Interview with Chris Fay (AdRavage)
AdRavage is a web based tool for automating the Craigslist search process. Instead of going to Craigslist, you can use their site to poll Craigslist for your search terms and notify you when matching items are created.
I interviewed Chris Fay, AdRavage founder to find out more about how he founded AdRavage and went onto sell it. This interview is the twenty first in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Chris for the interview!
How would you describe AdRavage in under 50 words?
AdRavage is a notification service for Craigslist – you can create a search and get notified when items match your term(s) via email and/or sms.
What made you decide to start working on AdRavage?
I was in the market for a car and repeatedly missed out on great deals due to my inability to sit at the computer all day to search. I set out to create a system that would do this for me – 24 hours a day – and I could just sit back and wait for the deals to come to my, on my terms.
How did you come up with the name?
I conducted about two days worth of brainstorming and produced a list of about 200 domains – I wanted to quickly convey the idea of ad searching and AdRavage ended up being the top choice for my wife and I.
Did you do any research to come up with your monthly and lifetime pricing plans?
As an avid consumer of online services I went with a pricing scheme that I would pay for – $3/month I felt was a low enough barrier to entrance for most, and if you really liked the service I felt an outright price of $29 was fair. The free plan has always been robust and a great way to test the service. But, I suppose no – I didn’t do any legitimate market research to define the pricing, more a gut feeling on the value of the service and my personal belief of what others would be willing to pay.
How long did it take you to put together the first version of AdRavage and how much time has been spent on it since?
I spent about 4-5 months building the first version of AdRavage – there was a fair amount of complexity to the processing of searches across the US due the lack of an official API, but I think that’s what makes the service unique. I continued refining AdRavage and ultimately released version 2 of the application with a much more robust front-end in late 2010, before selling it in 2011.
Has AdRavage got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
I think so. Not a single penny of advertising was ever spent on the service and growth was fairly consistent via word of mouth. My one regret with AdRavage, being my first pet project, was that I didn’t push it to it’s full potential in terms of growth and exposure. Looking back, there are many things I could have done to heavily increase it’s penetration. At a certain point I stopped developing on the service and put focus into other ideas, which I think detracted from the vision of AdRavage and hindered it’s progression. It was then that I knew it was time to sell the site and let someone else take the rains who could really push it to the next level.
Is there anyone else providing a similar service?
Yes, I won’t name names but there is one other primary service, though I don’t believe they are charging nor offering the same featureset that AdRavage does. There are also other ways to pull in Craigslist data matching your terms, but nothing as complete, self-contained and feature-rich as AdRavage in my opinion.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
The biggest hurdle was the technical challenges in actually building the site. Considering Craigslist does not provide an API, there was significant research into how to mesh the service requirements with the available interfaces that Craigslist does provide. That process took quite a bit of refining, and I think even now the biggest challenge to expanding the service is sustainability – you never know if Craigslist will change the format of their rss feed or other structures AdRavage uses. Although unlikely, they do update things and could have implications on the service.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
As I have sold AdRavage I’m now mostly focused on fixing/flipping distressed web properties for either long term revenue or quick gains. I recently purchased PoopReport, a site dedicated to the intellectual appreciation of brown humor, pulling in over 20K unique visitors daily and over 2 million page views per month. The site has a huge community and I purchased at a good price. The last few months were spent working on a major infrastructure upgrade process and facelift of the site – which has just gone live. Building a strong advertising revenue stream is the next phase of the project and from there will decide on whether to sell or hold on for some long term passive revenue.
You recently sold AdRavage. How did you find a buyer? Would you recommend selling your startup to other founders?
I ended up selling AdRavage to a college friend of mine. He was around during AdRavage’s initial development and helped beta test things during first-launch. I felt he would be a good candidate for expanding the service and continuing the vision. Jesse has since built in numerous features and increased the site’s social presence considerably.
I think the decision to sell requires consideration of many things, but for me it came down to my available time – I wanted to focus on other things and AdRavage had not grown revenue-wise to a level that justified holding onto it. Rather than sacrificing it’s potential and stagnating the site I decided to sell. I think building something is great, selling it off is just as exciting!
Finished reading? Check out AdRavage!