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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brijit - The Story of a Dead Startup

The child was conceived in October 2007. But, it died prematurely in May 2008. This is an obituary.

The idea was exciting: Reviews of top magazine articles in 100 words. Maybe, I should call it, the "Twitter of Reviews". Also, $5 for each published review was a good proposition. But it turned out to be a costly one.

For those who came late, here's what Brijit was:

"Simply, Brijit aggregates the world's best long-form content and abstracts it in 100 words or less, providing busy, omnivorous, and increasingly mobile readers with rich, qualitative summaries as well as better guideposts for what to read, watch or listen to now. We produce these abstracts in concert with our readers, as one community of readers, writers and editors. Think of us as your well-read friend who leads you to that can't miss article, video clip or product."

They were able to raise around $ 1 million from angel funding. According to their site, they have around 16,000 reviews. That accounts for 16,000 * 5 = 80,000 as payouts! The rest 920,000(1,000,000 - 80,000) itself is a huge sum of money and I can't think of how they could have spent it in such a short period. The interface is good, the reviews are good and the editors do a nice job. But like Sherlock Holmes says, they overlooked some elementary things.

Even though it was a feasible idea (in the sense of making money), Brijit failed to shake the existing aggregators. They were not able to project that they had a revolutionary idea where you can get the news in feeds with a small review so that you can decide whether to read it or not. They could have even challenged the 'market leaders in feeds' if they had projected this properly.

They failed to make use of a potential money source - making money by magazine affiliate systems. While they were offering their reviews on the articles, they could have made thousands of dollars by having a link to subscribe for the magazine. Or I must say, in a higher level, they didn't have a proper monetization plan and were not at all caring to have one in place because they were pampered by the angels. One of the angel investors were the former Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine. They got money and contacts, so what to worry about? Maybe that led to the downfall.

The Biggest Mistake

On May 15th 2008, they committed the biggest mistake. Below is the homepage from May 15th onwards.

When they ran out of angel money, they just put up a notice and said to the world that we have run out of cash and so we are closing it. Did they expect some passerby VC to see this and give them some cash? Or did they think that the users will start a "Save Brijit" campaign and raise funds?!

When they realized that they are running short of cash, they could have temporarily stopped accepting reviews from users and put reviews written by their own staff. The amount of articles covered will be less, but at least, this could have kept the site running. And by this time, may be some other "guardian angel" would have come their way!!

Anyway, Brijit is now deadpooled. May some one save their souls!!


Andrew said...

Thanks for the post...definitely a worthy topic.

JeremyB said...

Glad to know you like our service. I'm working hard to find a way to make sure it continues. And while I'm the last person to suggest that we didn't make mistakes along the way, your post warrants a couple of important clarifications:

1. We raised far less than $1 million, despite media coverage to the contrary. And we started spending what we did raise many months before we actually launched -- we did need to develop the site, after all.

2. The sudden announcement that you call "The Biggest Mistake" came about because financing that we had in place (or so we thought) fell through at the very last minute. I then made the only reasonable decision I could under the circumstances given the resources that we had in place.


Jeremy Brosowsky
founder, Brijit

Bonchi Buji said...

Thanks Jeremy....

I got the 1 million news from startup blogs like Techcrunch and ReadWriteWeb...but, the $5 per 100 word review is a bit high for a startup..I faild to mention this point in my post...

Well, I called the shutting down of the service as the biggest mistake because once a company is branded as "deadpooled", then it will be really difficult(nearly impossible, I should say) to bring back to running state...if you could have run the site with a handful of reviews per day written by you, friends or volunteers, it would have been easy for you to convince more angels...

anyway, all the best and I believe you will be able to rise from the ashes and bring back the nice time users like me had with your site...

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