Genealogy in India

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that World Vital Records’ India page ranks #3 in MSN for "india genealogy." I’m still trying to convince FundingUniverse.com to roll out 6 regional web sites in India, as suggested by an Indian entrepreneur who explained to me how startup funding might naturally happen in that country. I don’t know if I’ve blogged about it, but 3 years ago I read "India Unbound" by the first venture capitalist in India, Gurcharan Das. It is an absolutely incredible look at the economic revolution that has been occuring in India since 1991. I am very optimistic about the future of India, which will be the world’s most populated country by about 2030.

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International Genealogy and Search Engine Rankings

For many years I have wanted Ancestry.com to go international, since the world population is more than 20 times larger than the U.S. population. I felt that a Rootsweb-type model could be done in virtually every country of the world, followed at sime time, by an Ancestry-type subscription model. The one (a user generated content model) would lead to the other (a premium database model.)

Note: I left the company in February 2002 and have no inside information about the company or its plans.

Since the company hired Tim Sullivan as its 6th CEO in 8 years (I was the first, then hired my brother Curt, who was replaced by Greg Ballard, and then Dave Moon, Tom Stockham, and now Tim Sullivan), there are strong signs that Ancestry is going international, and in a big way. It’s very exciting for me to watch. I’m very pleased with the German web site that Ancestry launched, and of course the company has done great things in the UK and Canada.

When I first learned about Tim Sullivan, I heard that in his previous role as CEO of Match.com he had helped Match.com go into 27 countries, or something like that. So I suspected this was coming. This is a very good thing for the company as well as for genealogists worldwide. Tim has made a number of very good decisions in the past year, and in the past few months I’ve seen an acceleration of good moves being made by the company. I’m very encouraged.

When I decided to get back into the genealogy industry full-time, just a few months ago, we decided to try to focus on things that were not being addressed yet by the larger companies in the genealogy space. We have started beefing up our international search engines, and working on user generated content features that will be rolling out in the coming weeks. In addition, I’m planning to travel internationally to work with content partners worldwide. I have several such trips in the works.

Even though we are a small company, we have a generous approach to working with content partners and an incredible online marketing team that is generating more traffic and customers every month, so our royalty pool is becoming sizeable. We know we will make a good partner for many international content owners.

One of our keys to success internationally will be search engine optimization that will enable us to attract visitors from all over the world to our web pages with no marketing costs. With pay-per-click costs increasing, natural search becomes the key way for a company to grow and grow profitably.

Our efforts in this regard are beginning to pay off. We rank #1 on MSN.com for “china genealogy“, “chile genealogy“, “kenya genealogy“, “philippines genealogy“, “portugal genealogy“, “tonga genealogy“, “turkey genealogy“, and “vietnam genealogy.” We rank in the top 10 in Google, Yahoo and MSN for many other countries already. And as we roll out genealogy web pages for every town and city in the world, and for every surname in the world, and as our users beginning sharing content with each other, all of this content will be optimized for search engines as well as for mobile phones.

After leaving MyFamily.com in 2002 I ran an internet marketing agency called 10x Marketing that did search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, and affiliate marketing for many companies. And our World Vital Records team has excellent skills in these areas as well.

So keep an eye on World Vital Records and our forthcoming FamilyL— web site, as our natural search rankings continue to grow our total web site traffic will get very robust.

We know that having 13.8 million pages of content indexed by Google, like Rootsweb does, almost all of it user generated, is a great way to attract millions of monthly visitors, the way Rootsweb does.

We have only 17,400 pages indexed by Google right now, but this should grow by two orders of magnitude this year as our strategy begins to play out. And when it does, we will become a significant participant in the international genealogy space.

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Crash Course in Internet Marketing starts March 15th

Yesterday I met with about a dozen entrepreneurs who came to the Provo Labs Academy to learn about the 12-Week Crash Course in Internet Marketing that starts next Thursday, March 15th at 5 pm.

An email will be going out to about 1,000 Utah entrepreneurs early next week, as well as a few additional marketing efforts. We have room for at least 10 more people to sign up for the class, but space is limited, so sign up today at www.provolabs.com/academy/

We’ve conveniently scheduled the class for Thursdays at 5 pm, so that both entrepreneurs and full-time working professionals can attend.

When you sign up for the Crash Course, you are also welcome to attend our Live Friday lectures every Friday at 12:30 pm at the Academy (yes, bring your own lunch) where we discuss all the news of the week that affects internet entrepreneurs and internet marketers. This is one of my favorite hours of the week. I invite my partners at World Vital Records and other Provo Labs portfolio companies to attend. The goal is to try to stay current with all the new companies, technologies, web sites, and marketing strategies, which is hard to do in an ever-changing world.

