Judy’s Book Lessons Learned

Andy Sack and I will “sit down” and discuss his reflections on Judy’s Book in the next few days. But he’s got some interesting thoughts about the site and its closing on his personal blog. Here are a few abbreviated excerpts:

My first and biggest lesson learned from the past 3.5 years can be summed up in a business school lesson I learned many years ago and now really grok: markets win . . . The primary job of an early stage CEO is to get into a great market. I thought that online local search was such a market — but the details of that market have stumped many a company and many an entrepreneur.

At Judy’s Book we had a BIG vision — I think in retrospect, perhaps too big for a start up and in retrospect I think we didn’t take the necessary steps to break that BIG vision (your friends yellow pages) down into sufficiently small enough baby steps to prove out the concept before expanding the concept nationally.

We did a lot of things right in the first 2 years of Judy’s Book business (FYI – July 2004 was the start of the business), but I think we made two reasonably big mistakes. Both mistakes prevented us as a company from achieving critical mass as a company in a specific geography — i.e. Seattle. The first mistake: we weren’t aggressive enough in customer acquisition. The second mistake: we expanded out of Seattle in August 2005 and went national.

Sack is very thoughtful and probably could now write a book for entrepreneurs in local that would be very valuable.

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2 Responses to “Judy’s Book Lessons Learned”

  1. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    It’s somewhat simplistic, but I boil startup success down to three factors:

    1) Do you sell into a real, substantial, growing market?
    2) If yes, do you have a significant competitive advantage?
    3) If yes, can you operate your business profitably?

    In my experience most startups fail on #2. They find an interesting market but fail to create a differentiated product or service that allows them to gain significant market share.

    I think that’s what happened with Judy’s Book and Insider Pages. Nice enough sites, but neither unique enough to build significant market share. I think you can contrast them with Yelp. All focused on the same market (social media meets local search) but Yelp’s solution was more unique and compelling.

  2. zippy Says:

    “The first mistake: we weren’t aggressive enough in customer acquisition. The second mistake: we expanded out of Seattle in August 2005 and went national.”

    In other words, “Despite being unable to make any advertising sales in our test market. we still decided to expand the model to markets nationwide.”

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