Saturday, March 8, 2008

The 13th participant is is a forum about Australia. The idea was to create a place where people could get help with traveling or migrating to Australia. Mike started the website as a solo venture. He has lived overseas for most of his adult life. He describes:
It is not always easy living overseas or moving to a new country. I found travel and living overseas forums and information websites often the best sources of information when it comes to visas, costs, housing and things of that nature. So when I started looking around I couldn’t find anything that particularly stood out for people wanting to live or move to Australia.

Let us explore bit further how is progressing.

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A .Setting the site up was perhaps the easy part. I hired an overseas company to do the design and it took them around 1-2 weeks. I have then been adding new features to the site over time. Starting a completely new forum takes time to build membership.

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. It is in full operation, but I am still planning some new features for the site.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. My main objective for the site was to create a resource for people looking to travel or migrate to Australia. Currently the main emphasis is on the forum, but I am planning to create more useful content and information.

Q. What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
A. The focus of the site is the forum, but it also has free classifieds and a picture gallery. I have a great moderator for the site who offers great, free advice for people both traveling to and moving to Australia.

Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. There is nothing particularly extraordinarily unique with the site. There are sites with a similar focus, but nothing which stood out to me. Since I have lived overseas for a long time, I understand the kinds of problems and issues people have with moving to a new country. I have a vision for creating a useful resource for people interested in Australia, separate from the official sites and not overly commercial.

Q. What market segment verticals you are targeting for?
A. Travel and immigration

Q. What type of customers you are targeting?
A. Anyone interested in Australia. Either wanting to travel there or migrate. I am hoping also more Australians will also get involved in the website. A couple of people have actually met up in real life through the forum. It is a great feeling creating something which can have an impact on people’s lives.

Q. What age group of people will be benefited most?
A. All ages

Q. How many users are using your services?
A. Currently 369 members.

Q. What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
A. As most people know starting a new forum is very difficult to get people active and posting. I ran a couple of competitions to get people to post when I launched the site, which didn’t really go anywhere. I did a bit of advertising on other websites and some PPC, but now most traffic comes from search engines. As your forum grows you start to get rankings on a whole range of long tail keywords. I spent a bit of money on the domain so I believe there are some people who find the site from just typing in the URL.

Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture?
A. From number of new members and posts. More content leads to more content for search engines to index and return in search results.

Q. Are their any special mechanisms/tools are in place to monitor the progress?
A. I am using Google analytics to monitor the site’s statistics.

Q. What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
A. I am running Google Adsense and some affiliate programs. When the site grows more I am hoping to get interest from migration agents and travel related companies to advertise on the site.

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
  • – mostly for people from UK
  • Lonleyplanet thorntree forum – mostly for travel related questions
  • Facebook – the discussion group on Australia is very popular

Q. What are the main technologies used behind this start-up.
A. The forum is running Vbulleting with Vbseo installed.

Q. What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
A. vbulletin is the best forum software I have seen. All of the really big boards are using it. It is easy to get up running out of the box, but there is a lot you can do with it. It really is more than just forum software, vbulletin with the add-on components is becoming a social network solution in itself.

Q. Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. Vbulleting requires a license, but it has a number of free modifications contributed by various people.

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
A. Unix/Mysql

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up?
A. Only online

Q. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
A. Not that I am aware of.

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. For a website you only really need a domain ($10) and some hosting to get started. Most successful sites seem to start from a lone person working in their bedroom, so definitely you don’t need a lot of capital to get an online venture off the ground.

Q. What are the main barriers in general for people start their venture in Australia?
A. It seems to me that few people see how running a website can be an actual business, or they equate an internet business with an e-commerce site in Australia. I have a lot of trouble telling people what I do for a living and exactly how I am making money.

When people think of running a small business in Australia, it seems like they instantly think of running a café or a shop. Since people have this way of thinking, it could be difficult to raise finance from traditional sources.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
A. The prospects for the site are largely dependent on the attractiveness for people who want to go to Australia. All things considering, the outlook seems to be positive for now.

While the growth of the site hasn’t been outstanding, it hasn’t even been a year yet since I started the website. I am starting to get a few more regular contributors. The Australian economy is going through a growth stage and it seems like there is a lot interest in people moving to Australia to take advantage of the economic growth, particularly in the mining industry.

Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
A. Invest in a good memorable domain name for your website.

Start small and build on traffic and features of your product or site over time. It seems senseless to me to spend years developing your product/website only to release a couple of years later in a market which has probably changed dramatically.

When it comes to the internet don’t be put off by the fact that you might be competing against some big players in a given market. By creating something just a little different or interesting to what is already out there it can sometimes be easy enough for people to convert to your product or service.

Thanks Mike for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear from you in future on the progress of All the best for and the competition in this carnival.

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