Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Interview with Daniel Scalisi, MyLifeBrand
Seattle-based MyLifeBrand (www.mylifebrand.com) is focused on providing a service for connecting social networking sites--as well as a way to create private label social networking communities for companies. The firm is currently in the midst of moving here to Southern California, has been talking with local investors, and also has all of its business development folks here in Los Angeles. Because of that, we thought it would be appropriate to talk to Daniel Scalisi, the firm's Executive Vice President, about what MyLifeBrand is all about. Daniel talked with socalTECH's Ben Kuo.
What's the idea behind MyLifeBrand?
Daniel Scalisi: MyLifeBrand was created to solve a few problems we saw in the market, and to take advantage of the opportunities. At the core, MyLifeBrand is a social browser platform. It's a website that allows users to manage external and internal communities. That includes MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The internal communities pieces is being created on our platform by companies who are looking to engage their member base. It's a single platform, where you can seamlessly navigate your external and internal sites they may want to join. What we recognize, is that people are part of multiple social networks. We are trying to create a single browsing experience for managing someone's social life. For communities, who have recognized that their member bases are going to social networks which allow them to create their own groups around associates or companies, why shouldn't they find a way to engage their member base in a similar form?
We launched in June of this year, and were in Alpha mode until August, when we went into beta. Typically, our focus has been on building membership, where we have been partnering with communities of interest--faith based, nonprofit, sports, entertainment, and other communities by providing a free community tools platform. We're essentially seeding our member community with their member base. That way, we are adding people thousands as a time, rather than as individuals. On the other side, we have started a search engine optimization and search engine marketing push to drive adoption from the individual user side.
That's really what our platform does--number one, it's a service which provides free aggregation, browsing, and syndication of all of your communities, social networking sites, and services. Number two, it's a customizable tool to create a community; and number three, it's a marketing platform that communities and users can leverage to market their own community and build membership.
Is this service advertising based?
Daniel Scalisi: The community is advertising based. Unlike other social networking sites, if you're helping to drive traffic, we're giving you a percentage of revenue. Individuals actually get rewarded in a number of ways, including converting rewards to cash, and for things like building their friends list.
How did the company start, and what's the background of the founders?
Daniel Scalisi: The company has been in stealth mode for the past year, building out the platform. We brought in alpha testers, and have been shaping the user experience based on user feedback. We went live publicly in June, announcing our platform. To date, we've raised three quarters of a million in seed funding, and have another quarter million committed. Since June, we've been producing revenues, and have accrued $300,000 in revenues so far. We expect to have more than $1M in revenues for our first year. In parallel with our bridge round of $1M, we're now seeking a Series A. From a technology standpoint, we're based in Seattle, but from a business development and marketing background, we're based in Los Angeles. Jeff Jani, our CEO, is out of Disney, and he built and sold a company around some unique technology to Microsoft. I myself, have built three different startups--this is my fourth--all of them in the digital media/Internet space. Some of the rest of the team come from Kintera, which is a SoCal company, and our other folks have deep community building experience through their own prior experience as well.
What is behind the community sites you have been building?
Daniel Scalisi: That's an example of our business development efforts. We wanted to go after communities who had a member base, but lacked the social interactivity which caused their members to end up seeking other social networks. Recently, we announced our network for the Utah Jazz community. We partnered with their community, and gave them our tools, in exchange for a marketing drive to build traffic on their community. These groups have recognized that groups have formed without them, and they need to provide a solution if they want to be in the game. The fact that users can also access MySpace along with other things on their platform is interesting, because the business is based on revenue share and activities on their page.
One big final piece is the aggregation of social networks, friends, and pages. In October, we're introducing Wamoeba, which is a widget which will allow users and communities to share with anyone, their collection of social networks, pages, and content. This tool allows a community to publish--through a widget--to MySpace, Facebook, and other services, without having to directly manage those pages. Instead of managing those pages, you just post the embedded widget. That's the final piece of the loop, which is how to make it a platform for not just aggregation but also for publishing and syndication.
Talking with other social networking sites, we hear that advertising CPMs are not so good for social networking. What's your view on this?Daniel Scalisi: CPMs tend not to be good when they're run of site. The magic of CPMs is available inventory, and specifics of the audience base. What we're doing is creating a microcosm of networks, which are all searchable and joinable, which we think will drive richer CPMs with the right balance of pages. It's not an excessive amount of inventory. Frankly, advertisers want real segmented audiences, and the thing with MySpace in general is it has been an unruly "one size fits all." With our platform, they can market into Christian, military, and other groups specifically, and know who they're reaching. The other thing is we're going to be enabling the community to market to other communities, through a Google-style bidding solution. Communities can say, look for the following demographic, to determine which communities to bid and market into.
I'd also add, there are four pieces of revenue to our business--we're not entirely focused on ad revenue. The other three pieces are number one, customization revenue, where most of our revenue is derived from to date. Many companies want a high degree of customization and are paying for it. Then, there is certainly contextual commerce. There are opportunities on sites where a transaction can occur, and where we have a partners supplying transactions and affiliate fees. The fourth, is data analytics, where we sell and share data analytics around certain communities. So, there are certainly several pieces of revenue.