Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

And now, the expenses begin...

Yesterday, Aaron and I bought the server hosting for CommYou. We're starting modestly, of course, with a single machine that should take us through alpha. But it does make everything much realer: we're now putting several hundred dollars a month on my Visa card for the server. And that'll only go up, frighteningly quickly. One reason why we're going to have to figure out how to bring in some reasonable income quickly is that we could easily wind up spending a couple hundred thousand on the eventual server farm if we're successful. (I saw the numbers for Facebook yesterday: they are currently running roughly thirteen *thousand* servers. Intimidating.)

The scariest part of the CommYou project is a very simple question: can we make money at it? This isn't a cute hobbyist project, it's intended as a serious, if modest business. And the odd advantage of doing it ourselves is that we can't lie about the money. Most serious startups take a million or three from venture capitalists, which gives them the luxury of pretending that the income doesn't matter much. But in our case, we're going to have to be in the black pretty much by the time we release the system, because we can't afford to scale it up otherwise.

The flip side, of course, is that we don't have to make nearly as *much* money as a VC-backed company eventually needs to, which will hopefully shield me from having to make some of the moral compromises that they often do. Those "free" Internet companies always have strings attached: since they're pretending not to make money, they often have to be kind of underhanded in how they actually do so. (Which is where you wind up with things like the ill-fated Facebook Beacon project, which tried to share your purchasing data.) I'm hoping we can do this the way I like to do things: being very upfront and honest about it.

But we'll see. The Internet is awfully addicted to "free", and people don't like being confronted with the harsh reality that this stuff is never *actually* free to run -- somebody's paying for it. The question is, what is the best and most honest way to get a modest contribution from each user, so that we can run the thing...
Tags: commyou

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