Reinventing HOTorNOT, Part III

Reinventing HOTorNOT, Part III

Monday, July 09, 2007

was actually the beginning of Part II, but I realized it was a bit too
long and so I cut this part out.. In the interest of keeping it, I’ve
made it a separate post. This gives the higher level explanation of how
we came to our strategy

To explain how we came up
with our new strategy, I need to first explain how we think about our
business. There are actually 2 points I want to cover:

1. The way we see our business is different than how most people see it
2. Our name is extremely valuable, not only as a brand but also a context setter.

Point 1: The way we see our business is different than how most people see it

we first launched HOTorNOT, we used to wonder if the site would die
quickly like many other web memes. After all, we saw it as most people
saw it:an a fun but silly site where people looked at other people’s
pictures and said if they were Hot.

Fun and innovative? Yes. Sustainable? Not as likely.

then one of our former advisors, the late Richard Newton (former dean
of Berkeley Engineering, venture partner at Mayfield, pioneer of SPICE
simulators, and advisor to the founding teams of Cadence and Synopsys)
said something so insightful it made us realize that HOTorNOT was more
than we had originally thought…

“PEOPLE are the killer app,”
he said. Richard realized that what we had was a platform that
attracted people and could connect them. Around those words, we decided
that our company’s goal would be to become “the ultimate people router”.

focus on connecting people, not just on showing pictures, would be the
core of HOTorNOT’s sustainability. Connecting people around dating was
the first obvious extension of our service, so we launched a dating
section on HOTorNOT just 3 months after launching the site… but dating
is only a subset of the types of relationships people have an interest
in, so to keep it generalized we named the section “Meet Me at HOT or
NOT” instead of something like “Date Me at HoN” or “Find your soulmate
at HoN”. It was our hope that people would use the system not only to
find their soulmate, but also just to meet new friends around common

Richard saw the potential of the Internet, and of
our site in particular, as a means to deliver something more important
to people than even information or search. We want to deliver people,
because people are the killer app.

So as I mentioned, how we see our company is not how most people have seen it over the years.

Our company is not about rating people, it is about connecting them.

Point 2: Our name is extremely valuable, not only as a brand but also a context setter.

word HOT is interesting because unlike most other words that are used
to describe something as being really good (like awesome, killer,
tight, rad, groovy), the word HOT is not a fad. According to an article
I once read, the word hot has been used in that context for at least a
millennium. In other languages, the equivalent word for hot is often
used in the same way.

The article hypothesized it is based on
your human physiological response to anything you find exciting: your
heart races, you start to sweat… quite simply, you feel hot. This is
why spicy foods are also often referred to as being hot.

In a nutshell, because we are all human, the word HOT is not a fad.

then there’s the NOT part. Not rhymes with Hot, which makes HOTorNOT
insanely easy to remember. Rhyming may very well be the best mnemonic
device we have, and it makes things catchy.

All of this makes
HOTorNOT a great name… sustainable and memorable. But there’s one other
thing that HOTorNOT does really well… it sets the right context.

companies, many of them huge megacorps, have tried copying our picture
rating service under different names. AOL tried, Myspace tried. But
none of them really got their products to take off. Somehow, for some
reason, the name HOTorNOT sets just the right tone of being fun and
puts people into the context of sharing opinion on things in a way that
the names “rank” and “rate my buddy” don’t.

But is HOTorNOT
limited to setting the context around rating pictures of people? No.
The word HOT can be used to describe lots of things as being good… a
movie can be hot, a car can be hot.. Almost anything can be HOT. So, it
turns out, HOTorNOT is a great name to create a context for sharing
opinions about ANYTHING.

So this got us thinking… HOTorNOT as
a picture rating/dating site could certainly be a profitable business,
but an empire could be built on top of the brand HOTorNOT once we start
extending it and applying it to everything.

posted by james @ 7:04 PM

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