Everything Old Is New Again... Including Some Of The Exact Same Startups
from the bubble-redux dept
Today we have what appears to be a first -- which is a company presenting itself as being "new" with a "new" idea, where it looks like both the company and the idea are actually somewhat old. The company, Ether.com, announced its product today to great fanfare on various blogs. The idea is pretty straightforward. You can set up a price at which people can call you. So, if you're an expert in something, you could, conceivably let people call you to pick your brain for a set price for a set time period. Does this sound familiar? Well, it certainly sounds like a web-based version of 1-900 numbers. And, if that sounds familiar, you may recall that greatly overhyped Keen.com hit the scene in late 1999 offering what sounds to be... um... the exact same thing (with over $70 million in funding): anyone could set themselves up as an expert to be called for a fee. It didn't take long before Keen basically became an alternative to the 1-900 system, and rather than "experts" selling their time (as the company pitched when it launched) many of its customers were in the phone sex and psychic hotline business. Okay, so Ether.com is following the same original Keen business model... except the relationship is even closer than that. Ether is Keen. They're both a part of Ingenio, mostly known now for it's pay-per-call advertising service. Emails sent to Techdirt asking for a briefing even came from the keen.com domain. It's just that they've relaunched the old business model with a few minor tweaks, a new brand, and a story for bloggers. It sounds nice to bloggers, too, because who wouldn't want someone to pay them $50 to speak to them on the phone? The problem, though, is actually finding anyone willing to pay out that kind of money to talk to you -- which is why the original Keen plan switched to sex and psychics. So, is there anything actually different this time around that will make the old Keen business model work? And, we go back to our advice from Demo: Don't pretend what isn't new, is new. At least admit the background, especially if it's the same company, and clarify what's different this time around.