For more than 3 years, every evening at 8:30 PM I used to receive an e-mail from www.OhLife.com – an online diary keeping application / portal. All I had to do was reply to it, recording my day in terms of happenings and emotions and it went to the portal as my day’s entry. It also sent me an old entry from the diary that reminded me of what I felt the same day last year or last month or last week. Sometimes I wrote at length and sometimes it was just a one liner capturing the day.
All my life I wanted to maintain a diary, but could never discipline myself to do the same. I have a diary of the days that were extreme days wither on the happiness scale or the sorrow scale, which are countable in numbers. Most usual days with their every day ups and downs were lost to sheer laziness. With Ohlife, I never missed day. Even when I was not connected, I would jot down entries for the last few days as soon as I got connected. And I have a record of all my 1000 odd days.
I had a free account but the portal also offered a paid premium account too. In all 3+ years I never heard from the company and I actually found it quite non-intrusive and loved the portal for the same reason.
A few days back I got a mail from the founders saying they are shutting down the portal and the users can export all their entries. For premium accounts, they said they would refund the fees on a pro-rata basis. They reason for the shut down was that they could not make it commercially viable and hence can not sustain it further. When I wrote to them asking if there is we can do to help them remain live – I got no answer.
It is an example of a beautiful concept that was loved by its users going kaput. It even had the stickiness built in its model as all its users touch based with the portal at least once a day and that is a huge stickiness that most businesses would die to have. What went wrong then? Could they not rope in the right advertisers? Could they not build premium features that would tell their level 1 customers to upgrade and pay for the services – I would have happily paid a reasonable fee for this service? Could they have appealed to their users before taking the drastic decision of shutting it down? Could they have sold the portal to someone who could turn it around and make it commercially successful – in my opinion that was a very strong possibility?
A lot of entrepreneurs tell me that they are building a great product and they are not even thinking of revenues or a revenue model. This is a great example of such thinking. For any business to be successful, entrepreneur must have a clear revenue model in place – which may be tweaked based on the market response or changing conditions, but not thinking about one, because you are too busy building a product is preparing for a disaster.