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Road trip

by henrycopeland
Saturday, September 30th, 2006

There’s a great entrepreneurial anecdote in today’s WSJ:

Mr. Conning, who grew up in Berkeley, California, quit his day job at Charles Schwab Corp. in 2002 and used his savings to start a Web site called Funtigo. That site let people share photos with each other for free, then asked them to pay to upgrade to a premium version to keep using the service. The site bombed, shutting down in February 2004.

Around that time several dozen Funtigo users — many who happened to be teenage girls — sent Mr. Conning plaintive emails asking him to let them keep using the service for free. Mr. Conning gathered those notes in one folder and decided to experiment. He created a new Web page at, which led to a free site he had built called Piczo. The new site borrowed a few ideas from social networking, at the time a nascent trend. Then he wrote back to about 100 of the teenagers who had emailed him earlier, telling them they could keep using the service if they switched to Piczo.

It was Piczo’s first and only marketing push. The original batch of users quickly spread the word to friends, and friends of friends.

Today, Piczo has 10 million unique visitors a month. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you’ll ignore the first part of the story and draw the conclusion that “e-mailing 100 people can lead to 10 million users.” Later, you’ll discover there’s a less optimistic reading. Serving 100 people IS a great seed for a business… but which 100 people?

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