In 2007 I launched a Green Rewards programme on a shoe string budget, ie less than £50k (= my redundancy). More than a just demonstration website, the rewards programme was fully functional with 250,000 products advertised at its peak.
By some miracle those numbers of products helped it to develop a bit of traction quite quickly, mainly due to a bit of luck (we’d presented information super clearly and in an SEO compliant manner) and Google’s famously generous algorithm at that time. It even attracted a clutch of positive reviews and interesting imitators popped up too. But the “green space” was still rather niche, even if this reward programme was designed for people who did not define themselves that way. Not hard core eco-warriors rather the eco-worriers, who lack the time and inclination to do in depth research on which tea bags, washing machines, corporations and brands are exploitative or killing the planet.
In the end, for all good things must end, it was not the ‘me too’ competition that killed the programme, rather the lack of any significant follow on finance. No angels and no VCs, no series A or B. That and the novelty.
Despite a wide range of “sophisticated” and novel cashback schemes (some quite dubious) and reward programmes coming on stream and preceding it proving there was a potentially viable business model, few of my mates said they had any compelling reason to use the programme. They simply didn’t get it. A salutory lesson. The arsehole in the Scottish Enterprise High Growth programme who dismissed the idea as a “life-style” business.
Anyway, I really should have spent less on the initial technical development (yes, creating a rather elegant minimum viable product was satisfying even before scrum was a thing) and a whole lot more on courting the significant finance for the next stage.
Rule 1: don’t spend all of your first tranche of funding, before you have secured the next;
(Rule 2: make sure that funding isn’t your own;
Rule 3: set aside the same again (and double it) for marketing;
Rule 4: don’t give up the day job, yet.)Confucious
Now, the programme had been retired for a year or so, but today we decided to close the it down for good. We were happy for the site to be up for pure demonstration purposes, though we had long since closed the door to new and old customers. Technology moves on and we were not prepared to run a server with deprecated software any longer than we could get away with.
The best bit is that for the first time we can show off what was going on behind the scenes and why we were so proud of our achievements. Okay it is a bit impressionistic, but impressive all the same.
Over at the Ecomonkey Blog we have snapped a few screenshots of the system in operation.