Archive for October, 2008

My First Geneablogger Meme Post

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Carol Wilkerson at iPentimento tagged me for a meme started by Randy Seaver of Geneamusings.  Here goes:

**Ten years ago I:

  • Served as Director of the Photonics Program at the SUNY Institute of Technology
  • Was proud of having built our program’s website using the latest version of Netscape Navigator.
  • Co-led our church congregation’s youth group (our young men were excited about an upcoming snowboarding trip at the time )
  • Lived in an old farmhouse in Holland Patent, NY (someone else grew and harvested the corn in the back each year, paying us $100 for the privilege.)
  • Never remotely imagined that ten years later I’d be running a web-based genealogy startup

**Five things on today’s to-do list:

  • Respond to this Tag meme with a blog post.
  • Finish preparing a training presentation on Scouting for a group of youth leaders in our church congregation.
  • Rake leaves and water the backyard
  • Learn the latest on our daughter’s efforts to find a safe, affordable apartment in New Jersey with a short commute to NYC.
  • Write a post on Genlighten’s strategy for surviving the current economic downturn.

**Five snacks I enjoy:

  • Chocolate mint frozen yogurt with hot fudge (tough to find)
  • Chex mix
  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Pretty much any edible leftovers in the fridge

**Five places I have lived:

  • Beaverton, OR
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Aspen Hill, MD
  • Holland Patent, NY
  • Northbrook, IL

**Five jobs I have had:

  • Optics Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Arizona
  • College Professor at SUNY Institute of Technology
  • Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Army Research Laboratory
  • Senior Research Scientist at Nanovation Technologies
  • Founder & CEO at

Genlighten’s Downturn Survival Plan

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Scary Times

It’s been sobering to note the impact of the current economic uncertainty on web-oriented startups.  The tech blogosphere has been rife this past week with announcements of:

So how does Genlighten plan to weather the downturn?

Our Strategy

To begin with, since we’re completely self-funded, we’re not worrying about reassuring anxious VCs or angel investors.  We don’t have any non-founder employees (and we’re not paying ourselves) so no one’s going to get laid off.  We’ve got enough cash on hand for at least a year of operations at our current burn rate.  And we’ve all kept our day jobs, so our personal finances are in reasonable shape.

We are being a bit more selective about our attendance at genealogy conferences.  We had planned to be at the Who Do You Think You Are Live 2009 show in London this coming February.  But with airfare, lodging, exhibit fees and utilities for that show running about 10x of expenses for other major conferences, we decided that we just couldn’t afford it while we’re still in pre-revenue mode.  We do plan to be at FGS, NGS, IAJGS and the various shows put on by Family History Expos next year.

Heads Down, Moving Ahead, Preparing for Launch

Beyond that, we’re basically designing, wireframing, and coding like crazy — just like we were before the Wall Street turmoil began.  Our focus is still on building out the initial set of features for the launch of Genlighten’s public beta early next year.  Recently, we’ve been working on:

  • streamlining the lookup offering process
  • simplifying the checkout procedure
  • incorporating a lookup activity feed in our user dashboard, and
  • building out the design of our user profile pages.

Striking the right balance between optimum functionality at launch, sufficiently broad geographical coverage of our provider network, and the desire to simply “get something up and running” has been tough for us.  That and our transition from PHP to Rails have been the main reasons that our launch has been delayed thus far.  [That and the "keeping our day jobs" strategy.]  We know a number of you who we’ve met over the last year are anxious to see us finally go live.  Be assured that we’re eagerly anticipating that day as well, both so we can keep our commitment to you and so we can begin to bring in some revenue.

Building Our Provider Network

In parallel to our development efforts, we’re continuing to actively recruit potential lookup providers interested in offering feedback and participating in testing of the site prior to launch.  If you’d like to sign up for access to our private beta, you can do that here.  We’ve been highly gratified by the response we’ve gotten so far.

Staying Optimistic

Amid the gloomy prognostications of a potential startup apocalypse,  it’s been gratifying to hear a few voices quietly urging optimism, perserverance and long-term perspective.  In particular, entrepreneurial pundits are advising startups that the best way to survive in tough economic times is to focus on saving people money and helping them make some of their own.  Fortunately, that’s exactly what Genlighten is designed to do — for genealogists everywhere.