It appears that Shameless Self-Promotion Week has become Shameless Self-Promotion Month. Not that I am promoting any more companies than I had originally planned. I am still only talking about those businesses in which I have invested on behalf of August Capital. But, it turns out, it takes more time than I had anticipated to sing the praises of such a fantastic group of companies.
Just this past Friday, Craig Syverson and I recorded the latest installment of VentureCast at University Cafe in downtown Palo Alto. I had recently been discussing with a friend the fact that University Cafe has very much become a part of the startup economy again. Folks like Rajeev Motwani and Ron Conway spend a fair bit of time meeting with companies at University Cafe. Practically any time you're there you can look around a see deals getting done. In fact, shortly before Craig and I started recording VentureCast, the guys at the table next to ours were banging out the details of some sort of financing. Unfortunately, they had finished their negotiations before we started recording, or we might have captured the blow by blow on tape.
A couple years ago I was meeting with an executive from one of my portfolio companies at University Cafe. While we were talking, Rajeev wandered by and told me to come say "hi" before I headed out. Rajeev was talking with a smart group of guys about their new company in the local advertising space. Those folks were the founding team from DoneRight (at the time called Perform Local). I was intrigued by their business, impressed with the team, and a short time later I ended up funding their company.
The CEO of DoneRight was -- and is -- Paul Ryan. Paul is a phenomenal technologist. He had most recently been the CTO at Overture and, thus, had been part of the team that had pioneered the very concept of pay for performance. The idea at DoneRight was to create a pay for performance local advertising network that would allow local service providers to purchase valuable leads through DoneRight. By aggregating demand through on and off-line lead generation techniques, service providers could use DoneRight as their marketing arm, paying only for the leads they received. On behalf of the consumer, DoneRight would screen service providers for professional licenses, BBB complaints and the like, and only accept professionals onto the service that DoneRight was comfortable guarantying. Given this data-intensive, data-driven service, there was no one better to build DoneRight than Paul.
Because local services are . . . well . . . local, DoneRight has been rolling out their network on a city by city basis. With each new city, DoneRight gains more insight into how best to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed buying decisions, while providing service professionals with the channel they need to scale their businesses. The service launched in San Diego, and has rolled out to Denver, Chicago, Houston and Dallas over the course of this year. In 2008, DoneRight will expand considerably, using what they've learned in their first five metropolitan areas to optimize the DoneRight experience on a nationwide basis. To date, over 1,000 home improvement professionals have entered into prepaid performance agreements with DoneRight. While other online services have failed to gain meaningful sales traction with local businesses, DoneRight has been able to sign up its first thousand paying customers in record time, because it is providing real, measurable results for its business customers -- In the short time that it has been doing business in these few metropolitan areas, DoneRight has processed nearly 500,000 consumer requests for referral to a DoneRight certified service professional. And that number will scale dramatically as DoneRight expands nationwide.
DoneRight is another business in which I invested because of my love of data. Ultimately, the lead generation business is a numbers game. How much does it cost to acquire a lead? What will a service provider pay for it? Does it scale? Those were the questions that needed answering. And given Paul Ryan's background, I invested, confident that Paul would be able to produce the necessary infrastructure to answer those questions and create a scalable business. And he has. Better yet, as Paul and the company learn more about lead generation on a local level, they are able to apply that knowledge to each of their metropolitan areas, making each city more efficient and the overall business decidedly more profitable. If you live in San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Houston or Dallas and are looking for a guaranteed service professional, DoneRight.com is the place to go. And if you are living elsewhere, stay tuned. DoneRight will be coming to your neighborhood soon.