As part of a series on business development for startups, I sat down last Wednesday with Ryan Fujiu, who leads business development and marketing for About.me. About.me allows users to create a simple splash page that links together their profiles across all the major social networks. The service was launched in 2010, and acquired by AOL shortly thereafter.
“Our business development strategy primarily revolves around user acquisition and engagement,” said Fujiu. To that end, the company has launched a series of partnerships aimed at growing its user base and making its product more “sticky.” We reviewed a few of these:
- Printed Business Cards: In a partnership with Moo, About.me now allows users to create a set of physical business cards featuring their About.me profile for free. So far, there have been over 50,000 packs of cards ordered.
- Social Features: About.me was one of the first companies to integrate with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Klout, offering enhanced content and analytics on every user profile.
- Reputation Management: Reputation.com is a service that creates positive online content for its users. One of the ways it does this is by building profiles across various web services. Through a strong back-end integration, About.me profiles are now at the core of Reputation.com clients’ online presence.
- Celebrity Cache: In just the past month, partnerships with Heidi Klum and Polyvore, and a Times Square billboard contest have added thousands of users for About.me, and millions of impressions.
When it comes to consumer web startups, there are usually four main business development goals to keep in mind, according to Fujiu. These are user acquisition and distribution partnerships, providing value and services to users, marketing and brand awareness, and revenue-generating deals. Depending on the nature of the company and its stage, a good business development strategy should aim to accomplish these goals in varying degree.
Finally, Fujiu shared some advice for the business development professionals in the room:
- Know what’s out there: Read everything about your industry and competition.
- Take lots of meetings: You never know where the next creative partnership can come from.
- Be humble, be specific: When reaching out to a potential partner, make sure to be very respectful of their time, and have a specific request or idea.
- Introduce others: Business development deals are rarely direct or predictable – the more connections you make, the more they’ll return to you over time.
- Close deals: Create lists, manage a pipeline, and be meticulous about staying on top of the process for every conversation you’re in. The more deals you close, the more you can leverage them to close future deals.