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VV Show #57 – Fabrice Grinda of OLX

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Craigslist seems unbeatable. It’s often blamed (or celebrated) for destroying the classifieds business that helped keep American newspapers afloat. Now second-time Venture Voice guest Fabrice Grinda is seeking to dominate online classifieds with OLX, his latest venture. Unlike Craigslist, OLX is translated into many languages and has a global focus. OLX is completely ad supported so there are no fees for job or real estate listings as there are on Craigslist. Still, it sounds crazy to compete with Craigslist. If anyone can do it, it may be Fabrice. When we interviewed him in December, 2005, it was on his last day working as CEO at Zingy, a ring tone provider that he founded and sold for $80 million against all odds. OLX already has 125 employees and 60 million unique visitors per month, but with $28.5 million is venture capital it has a lot of growth ahead of it before it’s a success. Hear how Fabrice plans on getting there.

Show sponsor: FreshBooks – an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice


A tour of Fabrice’s office (listen to audio above for full interview):

 

0:02:39 Background, taking US internet ideas abroad

0:04:19 Creation of Zingy, bringing mobile content to the US in 2001, mostly with own money

0:05:04 Sold Zingy in 2004 for $80M, stayed on afterward.

0:07:04 The transition from owner to employee

0:08:44 Lessons from the sale

0:11:54 Owned over 50% of Zingy at time of sale

0:13:29 Life after Zingy, traveling and convincing friends to join the next startup, OLX.

0:16:29 OLX: “free classified for the world”

0:17:14 OLX plays on five trends: 1) movement toward online media consumption, 2) movement toward online advertising, 3) transition to ad-supported business models, 4) faster growth in developing world, and 5) transition to paid classified verticals in developed world (ex: HotJobs) while developing world still depends on newspapers.

0:18:34 “Let’s build Craigslist 2.0 for the world.”

0:19:14 Working from NYC with a team in Argentina lead by partner Alex Oxenford

0:20:24 Incorporated in March, 2006

0:22:44 On running an international startup: “It hasn’t been that complicated.”

0:26:19 On missing the office.

0:28:44 OLX today: live on June 1, 2006; 125 employees, 87 countries, 39 languages, 60M unique visitors/month

0:31:54 “At the beginning, you just want to keep it simple.”

0:37:04 “We’re not about to run out of ideas, because the vision here is how do we take a free classified site, that’s horizontal and present in every category, and make it as good as every paid vertical site.”

0:38:14 On competing with focused verticals: “Differentiation number one: we’re free.”

0:40:24 “Things that work in one country, typically work in another. That’s true of the idea as a whole, it doesn’t mean the execution of the idea is identical.”

0:43:19 On buying international domain names (shout out to marcaria.com)

0:47:44 Financing OLX: first $500K self-funded, VC follow-up at a “very generous offer”

0:49:09 $10M Series A round in Fall 2006 and $18.5M in early 2008.

0:51:49 On boards and VCs.

0:58:44 Threats to OLX: 1) deep-pocketed competition 2) market risk of low global CPMs and currency fluctuations

1:03:14 On the ease of marketing with Google

1:05:19 “Google is a curse and a blessing.”

1:07:39 What’s next for OLX?

1:10:54 “As an economist, this is a dream job.”

1:11:49 Advice for current entrepreneurs: “Now is the best time to start a business.”

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