Sramana Mitra: I see. You were going into networks and finding which clients of those networks had strong landing pages, and then going after them and telling them that you would optimize their campaigns and get them further enhancements.
Stephan Goss: I wasn’t operating on their campaign. I was risking my own money. I wasn’t telling them, “Hey, I’ll spend $1,000 on your behalf. If it works, you give me $100.” I was spending $1,000 of my own money, and they would pay me on a cost-per-action. For every acquisition that they did, I would get $5.
Sramana Mitra: You were running an affiliate marketing yourself.
Stephan Goss: That’s correct.
Sramana Mitra: Got it. That’s a very different traffic than buying traffic.
Stephan Goss: I was finding large companies that had existing affiliate programs. I would spend my own money and just be good at the acquisition side to drive the price down.
Sramana Mitra: You were an affiliate of a number of different companies that had good conversion ratios.
Stephan Goss: That necessarily had good conversation rates. It’s an important factor but it’s just ROI. How much would I spend to get a customer? How much would I be able to cover?
Sramana Mitra: This is happening in what time frame? 2007?
Stephan Goss: No, 2009 and 2010.
Sramana Mitra: What was the next major milestone where something interesting happens?
Stephan Goss: Stuff would work great for weeks. I’ll make $10,000 in a day but then the next day, you lose $5,000. There’s no consistency and things just die out. Unless I start to build the website again, it would be incredibly hard to get long-term consistency. We started building our own acquisition landing pages. That way we could control the conversion rates. Then on top of that, we started using the questions methodology to really start qualifying people into different verticals.
Sramana Mitra: When you were asking questions, were you also capturing their email addresses?
Stephan Goss: Correct. That’s actually how we started. Then we added phone numbers to it. Then we started asking questions in order to be able to sell the data at a much higher rate.
Sramana Mitra: Essentially, you started developing databases for specific verticals.
Stephan Goss: Correct.
Sramana Mitra: This started in 2010?
Stephan Goss: The Fall of 2010.