In my previous post if been detailing 9 steps to make sure your startup exists. Inspired by an initial idea of Chris Exline, I decided to make a small survey of the startups admitted at the Incubator of Telecom ParisTech in 2007 and 2008 (startups are hosted 18 months by the incubator, and then kicked-out, that's the rule).
To figure out how well the startups of the incubator were doing, I came up with a simple score the startup websites.
Survival test for startup websites:
- +2 if look & fell is GOOD.
- +1 if look & fell is just OK (zero if horrid).
- +2 if benefits of product or service is clear.
- +1 if I must struggle to figure out the benefits.
(zero if I am still clueless about benefits after struggling)
- +1 if there is no happy talk
- +1 if PageRank is greater than 3 for a B2B company.
- +1 if PageRank is greater than 5 for a B2C company.
- +1 if there is an English version.
- +1 if people can buy or consume right away.
- +1 if there are news.
- +1 if there are forums.
The maximal score for this test is 10. One can argue that this test is very subjective. Frankly, after reviewing 50 companies, I rather think otherwise.
Any website with a decent, professional looking is ranked as GOOD with 2 points - no need for flashy graphics, decent is enough. In the other hand, if the website feels amateurish (colors messed-up, random layout) but still functional, then it's OK, you get 1 point. If the website is utterly broken in design or in navigation, then it's zero point.
Same for the benefits. If I can get a rough idea, in less than a minute, of the added-value of your company, then you get 2 points. I mean no need for detailed ideas, big picture is enough. If I have to struggle for 5 mins to finally guess what could be your added value, then it's 1 point. If after 5 mins, I am still utterly clueless, then it's zero point.
Concerning the PageRank, I am putting a much lower threshold for B2B website, because those folks typically need 100x times less customers than B2C companies to be profitable.
Not having a English version is like shooting yourself a bullet in your feet. The French market is small, so small, compared to USA+UK+Canada+India+Australia. To get 1 point here, you don't need to have translated everything in English, any portion that makes sense is enough.
In my opinion:
- any 6 months old startup should get at least 6/10.
- any 18 months old startup should get 9/10.
I have collected raw data for 52 startups within a Google Spreadsheet, and here are the results at present date 2009-04-21.
Disclaimer: I have a strong bias toward Lokad since it's my own company so it was removed from the study.
8 La Cartoonerie
3 Connect and Go
3 Patent Organizer Software
1 Système Polaire
Average score: 5.5
6 Ecce Vino
6 Quelle Energie
4 Eyes Triple Shut
4 Hedera Technology
3 Aquilant Technologies
3 The Metrics Factory
2 FI Technologies
2 Media Mobility
Average score: 5.3
To be honest, those results look rather poor to me.
- Two thirds of those startups don't offer any chance to their customer to buy or consume the product or service online.
- Roughly one third of those startups are not able to express the benefits they could bring to their customers.
- More than half of the startups can't get even a limited English version of their website.
Moreover, startups do not improve much over time. Considering 2007 vs 2008, if feel like if there were two categories of startups:
- the ones that got a good website right from the start.
- the ones that will never get a good one.
Yet, my own experience told me it's so obviously not true. Just have a look at the first version of the Lokad website and compare with the current one. Granted, I am still far from what Branding Geniuses could produce, but still.
I would be interested to see how other incubators are doing on their own.