In July 2004, we came up with the idea to create a customizable portal like MyYahoo but have it let people do some good in the world everytime they use it. I have beliefs, values, and causes I care about… shouldn’t my Internet portal be serving me easy opportunities to make a difference? I would feel better about myself, the world would get a little better, and my loyalty to the portal would increase.
While still working at Tickle inside Monster.com, we launched GoodTree.com in July of 2005. Monster shut it down in November and I left Monster in January. I bought the site back from Monster in the spring and relaunched in the Fall of 2006. We quickly discovered the product and business infrastructure wasn’t ready, so we stopped trying to attract people to it. In the last year, a small team of dedicated people added a raft of new features:
- A customizable homepage, the type of which is now familiar from MyYahoo, iGoogle and 10’s of other customizable homepage startups
- A full social network
- Causes which people can create, join and suggest actions we all can take to make a difference
- An area for charities and financial info
The goal of GoodTree is to get 10 million or more people using it as their start page and portal, to make a significant impact on people and causes, and to keep it profitable. We have a long list of things we want to improve on the product such as the image search and news areas. But it’s good enough that we’re going to start attracting people to it again, and we’re excited to see what happens.
From my experience so far, building an enterprise which has a mission to make an impact while maintaining break-even or profitability is significantly more difficult than just trying to make money. Competitor portals like Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and MyWay have a hard enough time and they aren’t even burdened by pushing a social mission. Wish us luck and give us support if you get the opportunity.