Startup Analysis – Part 2: Gliider, can a Browser Plugin have a successful Business Model?

It’s time to focus on the second part of that post about Browser Plugins. I first wanted to thank people who have sent me their comments regarding the post, there are some good insights in there.

I also wanted to say that I actually met Jordan Stolper, the CEO of Gliider and I was impressed by his energy and his flexibility to make things happen for his product. It is great to see such an entrepreneur, passionate and dedicated. Congratulation on what you have achieved so far Jordan! Here is a the link again to his site: Gliider do try to the product, it’s really worth it.

Of course, as many of you have noticed, I was not necessarily criticizing Gliider in particular, but I felt it was a good example of a Firefox plugin and wanted to take it as a business model for others who are considering building some and make money from them. So let’s recap the main finding from the first part of this analysis:

– The plugin basically would need so much install on Firefox that it makes it very hard to reach a potential income level to make the company really sustainable. CTR’s would certainly be too small, and revenue sharing not high enough either.

What can they do to make this work then? I see different path:

1 – More volume through more platform: Gliider doesn’t have to be a Firefox plugin only, and from what I understood talking to Jordan, they are planning other browser’s integration. This is a good way to have a lot more volume.

2 – More applications: Gliider is dedicated to Travel. Such “temporary bookmark” could be very useful as a repository for all kinds of searches. Think job search, healtcare search, real-estate, cars, toys, electronic, anything you can search.. Think about how you do you search when you want to buy something. You go around different sites, look a comparison, gather information in bookmarks, print stuff out, show that to your spouse or friends, ask you buddies on facebook and twitter, etc.. All this search could be gathered into a “Gliider” repository in a sleeker way than anything I have talked about here. I can really view Gliider as something a lot more than Travel and Jordan knows that too.

Some ways to make money would be at first to be a referrer to amazon or similar shopping site (that’s pretty easy with their APIs) and grab commissions on the sells. This is less seasonal than Travel in general.

Another way, would be to aggregate searches around specific subjects and bring those up on a Web site accessible by everyone. Wouldn’t you love to benefit from the searches of others on particular subjects? You are looking at buying a new Google Phone, well maybe (surely) some guy would have put together through their Gliider, a whole bunch of really good content from all over the web that would fasten your own search really well.

The incentive for sharing this on a user side could be some type of Rankings as you see on every forum or reviews. Opening up those searches for comments would allow to create unique content and drive SEO value for the site.

3 – Finding some application that would extend the product for the enterprise. Why the enterprise? Well, it’s a great way to come up with version pricing with a free version for individual/private use, and a paid version for the enterprise. The Paid version would be used for inside intranet/documents found around the internal network. That requires the company to be sufficiently large of course, but there are many of those. The gathering/then sharing feature of a gliider inside a company could also improve overall efficiency (reducing costs) and obviously be a good value proposition (quantifiable).

4 – Custom version. Although I’m not very found of this solution for startups because it requires a lot of specific (custom) work for a particular implementation (that you have to maintain afterward), it is still a good way to kick start the company. If the product is interesting enough so that a particular web site would be interested to use it as a channel to promote its internal content, then Gliider could develop/skin the product to a companies need and let them use it that way. It’s a hard sell, but could have some really good potential (especially for volume). The things to be careful about in those kind of deals are (among many others): Branding, revenue sharing, who hosts what, who has SLA or not, who maintains, who reports, etc, etc.. There are a lot of points to negotiate.

5 – Building many other plugins. In point 2, I was talking about extension of Gliider into other area, but as a Startup, you could imagine building many other plugins and create as much as a market place for your products. With every new plugin comes development time, marketing effort/spending, and maintenance, so it is costly! But isn’t that what every game developers do on iPhone with a portfolio of games – hoping one of them will really make it to pay for all the others.. ;-). This is not my favorite solution, but it is a possibility to consider. You should balance the effort/potential ratio of each of those plugins and take decision accordingly.

6 – One last solution I see is really to keep iterating on it as a side project which would basically make it a very low cost solution. This is not the best either as it implies that people involved would not be focused fully on the product and that slows down things significantly.

I hope that post can help Jordan (or at least give him some things to chew on..) and hopefully will make others think about all those issues before starting a new plugin. A quick number analysis can make or break a decision and people shouldn’t be afraid of giving project a No Go if they find out that it is simply impossible to work. Solution 6 has been employed by many entrepreneurs and it does work in early stages of a company, but try to think farther down the road and look at the big picture. What can our product be when it’s fully deployed and how much money will you need to sustain it?

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