Rave About It

Vishal Monday, March 10, 2008 , , , , , , ,

The 17th participant is Rave About It

Rave About It, launched in beta mode in November in 2006, aims to provide an enjoyable way in which users can search, rate and discuss what they think of services in their local area and beyond. It is like word of mouth, but online, as this is the most accurate representation of how well a business services their customers. In addition to helping businesses make themselves heard through real testimonials, small businesses are able to market themselves through other features that the site offers.

The concept of Rave About It was first discussed between Mark Rimmer and Tim Griffin in June 2006 at a friend's birthday party in Sydney. It was an idea that Mark had suggested, initially because he was on the search for a recommended local hairdresser. They have refined the idea to support in-depth reviews of any type of business - products and services that were physically, mobile or Internet based. Subsequent research revealed that a strong business review scene was already developing in the States, with the trio of business review websites, Yelp, Insider Pages & Judy's Book being most prominent. Whilst they liked these sites, they wanted to design something with an Australian focus.

Let us explore bit further on different facets of Rave About it from Mark. We were the first business review website in Australia to offer business reviews across all industries and all States in Australia.

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. It took us 3 months to get an alpha version up and running, followed by another month of testing and refinement based on user feedback to reach a beta version

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. Fully functional / Perpetual beta ;)

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. Become the most prominent business review website and become synonymous with reviewing technology in Australia.

Q. What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
A. Rave About It aims to serve two needs:

  • Provide the consumer an environment in which they can search and review any business in Australia
  • Provide a business owner the ability to benefit from word-of-mouth feedback, as well as tools to market their own products and services.
Q. What is unique about your venture?
A.
  • In July 2007, we outsourced our reviewing platform to a major on-line business directory in Australia and are currently the only reviewing platform to do this in Australia.
  • Most business review websites are focused heavily towards the consumer - we provide an environment that takes care of a business's needs as well through a complete business profile, that includes features comparable to a premium listing in major on-line business directories
  • We fully support open standards and our reviews are indexed by major search engines and can be viewed in Google Maps through our RSS capabilities, for example.
  • Every business sub-category in our database has a set of reviewing criteria unique to that industry. For example, a Gym may be reviewed based on its 'cleanliness', or a mechanic may be reviewed, based on their 'workmanship'
  • We display both positive and negative reviews - we feel that business owners learn most when they can receive honest feedback from both happy & not so happy customers.
Q. What market segment verticals you are targeting for?
A. All industries, however the majority of traffic that we are receiving relates to the Hair and Beauty Salon industry. In terms of customer feedback, these are two industries that were previously poorly presented in Australia prior to Rave About It - we found that the majority of this feedback was in the form of an unstructured forum or blog post.

Q. What type of customers you are targeting?
A. From a consumer perspective, Men and Women in the 20 - 50 y.o. age bracket.
From a business perspective, any small to medium size business

Q. How many users are using your services?
A.
  • Number of uniques per month: 50,000
  • Number of users: 1,300
  • Number of accounts: 1,300
Q. What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
A. Search engines optimisation mainly - 90% of our daily visitors are new to the site and the majority reach our site through search engines.

Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools are in place to monitor the progress?
A. We are looking at the following metrics, using a combination of Google Analytics and site logs.
General
Is the site receiving an increasing amount of relevant traffic?
Consumer:
  • Is the quantity of reviews increasing?
  • Is the quantity of pageviews per users increasing?
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number of returning reviewers?
Businesses
  • Is the number of businesses being listed increasing?
  • Are those business profiles receiving decent exposure in the search engines?

Q. What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
A. The site currently receives some revenue through a combination of Google Advertising and banner advertising.
We have developed a fully functional, scalable reviewing platform that can be outsourced to any large website that wishes to incorporate reviewing functionality into their service. This reviewing platform can be seen live at http://www.dlook.com.au
We are currently trialing a beta program for a paid service, RaveLeads that generates leads for small businesses through promotion on the Internet

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
A.
Competitors:

Privately-owned
Public
  • Nook
  • Truelocal ( Not a 'pure' business review website, due to the lack of reviewer profiles etc and the fact that it is primarily a business directory, however it has the potential to drive the business review industry due to its weight in the local search arena in general.
  • Sensis
  • Nearme
For a in-depth discussion of the local business review scene in Australia, please see here

Q.What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
A. We use Google products extensively: Google Maps API, Adsense, Analytics, Webmaster and Adwords

Q. Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. Entirely open source.