I go through dozens of RSS feeds each week from all of my favorite sources, including MarketingVOX, and try to select the top 10 news highlights of the week that internet marketers and entrepreneurs should be aware of.

Here’s an write up from one Live Friday session from a few months ago:

Every Friday at noon, our Provo Labs Academy members get together to discuss all the latest internet marketing news. I have promised to read MarketingVOX every day and to visit all the new web sites and try the new tools that affect internet marketing. Then I

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12-week course on Internet Marketing starts today (Thursday, March 8th)

Anyone who wants to attend the “after hours” 12-week Provo Labs Academy internet marketing crash course can come to our first introductory lecture, tomorrow (Thursday, March 8th) at 5 pm. To learn more about the course, check out www.provolabs.com/academy/ and register online. Tomorrow is free, so come even if you are just thinking about signing up for the $995 course. And bring a friend, if you want. But please RSVP online.

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Required Reading for Web 2.0 Entrepreneurs

I just recommended that our World Vital Records team all get copies of the new book from 37signals called Getting Real. Get this: you can read it free online or buy a PDF or paperback version of it. They’ve sold 20,000 copies so far.

I will probably read part of it online and then buy the paperback version so I can mark it up like crazy, and put my notes at the end of the book the way Tim Sander’s teaches you to read in “Love Is the Killer App” (my most highly recommended business book of all time.)

Also, I was on a Facebook online marketing group tonight and found out that Paul Graham’s Y Combinator has released a reddit-like news aggregator for startup entrepreneurs. Check it out: it’s going to be recommended reading for all the entrepreneurs I know.

Paul Graham’s Y Combinator is an incredibly cool incubator/seed stage funding mechanism with an incredible focus on technology startups. If I ever do an incubator again (after spending the next N years running World Vital Records), I’ll meet with Paul first and try to learn from what he is doing. I think he’s nailing it.

But, I may never do an internet incubator again, since Geni just demonstrated that a genealogy/family social networking web site can become worth $100 million in about 8 months.

Can you believe it!!! With 100,000 users in less than 2 months, and with $10 million in new funding (at a $100 million post-money valuation) Geni is poised to become one of the most important players in the genealogy world.

It will be interesting to see their revenue model, as it unfolds.

We found at MyFamily.com that it was nearly impossible to make money with online advertising. When people are engaging with their family in private communications and content sharing, they are in what we called a “heads down” mode, that is, they were really focused on their family, and not willing to click on advertisements. We tried all kinds of things, but nothing worked.

Many other content sites are “heads up” sites, where people are in exploring or research mode and are totally ready to view ads and click on them. Our advertising click rates at MyFamily.com (where I worked from 1996-2002) were about low as I have ever seen anywhere.

So the Geni model, if it is advertising based, will be interesting to watch.

My guess is that Geni could be like YouTube–get acquired for a ton of money because of its number of users, without any regard whatsoever to revenue. That surely must be what the venture investors are thinking. If an exit like that happens, more power to them.

But if an exit like that doesn’t happen, in other words, if Geni is required to make money (and a lot of it because the valuation is so high), then the company might have to severely compromise its user experience, and bombard people with online and email ads in order to survive.

World Vital Records has been working on its “MySpace for Families” business for several months now, before we had heard about Geni’s launch in January. So we believe in this space. But unfortunately, we weren’t the first one’s to launch a real Web 2.0 application for family history.

But we believe that our angle is very unique. Our team has deep roots in family history, and our approach is very different from Geni’s, although we can certainly learn a lot from what they are doing. Our social network site won’t have to make money because our genealogy subscription site is doing that for us (we had a record month in February), so it can focus on member acquisition and user generated content.

Our site will be called FamilyL— something. Stay tuned.

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Last chance for Utah entrepreneurs to get $100,000 in funding at Governor’s Summit

Utah is a very friendly state for startup companies. It ranks in the top few states for entrepreneurship. We have a great economic environment, a well educated work force, and a very growth-oriented governor. Plus, we have FundingUniverse.com, headquartered right here in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com and Grow Utah Ventures will select five entrepreneurs to present their business plans on March 22nd at Governor Huntsman’s Economic Summit, in front of a live audience at Grand America Hotel (the finest hotel in Salt Lake City.) The audience will include angel investors from nearly every angel group in Utah. And the winning entrepreneur will receive an investment of up to $100,000 from these angels.

The application deadline is tomorrow, March 6th. Click here to apply.

Even if you aren’t chosen to present at this exclusive event, by submitting your plan to FundingUniverse.com (for free) your plan will be viewable by scores of angel investors in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com operates nationwide, with nearly 750 angel investors and VCs nationwide using the site to find early stage deals. Submit your plan and then call to find out when the next Speedpitching event will be held in your region.

Note: I helped found FundingUniverse.com in early 2005 and Provo Labs is a significant shareholder in the company.

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