As we check through sold listings pulled into the database, occasionally a concept or site comes up that we think is worth looking into as it can provide valuable ideas for your next site. I’ll try and make this a regular feature, showcasing a selection of original ideas either recently sold or currently on the market.
Please note – no due diligence has been done on any of these sites, nor am I suggesting that as a business they make a good purchase at the price they are being sold for. The point is to examine the idea behind the site and show you how you could profit with something similar.
How it Works
CaseCompete is essentially a marketplace for legal services – think Elance for Lawyers! People post their legal questions, cases or problems and lawyers or legal professionals bid to take them on.
On the surface, this site is a solid idea in theory for a few reasons. The financial meltdown saw many firms lay off staff, especially those involved in domestic and commercial property. Lawyers from smaller firms were even forced to consider a change in career, as finding new clients and general marketing skills is not something traditionally taught at the BAR. (See this Times Online Article )
As with many of the sites I’ll feature here, the site has a clear design that immediately tells viewers what the site is about and what its value is to them. Naturally, any market that represents professionals would need to be able to convey professionalism especially through its design, before anyone would consider using and associating their name with the service.
Many people also find using a lawyer for the first time particularly intimidating; before even knowing how much you’re likely to spend, you often have to undergo a consultation that can cost (here in the UK) anything upwards of £150 per hour. Making the process market driven is a smart way to reduce the barriers between buyers and sellers. It will inevitably drive down costs through transparency as you can immediately see what a number of people will bid to do a job and instantly get an idea of its value.
The concept of a legal services marketplace is still a fairly new one, so publicity opportunities should be easier to find than say a generic ecommerce store (the site has so far had a article on Killer Startups but many more opportunities exist on high PR sites such national media and online trend blogs such as Springwise)
The age old problem with a marketplace still applies – you can’t attract providers until you have buyers and you wont find buyers without providers. Achieving critical mass is likely to be the biggest obstacle for any similar site, especially as finding legally qualified professionals willing to try a new method of working is likely to be extremely difficult. (Lawyers ranked below farmers in a survey of the most internet savvy professions based on both professional and personal internet usage!)
The problem of attracting Lawyers isn’t an impossible one, but the cost of doing this is likely to be steep, and more difficult without a lot of publicity surrounding the site. That would then be coupled with the problem of needing to have a significant number of buyers ready, before the sellers lose interest and the site stagnates.
Plenty of opportunities exist for a similar ‘cash for answers’ concept in a less complex niche. For example, you could target people looking for bookkeepers, recruitment advice or wedding planners. Alternatively, you could expand vertically into micro niches such as specific Software Expertise (e.g. Sage or Windows Server) or hardware repair (e.g. Xbox or Ipod).
In creating a platform to allow skilled people to make more money outside of their day job, you’ll be able to piggyback on the growing trend of sellsumers, more commonly associated with the IT sector but easily transferable to other areas.
Ideally, monetization would be achieved by charging a percentage of any listing fees (from the buyer) or taking a percentage of payments made (from the seller). Monetizing this type of site through advertising is possible, but you run the risk of losing credibility especially in a professional services marketplace.
Assuming you have only basic design and HTML knowledge, a similar site could be built for approx $350 if you choose to outsource the work.
Your main costs would be broken down as follows:
PHP Prolance Marketplace Script – $226 including installation
This is the script behind case compete and it will essentially avoid you having to pay a developer to write all the common functions required to create an online marketplace such as member administration and bid management. Many marketplaces and reverse auction sites are built on PHPP so the software is fairly well supported through its forum.
Front End Customisation – approx $100
Assuming you have little design skills, you can outsource customisation of the front end (including a basic logo and header) for approx $100, as most of the site is already completed by the PHPP script.
For developers, try Elance.com or the PHPP forums themselves for lots of developers already familiar with the script.
This particular site sold several times at buy it now ($1,300) but it seems the seller is having problems getting payment with the final listing being closed after just one day. Without the site having either the buyers or sellers in place, it seems that this is a difficult one to flip immediately, but the opportunity to develop something mid – long term still seems valid providing you can attract visitors first.
What do you think – does this make a good opportunity? Do you have experience in doing something similar? Leave a comment and let me know.