The Gadget Guru

GADGET GURU

HomeGear.com, an emerging online business that reviews technology products, is releasing its first holiday gift guide today to lure visitors.

BY BRIDGET CAREY

Ross Kelson likes to think of his business as the go-to guide for who he calls “tech-fluencers.''

His year-old online company, HomeGear.com, features technology product reviews for people who want to be the first kid on the block with the newest gadget without spending hours researching on what's the best.

 

The 41-year-old entrepreneur works out of his Miami Beach condo with an office that overlooks the ocean. Several cellphones and cameras are scattered between two laptops on his desk as he puts the final touches on his first-ever Holiday High-Tech Gift Guide, to be released online today.

His guide features such categories as home entertainment, mobile devices and the ''fabulous, outrageous and over the top,'' which includes a $16,995 projector to transform a living room wall into a theater.

FILLING A NEED

''I saw a need for good reviews that are unbiased,'' Kelson said. ''There are a lot of sites that are very super specialized,'' but a person who just wants to be on the cutting edge wouldn't have time to sift through all the categories, he said.

His mission is to create a site that only features the best products in their respective categories and becomes a resource for the tech-savvy consumer. But for his online start-up to be a success, most of his time goes to finding ways to improve his website traffic through search engines.

He estimates he gets a few thousand hits a month now, but in three to six months ''a realistic goal would be something like 10,000 hits a month,'' he said.

His profit comes from advertising links on the site. He also redirects readers to online stores that offer the products the cheapest and gets paid either per click or per purchase. He would not release HomeGear's annual revenue or projections for the coming year.

In an effort to remain objective, he gets no money from the manufacturers of the products he reviews. The items he gets are sent to him through public relations firms, and after he reviews the products he sends them back.

As for which products get his attention, ''I'll chose what I think is newsworthy,'' he said. It usually involves a unique, high-quality product or something that puts a new spin on not-so-new technology. Then either himself or a compensated freelancer will take a few days to use the product and rate it.

''It could be 20 or 30 hours, it really takes a lot of time to test things out,'' he said.

BRIGHT IDEA

He uses a rating system that replaces the traditional stars with lights inside a house. He rates products based on the quality, price and performance of similar products. He's working on licensing his lights-on rating system to be printed on the packaging of products HomeGear reviews for additional revenue.

And Kelson knows a thing or two about technology to validate his ratings. In 1991 he started a company called MacHardware, an retail store selling Apple computer products in Kansas, and by 1994 it was the ranked the No. 1 fastest-growing company in Kansas City, as ranked by Ingram's Magazine.

''For nine years I really worked an incredible number of hours,'' he said of his time at MacHardware. “I had a total of three weeks of vacation in nine years.''

He sold the firm and later went to travel the world. During his travels he realized he wanted to live by the ocean. He moved to Miami Beach in 2002.

HomeGear.com is his main focus and he spends 40 hours a week on it, but he also is working on other start-up, ad-based, online businesses such as ChampHealth.com and LendersRated.com.

''I have a lot of ideas, which probably is a bad thing sometimes,'' he said. “A good thing when you're an entrepreneur, but it's a bad thing if you end up spending all of your time on them.''

 

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