Recently Omar was interviewed by a business undergrad at Ryerson University. I'm posting this for all of those interested in the site to gain a little more in depth understanding on how it is run, and what issues it currently faces. I have edited the transcript to make it more readable.
Daniel Liu: Hey, I'm an undergrad at Ryerson University and I'm writing an assignment on ProductWiki, I am wondering if you can help me out with a few questions.
Omar Ismail: Sure thing.
Daniel Liu: It's actually an executive summary, I'm not sure if you've heard of my professor but he is a venture capitalist and the producer of Dragons Den: Sean Wise.
Omar Ismail: Oh yeah, I've met Sean before, at the Mesh 2007 conference. Cool guy.
Daniel Liu: Thanks for taking the time to do this.
Omar Ismail: No problem.
Daniel Liu: Ok, great. What adversity have you faced with ProductWiki and how did you overcome it?
Omar Ismail: Apathy. Most people just don't care about something unless it's providing value and service to them NOW. People aren't patient and ready to wait to see/help you realize your potential (for the most part). It's a constant challenge, and the only way to resolve it is to actually make the service better. As we improve more and more people will get utility out of what we're offering, until everyone will.
Daniel Liu: Through the three partners, whom would you say is the business savvy one? The one with the most knowledge of the market and the one with the most experience?
Omar Ismail: Erik has the most experience, and is great with the finances, Amanie keeps everything running smoothly and efficiently internally, and I'm good with speaking and presenting the company publically. Not sure if that answers your question specifically, but we really split the roles up for who does each thing specifically the best.
Daniel Liu: How have your sales/profits been from since you started in 2005? All of your revenue is generated through people that source your website, right?
Omar Ismail: We make money through advertisements, specifically the "Where to buy" section. It's a combination of: Shopping.com PPC, eBay CPA, and Amazon CPA. We also monetize a bit through AdSense, but not much. We've bootstrapped the entire organization and are currently profitable. We have 4 full-time employees, 1 major contractor, and other minor contractors.
Daniel Liu: I read on the site that in the first year you guys had about 13,000 product reviews, what is it at now?
Omar Ismail: We currently have over 20,000 product reports on the site, with around 8,000 of them being high quality. We started off focusing on quantity over quality in hopes that people would improve the quality over time. That didn't work out, so we shifted the internal focus on quality to give an example of what we're striving for, for all products.
Daniel Liu: About the industry size/structure, how big is it, what stage is it in, and how does ProductWiki fit in the industry's value chain?
Omar Ismail: The broader industry is huge, and very mature (relative to the web). We're a cutting edge up-and-comer looking to disrupt quite a few big players. In the product buying lifecycle we're in the research stage, but leaning towards the product purchase side.
Daniel Liu: Why would you say ProductWiki is the solution/company that will win in this market?
Omar Ismail: It's been our mission and vision from day one to provide real value and use to the Internet as a whole. I think the community gravitates around that, and ultimately it'll be the community that makes any service a success. Our focus on high quality attracts a high quality community.
Daniel Liu: What is next for ProductWiki?
Omar Ismail: If we had only one "next thing" to work on we'd be screwed. What continues is improving the site for the community (getsatisfaction is great). Also, making the content more easily redistributable through API access allows the useful information [found on ProductWiki] to be used and shared in all sorts of different contexts.
Daniel Liu: What are some of the milestones that ProductWiki has achieved?
Omar Ismail: Providing a service that's useful enough that has attracted enough attention where we could afford to pay ourselves living wages and grow beyond that. Hiring our first employee was pretty big.
Daniel Liu: That was the last question, thank you so much for helping me out.
Omar Ismail: No problem, it was my pleasure.