Sramana: Did you start a marketplace for photography or for flash files?
Collis Ta’eed: Selling Flash on a photography site did not make a lot of sense. It was not meeting our needs, but we were able to see enough of the Flash files selling that we could tell there was indeed customer demand. We built the marketplace to meet customer demands as well as to provide a service that was better of sellers of Flash.
Sramana: What types of things were sold on a Flash exchange?
Collis Ta’eed: These days Flash does not do as much as it used to, but back then it was all about site animation. From that Flash marketplace we branched out into other marketplaces and today we have nine of them. Today our largest marketplaces are for website templates as well as Adobe After Effects templates. When you go to the movies and see cool trailers, you are probably watching something that was made in Adobe After Effects. We also have background music marketplaces which is often used in advertising. The marketplaces are very much an exchange. We branched out from Flash into several design marketplaces.
Sramana: When you started the first marketplace, how did you get your buyers and sellers? There is always a chicken-and-egg question to be answered.
Collis Ta’eed: That is right, and it was a real problem. We were a bootstrapped company. We founded it with our savings and our credit cards. Our approach was to do a grassroots marketing campaign. We started with content we created ourselves, and we commissioned a little bit of content ourselves. Based on that content, we went over to other sites and started chatting with people to get them to check us out.
The first challenge is to get initial momentum, and then the second challenge is to ramp that up. A few months later we rolled out a strategy where we gave away thousands of dollars of free money on the marketplace. That stimulated sales for sellers and helped buyers see how they could use the site. Four weeks later we had reached a thousand dollars of revenue per week. That was a real turning point for me. It was around Christmas and we were on vacation, and it was exciting to log in and see an income report that gave us hope.
Sramana: That was essentially your business idea being validated.
Collis Ta’eed: That was exactly it. It was not enough for us to draw a salary, but it did show us that the business had legs and it could go somewhere.