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:
Q. What is unique about your venture?
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?
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.
Is the site receiving an increasing amount of relevant traffic?
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?
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
The 17th participant is Rave About It