Seeing Interactive (Own Local)

A local business directory sold through small-town newspapers.
Batch: 2010 Winter
Status: Successful

Seeing Interactive (Own Local)

A local business directory sold through small-town newspapers.
Batch: 2010 Winter
Status: Successful


Our first product was a print-to-web conversion system that immediately generates revenue for small newspapers:

We are currently working on our next product, which is an online directory system. We do not have a demo for that right now, but we will by the time YC interviews roll around.

A local business directory sold through small-town newspapers. The goal is to integrate hyper-local community and business information into a format that users can trust in their small towns.

The directory will be branded as the newspaper's own, allowing businesses to update their information, add photos, news, and daily specials. Consumers will be able to comment and review. Eventually businesses will be able to pick a domain name and template to have a full-fledged website with the ability to sell their products on the internet. Think the Yellowpages plus Yahoo! Merchant Solutions divided by Angie's List.

By leveraging trust that small newspapers have with their local advertisers we will create a nation wide network of businesses that feels local.

Meanwhile, we automate and streamline every news-delivery task that we possibly can. The eventual goal is to create an all-encompassing online suite of tools for small newspapers: we won't be happy until small, ailing newspapers are able to cut their workforce by 30%. Eventually we will provide the tools necessary to abandon print media altogether


High school produces much that is sub-impressive. One result for us, now 12 years in the running, was the creation of an international holiday. Mind you, it is only celebrated by about 100 people--but we have met people outside of our influence, and even from other countries, who celebrate the day.

Observed on Dec. 27th and known as the "twenty-seventh" or "the new day". We created the day in response to the nonsensical notion of people being over-excited about the new year, when in fact it is just another day. Festivities include your standard revelry on the evening of Dec. 26th, followed by the collective singing of Louis Armstrong's rendition of "What a Wonderful World" to bring in the day

While running the web department for a small daily newspaper, lloydarmbrust grew page-view traffic by 850% and revenue by 400%--during that process he built a web presence that won several national awards and accomplished goals that he was told would never work at a small-town newspaper.

Nine months after starting his first job, jnovek had to ask his boss for a new set of responsibilities because he had replaced his entire daily routine with a collection of cron jobs and shell scripts.

Our very first customer wanted a contract. This customer is notoriously picky about contract terms, and a bolierplate off the internet wouldn't work. We had just spent about$3k on the incorporation process, and didn't want to drop another $2k on additional lawyer fees.

Instead, I spent twelve hours scouring the web for example web-service agreements, random contracts, and a few forms purchased from Legal Zoom. It turns out that lawyers use code just like hackers -- it felt a bit like learning PHP. Being an English major at heart, it was actually pretty fun.

At the end I had a 15-page contract. I paid the lawyer $300 to look it over, he said: "Nice. Well written. Where'd you get it?"

14 years and we met in high school. Lloyd is a Libra and Jason Pisces--we both enjoy long walks on the beach, and the gentle sound of the mandolin.

Both--we don't want to become butchers or bakers, we want to be start-up founders. When we're 80 we both hope to be starting-up something . . . we love this crap.

Paying for food and shelter is the only thing on the table. Our commitment is to this company--we aren't some kids out of school who want to flip a start-up for quick exit and fast cash. We are serious about saving the newspaper industry and we will succeed with or without funding.


7 months and 2834 lines of Ruby, SQL and sh, plus a large but uncounted volume of HTML templates.

Our first product is nearly ramen profitable. Although our current product is in a market that is rapidly losing value -- print to web ad conversion -- it still helps us build relationships with these newspapers and makes them money (adds about 5% to their bottom line).

Our second product is weeks away from its first release. We are launching at one of our partner newspapers on November 9th--they have already pre-sold about 50 customers to the online directory so we will have immediate revenue from that, and several of our other papers are anxious to launch as well.


Newspapers have been operating under a failed business model for 10 years.

We're rebuilding newspapers by creating profitable web products and optimizing their sales process with online tools. This both makes money and cuts costs. What's novel is that we're saving the newspaper for their relationships with millions of local businesses, and showing them how to make money again.

What are newspapers doing without us? They are dying: and that doesn't include weeklies. Our products make newspapers money and bring local communities together.

Not Google or Yahoo. They've both tried to partner with newspapers, and never thought big enough. Facebook is a definite possibility: their biggest growth right now is coming from baby boomers. Thankfully Facebook hasn't figured out how a local online community should look, as they seem to think that business information should be displayed in the same way as profile information.

Like many YC applicants, we're most worried about other start-ups. Right now there are other start-ups working on this problem -- and they're not married, have no social life, and have been doing it for a lot longer.

We are already making money. Our current product grosses several thousand dollars per month in revenue.

Our most immediate source of revenue is direct from newspapers. Each newspaper pays us between several hundred and several thousand dollars for services. In the future, we will also present products directly to small businesses through newspaper ad reps in a tiered pricing scheme.

For example, the local directory product that we are currently developing will sell directly to businesses for between $20 and $200 per month and we get a cut. The customers who are buying these services are accustomed to paying $40 just to place business-card sized ads in the paper once a week, so if they are interested in marketing via the internet, this purchase should be a no-brainer. Really though, it doesn't matter what we charge: $n 6,000,000 small-business is a number we can live with.


We inc'd as a Texas S-Corp in March 2009 and we each own a 50% share. lloydarmbrust put in $18k for start-up costs and jnovek put in sweat--lots of it.


We spend so much time thinking about newspapers and local advertising, that we find that our ideas can almost always be integrated into our current goals. However, here are some annoying things that need to be fixed: a clothing recommendation engine or Zappos plusAmazon for shirts and pants; online grocery shopping application with an Amazon-style recommendation engine, ie, "it's been two weeks since you've purchased milk, do you want that added to your order?"; a search or recognition engine that matches houses or cars to a unique set of user-entered values, ie, John is a traveling salesman who wants an efficient vehicle with plenty of room to install his laptop; and a kayak-style travel search for idle corporate and private jets--both for buyers and sellers.

Children are useless until around the age of three. I never thought it would take them that long to become real people.


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