Posts Tagged ‘Startup company’

Freemium and the credit crunch

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

There has been a lot of debate in the blogosphere over the past week about the crunch and its potential effect on startups. A Sequoia presentation has been circulating which is a must read for anyone involved in a startup – you can read it here. The presentation paints a pretty bleak and, in my opinion, realistic picture of the next couple of years and tells startups to focus on preserving capital and getting to profitability.

We have been debating our business model and the merits of having both a free and premium product (dubbed by Fred Wilson as a freemium strategy). The thinking behind a freemium strategy is that the best way for a startup to build a decent size paying customer base is to launch a free version and get viral growth and then convert your top customers to pay for the service by offering premium features.

The counter argument to the freemium strategy that has emerged with the credit crunch and looming recesssion is that start ups need to focus on getting to profitability, so they should not be giving away free product, but focusing on getting paid customers.

I have been personally wrestling with this debate and even left a comment on Fred Wilson’s blog questioning whether Freemium was a suitable strategy for these lean times, particularly the points made on slide 46 of the Sequoia presentation (importance of established revenue model, understanding of market uptake, customers’ ability to pay, profitablity, cash) . He came back to me saying he thought that Freemium is a great way, maybe the best way, to achieve all the suggestions on slide 46.

I guess what he means by this is that you will not get better marketing for your product than initially giving it away (or a version of it). You will get lots and lots of customers using your product that would not have otherwise done so. If your product is any good, they will tell their friends, some of whom will also try your product. The key is then implementing the Freemium strategy so that you can optimise the number of paying customers. If you have a great product and lots of people take it up, even a small percentage of that base would make up a large paying customer base which would have cost a lot of marketing money to acquire.

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