Interview with an Entrepreneur: Part 1 & 2 with Clarence Wooten of CollectiveX

Interview with an Entrepreneur: Part 1 & 2 with Clarence Wooten of CollectiveX

August 22nd, 2007

This week, we are interviewing Clarence Wooten from CollectiveX. Clarence is a serial entrepreneur with many successes under his belt. His latest venture, CollectiveX,
is timed perfectly for the social networking wave hitting the Internet.
In Part 1 of a 2 part interview, we discuss their new product launch,
Groupsites.com and dealing with competition.

Please provide us with a bit of your personal background in business and entrepreneurship.

I was coined a “serial entrepreneur” by
Entrepreneur Magazine in its February 2000 issue, since then I have
launched and operated numerous technology-based companies since
founding my first company, Envision Designs, while an undergraduate at
John’s Hopkins University.
In 1993, I co-founded Metamorphosis Studios, an interactive multimedia
development firm, where he served as CEO and Creative Director until
early 1998 when the company was acquired by MediSolv Inc. Immediately
following Metamorphosis Studios, at the height of the dot-com boom, I
co-founded and served as CEO of ImageCafe.com. Touted as the Internet’s
first online superstore of customizable websites-to-go, ImageCafe was
acquired for $23 million by Network Solutions/Verisign in November 1999
just seven months after it launched. Most recently prior to
CollectiveX, I co-founded and served as General Partner at
Venturepreneur Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm.
Articles about me have appeared in Forbes ASAP, Entrepreneur, CNNfn,
The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company magazine. Additionally, a few
of my entrepreneurial experiences are also the subject of a Babson
College case study.

 

Lastly, I am an avid supporter of the community and serves on many
non-profit boards. In his personal time, I enjoys playing with my
daughters; spending time with family and close friends; and attending
Maryland Terps basketball games.

Your current venture is CollectiveX – what’s your elevator pitch for it?

CollectiveX is a platform for creating Groupsites. Groupsites
are special websites for groups that enable groups to share,
communicate and network.  They combine the best features of discussion
forums, email lists, calendars and social networks. Groupsites are FREE
to setup and can be easily configured to public, semi-public or private.

Group-managers can deem their Groupsite as primarily social or
professional, while members of their group can optionally set-up dual
social and professional profile personas for display.

Groupsites are primarily used by
membership groups and clubs, as social networks, and within companies
as intranets or for centralizing communication within departments and
workgroups.

There’s a ton of competition in the social networking space, especially when it comes to groups. What makes CollectiveX unique?

Two of our users describe us best.

“CollectiveX Groupsites fall somewhere between Yahoo Groups and a white-label Facebook” 
- Farhan Rehman

“Groupsites are like
Microsoft Sharepoint, but are much cooler and far more user-friendly”
– Jeff Mason, VP Marketing, Social Solutions

How many social networking platforms are that flexible?
Enabling equal benefit for small groups and very large groups, social
groups and professional groups, within the enterprise and for personal
informal groups.
Answer = None!

This week, we are interviewing Clarence Wooten from CollectiveX. Clarence is a serial entrepreneur with many successes under his belt. His latest venture, CollectiveX,
is timed perfectly for the social networking wave hitting the Internet.
In Part 2 of a 2 part interview, we discuss their living the Web 2.0
life, HR in the new web world and raising money in today’s startup
landscape.

Since your business model
seems really aligned with the Web 2.0 style of site (where free is so
prevalent.) Could you elaborate a little more on your approach to
revenue creation?

Revenue is very important for any company. Providing a lot of
value for FREE is equally as important for any Web 2.0 company. Our
business model enables us to do both – which as been key to our success
thus far.

CollectiveX offers three options for Groupsites.
1.) FREE Groupsites – Ad supported and include everything groups need
to share, networking and communicate – professionally or socially, in
pubic or in private.
2.) Premium “a la carte” Upgrades – Enable FREE Groupsites to enhance
security, storage, permission controls and branding. Additionally,
groups can remove and control advertising within their Groupsite for an
incremental fee.

3.) Enterprise Accounts – For
organizations seeking to organize and manage unlimited Groupsites
across their entire organization from a single account or mega groups
seeking dedicated support for their user-base.  Includes all premium
features for each Groupsite, a dedicated account rep, simplified
billing, and expanded file storage.

How many employees do you
have at CollectiveX now? Is it important that they all share your
entrepreneurial spirit and drive? How do you find that in new hires and
keep that entrepreneurial energy alive?

We have approximately 8 employees. So we’ve had to do a lot with
a small team. Consequently, it is very important that each member of
the team has a very strong passion for our mission and doesn’t mind
working long hours to ensure our success. As a company, we’ve had to
kiss a few frogs before we found 8 studs – we’re looking for studs, do
you know any??? ;-)

What are the most important elements for a successful startup company?
I can answer this question with in 4 words:
Passion, Focus, Persistence & Luck

 

You received funding
from various Venture Firms. Can you give us a bit of detail on the
process of finding funding, and what importance you put in picking the
right funding partner?

In addition to the four elements of success that I mentioned,
funding is also critical. However, it is important to build a model
that enables you to build a real business (especially if you are not
based in Silicon Valley). Venture funding should be used for growth —
not complete survival. This isn’t easy to do with a web company today.
Consequently, you have to attract quality angel investors to sustain
your venture until it achieves critical milestones. If you focus on
executing, opportunities to pull down venture funding will come your
way. We are just getting to a point where raising a venture round makes
sense – it will be used for growth, not survival. As of now, we’ve
bootstrapped the company with funding from myself and a few angel
investors who believe in our vision.

What approach to marketing plays a significant role in promoting and attracting traffic to CollectiveX?
CollectiveX has grown to 7,000 Groupsites on our platform almost
exclusively through viral and word-of-mouth growth. We provide a lot of
FREE value to groups. We’re a much better alternative to services like
Yahoo groups… and we offer social and professional networking. I’d like
to leverage PR to get the success stories of our groups out there… I
think that hearing more stories about the diverse ways in which groups
use Groupsites… would attract significantly more traffic to CollectiveX.

 

If you want people to remember one thing when they think about CollectiveX, what is it?
Hmmm… remember the word Groupsite. At CollectiveX, we think of
Groupsites as the Web 2.0 equalivent to websites. I think that says it
all ;-) lol.

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