Until mid-2000, not many businesses were convinced that social media and internet would become the preferred medium for connecting with customers. Until 2005, there wasn’t any effective platform for these businesses to successfully use the power of internet connectivity and many didn’t have the resources available to venture into e-marketing on their own. It was expensive to use internet!
However, things have changed now. Social media is in, and traditional medium for advertising, promotion, branding and connecting with customers is facing tough challenges! Currently, the easy, cheaper and preferred medium for connecting with customers in via internet – Now majority of small and medium sized businesses are utilizing the opportunities for greater interaction with a much larger customer base with the help of digital media tools and strategic marketing techniques. A complete contrast to mid-2000 when Yodle.com was one of the first service websites launched to provide e-marketing solutions for small businesses.
Nathaniel Stevens started his entrepreneurial venture in March 2005, after getting the initial idea during his work in his father’s auto dealership in Connecticut as an “Internet Sales Manager “. At the time he was a part of Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, a scholarship program to initiate and develop entrepreneurial ventures. Using his personal funds, Stevens started developing the business plan, software and programming needed for the launch of Yodle.com (then named Natpal). The eventual goal was to prove the concept of using internet as the tool for promotion to potential customers.
Striving to reach their $20,000 milestone, the founders sold small marketing packages, slowly building up a customer base which led to further referrals and contracts. Yodle was not offered for public funding until it had crossed the $1 Million mark:
“It was a wise decision because it allowed us to maintain a larger stake in the business as founders, and it helped us avoid making mistakes with large sums of money while we got the core kernel of the business really perfected.”
Proving the business viability and gradual success, Stevens was able to raise four rounds of funding from 2006 – 2010 totaling $35 million from investors like JAFCO, Bessemer Venture Partners, Draper Fischer Jurvetson, and Draper Fischer Jurvetson Growth.
The funding was successful because of the sound business strategy Yodle followed and the results that were already beginning to show. Afterwards, the website expanded steadily, increasing its services, customers and profitability. Currently Yodle.com caters to 30,000 individuals and businesses, offering web presence development and search engine optimization which lead to tangible results in the form of increased customer awareness and business. Yodle’s revenue in 2011 was $88 million, an increase of 40% over 2010. The company is run by 700 employees under the current CEO Court Cunningham, who was brought on board in 2007 as Stevens shifted his focused on product development.
Stevens has been recognized by DM News, “2008 Top 30 Under 30” and BusinessWeek, “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25”, 2008 for his venture. In 2009 he returned to his university to graduate in May 2010. Currently he is looking for new venture and investment opportunities.
Some simple ideas can become great success, it is however important to plan well and plan ahead!
About the author
Passionate Trainer, Blogger and social media strategist - Qualified from US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Organization Management, I have been engaged in Private Sector Development for over 22 years. Love reading, traveling, mentoring. Professionally, I am working as Deputy Country Director at Center for International Private Enterprise (Pakistan Office) - My blogposts cover topics related to Entrepreneurship, Management, Career and Social Media. You can join me at Google+ or Facebook.
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