A Q&A with OwnLocal founder and CEO Lloyd W. Armbrust, II. The Austin, Texas-based company was founded in early 2010.
SUB: Please explain what OwnLocal is, and the value proposition you bring to traditional local media outlets.
Armbrust: We work with traditional media outlets to provide them with a suite of products to sell to their small-business customers. We enable them to become a fully-featured digital marketing agency that can resell our website creation tools, Search-Engine Optimization, social-media management, and directory management products.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Armbrust: We are a lot like ReachLocal or Yodle.
SUB: What differentiates OwnLocal from your competitors?
Armbrust: We work through a trusted local sales force and local brand. In most markets the local newspaper has been around for hundreds of years which gives instant legitimacy to local merchants. There is also a significant SEO advantage to working through the local paper.
SUB: What’s your business model? How does (or how will) OwnLocal generate revenue?
Armbrust: The newspapers sell our products on a SaaS model and we take a revenue share.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea? Was there an “aha” moment, or was it longer in developing?
Armbrust: I’ve worked in the newspaper industry for ten years. Originally we saw newspapers losing revenue and were just trying to make them money.
After about a year testing and talking to small businesses in the field, we developed this product set from what we learned.
SUB: When was OwnLocal founded and what were the first steps you took toward establishing it?
Armbrust: In Jan 2010 we became a Y-Combinator backed company which was the start of pretty much everything.
SUB: What have the biggest obstacles been so far to building the business?
Armbrust: Hiring the right employees. We made a lot of mistakes from engineers to sales people and had to develop a complicated hiring system and set of policies to get it right.
SUB: You just closed a new round of funding—how do you plan to use the funds?
Armbrust: Getting to profitability, marketing, and new hires.
SUB: Why was this a good time to raise outside funding?
Armbrust: Honestly? Because we needed the money. It wasn’t the climate that lead us to raise, it was the right business decision at the time. We actually took four months to do right and make sure that we got all of the right people on board.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more funding in the near future?
Armbrust: Not in the near future.
SUB: What goals do you have for OwnLocal over the next year?
Armbrust: Get to profitability and launch our app store for newspapers—allowing other great startups to leverage this amazing distribution channel that we have discovered.
OwnLocal – www.ownlocal.com