Genlighten’s Downturn Survival Plan

Posted On: October 18th, 2008 | Posted by: Dean

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.


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