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
A. Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
A. Approximately once a month in person. Regular events in Sydney we attend include STIRR, BarCamp, WebJam, Beer 2.0

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. Our budget (up to beta launch) - approx $4k
Breakdown:
  • Business name registration and company setup : $1,500
  • Domain name registration (including .com.au and .com domains): $200
  • Hosting: $100
  • Business Cards: $200
  • Graphic design (layout and logos): $850
  • Hardware, software etc: $1,000
Q. What are the main barriers in general for people start their venture in Australia?
A. Although it was never an issue for Tim and me, since we were close friends to begin with, finding the right person to start up a company with can be extremely difficult. While it is possible to work on a start-up by yourself, inevitably there will be tough times, where you don't have that support that you would have, if you had a business partner.

In the past 12 months, the number of tech/startup events has grown rapidly in Sydney and with the take-off of Social Networking, it is easier for local people to get together and network.
In some cases, individuals I have spoken to at tech events felt like they did not have the relevant skills to create a successful start-up, e.g. a web developer with no business experience, or a business-minded person with no programming skills.
Such hurdles can be overcome by partnering with someone that has complimentary skills to your own. Such was the case with Tim and myself, when we started Rave About It.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
A. Australia as a Reviewing Nation
Outside the scope of restaurant/cafe reviews, structured on-line business reviews are a relatively recent activity in Australia. It has been commented by Australian bloggers that Australians, as a whole, are more reluctant to voice their opinions on-line than say internet users in the US. In the US, users of sites like Yelp provide in-depth, passionate reviews about businesses that they are reviewing, whereas Australian reviews tend to be more straight-to-the point summaries of user experiences. We feel that Australian reviewers will behave more like their US counterparts as they get more used to writing and reading reviews. Similarly, we feel businesses will also become accustomed to being rated publicly.

Fragmentation
The amount of reviewing type websites in Australia is growing, but with each additional website, the market becomes increasingly more fragmented. This is so as the majority of websites do not as yet support open formats such as RSS based Microformats (hCard/hReview) and GeoRSS (location-encoded RSS feeds).
Due to the lack of open formats implemented on these sites, the collaboration of user reviews is limited, so this restricts the ability for Search engines or other sites to aggregate reviews in a meaningful manner.

Legal Environment
In Australia defamation law differs to the US in that in Australia lacks a Bill of Rights, which protects Freedom of Speech.

To date, there are several defamation cases that have taken place relatively recently in Australia. The first case involves a Sydney Morning Herald food critic describing a negative experience he had in a restaurant in Sydney (John Fairfax Publications v Gacic). The restaurant's proprietors sued Fairfax seeking damages for business defamation in a case that is currently ongoing

The second case (2Clix vs Whirlpool) , resulted in accounting software firm 2Clix has suing the founder of Whirlpool, seeking damages of $150,000 and the permanent removal of two threads on the site discussing the company's products. 2Clix ultimately dropped legal action against Whirlpool, however the outcome of the case, should it have gone to court, would have had massive implications on the use of Internet forums in Australia.

The above cases indicate that any local business review website in Australia, negative reviews need to be managed extremely carefully, In the US, the leading online business review website, Yelp, has such an influence in San Francisco that it can make or break a business in a matter of weeks.

Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
A.
  • Consider your business model from day one - the majority of start-ups in Australia are not VC-backed, therefore you'll need to fund it out of your day job or savings.
  • Consider government grants as a source of early funding.
  • Get involved in the local start-up community. In addition to providing invaluable advice, you'll meet like-minded people and through networking, open a lot of doors.
  • If you're first attempt doesn't work, keep trying. Most people give up after their first major hiccup - if you can make it through that phase, then you'll become even more determined to succeed.
  • Maintain as regular communication with your business partner as possible. Aim to meet up in person at least once a week to plan ahead and go over the venture in general. Tim and I chat multiple times a day on the Internet - the benefit is that all your chats are logged, so you can go back to extract discussions later.
  • New ideas are great, but don't get distracted from the core focus on your venture, and in particular, your strengths as an individual.
  • Focus on your strengths and don't dwell on your weaknesses. Several times, when there was a backlog of coding work to be done, I contemplated learning how to code, so I could assist Tim - thankfully I talked myself out of it - I would have been a hindrance, not a help!
  • If you can't contribute to a single line of code, don't despair - there are plenty of ways that you can contribute your equal share of work. These include focusing on sales, business planning, marketing, writing site content, testing, and finance, to name a few areas.
Thanks Mark for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear you in the future on the progress of Rave About It. All the best for Rave About It and the competition in this carnival.

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2 comments:

Anil said...

Great write-up and kudos to Mark and Tim for paving the way for business reviews in Australia.

Quick correction on the URL for RAYV - it's www.rayv.com.au.

Cheers!

Anil.

Vishal Sharma said...

Thanks Anil. Its been updated now.