第二，虽然他们的想法很好，但实际上当时也有别的公司在做类似的事情，比方说微软。我们可以看到之所以最终是Hotmail获得了成功，是因为: (1) 他们起步早，积累了很多用户获得了先发优势。(2) 他们有技术。在当时想要支持那么多数量的用户在技术上是个挑战，而微软并没有找到解决方案。和上一章提到的PayPal一样，Hotmail也是拥有核心技术的公司。
第三，最初他们并不是很清楚他们的商业模式。很自然的问题是，如果他们的产品是免费的，那么他们如何获得收益。现在我们知道可以通过发放广告获得收益，但至少在最开始的时候，这一点并不是十分的明确。这里有两个启示: (1) 积累足够多的用户是非常重要的。正如Bhatia在采访中提到的，也许在最开始没有办法从用户身上获得直接的收益，但是之后总会想出一些办法。(2) 不必什么都想清楚才开始行动。如果他们一开始拼命思考论证他们的商业模式，也许就没有Hotmail了。
- In 1996, the first web-based email was born.
- On New Year’s Eve, 1997, Microsoft acquired Hotmail for $400 million
- “How are you going to make money if you are going to give it away for free? What’s the revenue mechanism?”
- We didn’t know how many others, but email was something that everyone used. To provide ubiquitous access to that email from any web browser from anywhere in the world was the killer idea.
- That’s one thing about the Internet: if you have something that’s good, it spreads by word of mouth and like wildfire. You just to hire a small PR firm and do it.
- It’s not just page impressions, but the number of click-throughs. The most monetizable part of advertising (at least online advertising today) is the click-through to another advertiser, which is search.
- Google has proven remarkably well that click-through is a monetizable quantity more than page impressions. You can have 100 page impressions and that has some value, but the click-through has far greater value because that’s how advertisers measures, “Is this advertising working for us or not?”
- It takes a long time before you can break through to an advertiser and get them to start paying you. In fact, the first 3 or 4 months we were doing advertising for our advertisers for free.
- The others have died because they made their front pages look like Las Vegas casinos as opposed to preserving that simple, clean interface that Google has. I think the strategy that Google took was far better. They earned the trust of the end consumer.
- We found that we were not the best at selling ads, so we outsourced the whole thing to another company and said, “You guys go sell the ads for us. We’ll just focus on delivering these ads to you no matter how much you sell them for. Just give us a percentage of revenue with a minimum commitment and we won’t go to anybody else.”
- Livingston: So really the biggest challenge in the early years of Hotmail was the funding?
Bhatia: Yeah, it was the funding. And of course then the tough part was in scaling up to that growth. […] “Sorry, the server is down.” These are just issues when you have a very large user base.
- “I really haven’t thought of an acquisition, but at the right price I can think of anything.”
- Once you’ve got a lead in terms of a subscriber base, that is unassailable.
- […] But I knew we had that momentum behind us and that is very hard to replicate.
- Livingston: You arrived in this country with only $250 in your pocket. Wasn’t it tempting for you to agree to sell for, say, $300 million?
Bhatia: Once you have tasted this kind of success, once you’ve tasted that it works, that you’ve got subscribers who are telling you it’s good, you known you are going to get there.
- Livingston: Do you wish you had gone the licensing route?
Bhatia: No, it would have been a lot more difficult, because the cost of providing email was much higher than the cost of providing search — even though search is far more profitable than email in terms of the advertising monetizability of search. Because when somebody searches, they are looking to find something; they are in the mood to click. Email is more of a destination. When you are doing email, you don’t want to be disturbed by what’s on the right, you want to read whatever your friend has written to you. So it’s the end product. It not a click-through kind of a product.
- Sometimes ideas are born out of necessity: you solve a problem for yourself, and you hopefully solve it for a number of other people too.
- The one lesson that I’ve learned in my experience while I did Hotmail and since I’ve don Hotmail is you have got to own the customer. The customers came to us for free at Hotmail. Even though they were free customers, what the last 10 to 15 years of my experience of the Internet has taught me is that it’s OK if you don’t monetize them right up front. Eventually you will be able to. But having the customer base and being able to tap into that customer base and upset them on services, or advertise — you can always make money off them.
- The general piece of advice, which is fairly mundane and often repeated, is: make sure you write a business plan because it will crystallize your thoughts to communicate your ideas with somebody else. Make sure that once you have written your business plan, you have somebody read and critique it and ask you questions.
- Essentially it’s a plan that says what the company is going to do, what problem it is going to solve, how big the market is, what the sources of revenue for the company are, what your exit strategy is for your investors, what amount of money is required, how you are going to market it, what kind of people you need, what the technology risks are, marketing risks, execution risks. Those are the fundamentals of what goes into a business plan, and many people have it in their heads but don’t write it down.
- Don’t try to change user behavior dramatically. If you are expecting people to dramatically change the way the do things, it’s not going to happen. Try to make it such that it’s a small change, yet an important one.
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