concept and they’ve moved on from there to ponder the risks and contingencies of adoption.

Here’s how I answered them.

Suggested Fees

We don’t really have a proposed fee schedule. Our goal is to let providers set the fees that make sense for them (inclusive of all expenses) and let the market take care of things from there. However, as a rule of thumb, we’d like to see most individual document searches come in between $10 and $20. If it’s still worth it to you to do them for less, all the better, but many potential providers have made us aware of the growing costs of copies, gas, parking and just about everything else.

Is there a contract that you want us to sign?

Just the terms of service for the site. Our attorney helped us draft these, and they will likely undergo some changes as more people sign up and various issues arise. Let us know if you have any concerns about any of the things you read there… at this early stage, we would definitely try to respond to any feedback you have regarding our terms.

One thing our terms of use address is the concern that providers might register with the site, attract customers, then encourage those customers to go directly to them and bypass our site. Ultimately we can’t really prevent that, but the terms basically ask that providers not solicit our customers to go elsewhere for lookups. Hopefully that’s not overly constraining for you.

If things don’t work out, how do we discontinue our relationship?

Your society members can simply delete their lookup offerings from the site at any time. We’ll eventually include a “remove my membership” option on the profile page so they can remove their personal info as well.

On a related note, if your members want to offer lookups but need to go “on vacation” for a while occasionally, they can simply change the status of their lookup offering from “active” to “on vacation”. All the info will remain saved, but the lookup offerings won’t appear in users’ search results.

To me, these kinds of interactions with our potential partners are tremendously helpful. One of the most frequent pieces of advice I’ve heard from more experienced entrepreneurs is how important it is to be teachable and willing to adapt and iterate the strategy of a new business in response to customer (and partner) feedback. That’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to being able to do at Genlighten. It looks like the fun is just beginning!

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