Interview with with Ronen Shilo, CEO of Conduit
Conduit: Conduit is the inventor of the community toolbar concept. Community toolbars are a great new way to engage users and drive loyalty as they put the best of any website directly on the users’ browser. Today’s Web savvy organizations are looking for new ways to connect and engage their users, beyond the boundaries of their Web site.
As an example, Major League Baseball launched a ‘Conduit’ for each team in the league so the fans can stay connected with scores, plays, team information, tickets and breaking news on their favorite team, straight from the browser.
Bottom line, a Conduit community toolbar delivers:
- More Traffic: Drive higher traffic through unprecedented face time, resulting in an average increase of two extra clicks per user, per day
- Brand Presence: Conduit allows publishers to put their brand directly on the user’s browser
- Lower Attrition: Retain customers through engaging content, community chat, contests, and more
- More Revenue per Customer: Monetizing users beyond the boundaries of the Web site. Drive higher spending with more targeted offers and more relevant services delivered via a ‘Conduit’
TechAddress: What makes your company stand apart from your competitors?
Conduit: There are several things, but most importantly there are three:
1. Hosted turnkey service approach which eliminates all the challenges of traditional software offerings.
Typical off-the-shelf toolbar building software requires technical resources, constant maintenance staff, and presents issues in regard to user support and security, not to mention their limited component offerings. In the past, these challenges have prevented the majority of smaller websites from building and launching their own branded toolbars.
Conduit dramatically changed the model from traditional software to a hosted, global, turnkey service that is very easy to use, and requires no maintenance or technical skills. This has resulted in Conduit’s community toolbars exploding in less than 18 months to over 5 million users in 112 countries, 125k publishers in 22 languages, and over 30,000 downloads a day. For more details, see our recent milestone news release here.
2. Conduit’s business model is powered by search, which enables us to be completely free to the publisher and yet empower the toolbar with the most required functionality – search.
Conduit monetizes user searches via its Google search partnership, thereby delivering superior user experience despite being a free service for organizations.
3. Conduit supports its customers with a full suite of solutions that walks the user through the entire toolbar creation process:
- Building (Conduit provides easy to use Toolbar Wizards that make building a snap)
- Promotion (Pre-made templates for toolbar promotion include banners and download pages)
- Maintenance (Changes made to the toolbar in the hosted environment are automatically reflected in the toolbar field)
- Analysis (Reports to help optimize the solution for maximum value to publishers and users)
TechAddress: What are some of the main features?
Conduit: Conduit is free, hosted, extremely easy-to-use, completely customizable, ready in minutes, guaranteed to be secure, and available in 22 languages. The Toolbar Wizard is easy to use tool for any publisher, despite their level of programming expertise.
There are several key features that have contributed to our explosive adoption:
- Pre-defined components including customizable menus, news ticker, RSS reader, radio, chatroom, NEW video window, email notifier, weather button, and more
- Open environment that allows publishers to develop their own custom components using standard web development technologies
- A set of customizable search tools, powered by Google
- Cross-platform solution enabling publishers to provide instant availability in IE & Firefox
- Pre-packaged marketing templates for deployment and promotion
- Analytics and reports for management of the community toolbar
- Hosted solution enables seamless and dynamic updates of content, components, and updates
- 24/7 free support for publishers and users via email
- Fully localized by supporting 22 languages for the toolbar and its peripheral pages
TechAddress: Who is your target customer or audience?
Conduit: Any website with a passionate community of online users can benefit from a Conduit community toolbar. Our range of customers represents every industry including entertainment, event planning, music, gaming, non profits, libraries, business, news portals, forums, real-estate, legal enterprise and more. While we have leading brands such as Greenpeace, Major League Baseball and REMAX, the largest segment of Conduit customers are “Long Tail” publishers that come from a diverse cross section.
TechAddress: Any new things in particular that you’re working on right now?
Conduit: Our technology teams are working on exciting product releases that will transform user engagement and communication.
The first is the ability for a publisher to extend their presence beyond the current real estate of the toolbar. With an upcoming version, Conduit will transform toolbars from being a single story house to a skyscraper.
The second will empower a user to benefit from multiple toolbars without sacrificing the browser real-estate typically required, and by eliminating the need of multiple downloads. Users will be able to easily manage and control their toolbar library through this new product.
We are also looking to launch a “smart wizard” that will automatically detect community information and will build it into a community toolbar simply from a website URL. This is part of our commitment to making it easier to build and launch a toolbar.
Stay tuned for these and other exciting announcements coming soon.
TechAddress: Where do you see your company heading in the future?
Conduit: We envision Conduit evolving into a global leader in marketing platforms for building user-centric applications that drive engagement and loyalty. To that end, we are focused on forging content and product partnerships to deliver the broadest array of content and components to our publishers. From a product perspective, we are focused on being an innovation leader with breakthrough new features regularly added to the roadmap.
TechAddress: Any negative feedback or criticism regarding technology and services?
Conduit: Historically, toolbars were perceived as a search device associated with search companies, and as such they raised the question of “Who needs another toolbar?” In addition many have a bad reputation for opening up users to outside threats from adware, spyware and malware. Conduit community toolbars are strongly associated with the communities they serve (vs. being a search device only) and address a wider cross-section of information needs which goes beyond the simple search function. In addition, Conduit, delivers a safe and secure user experience.
TechAddress: So what would you say is the guiding principle behind your company?
Conduit: Publisher-focused value creation. If we help our publishers be more successful, then we will be successful. So whether it’s product development, marketing, or support, the company is completely focused on what drives a positive outcome for our publishers. We believe that publishers know what’s best for their users and they want to be able to offer them the very best solutions. Conduit provides them with the full-service solution they need to achieve that. As an example, we worked very hard to secure a partnership with Google, as we wanted to provide the ultimate search experience for our publishers’ end users while still enabling our publisher customers with the ability to embed their own site search into the community toolbar and the search page.
Outside of our dedication to products, our overall guiding principles are fairness and integrity. These are the cornerstones of Conduit. We treat everyone who interacts with the company with highest level of integrity.
TechAddress: What is the mission of your company and what are you bringing to the market that is innovative?
Conduit: Our mission is to democratize the building of connected communities, and to enable traditional Web 1.0 companies to become Web 2.0. We aim to provide every publisher with the solutions they need to connect, engage and build online communities quickly and cost effectively.
In terms of innovation, we are the first, completely free service for building a community toolbar, powered by Search. This is a significant value proposition for the market in general but more importantly, for the long tail of the Internet. Conduit is putting a powerful, free marketing platform, previously only available to large companies, in the hands of organizations of every size and capability. This is revolutionary – we are leveling the playing field and doing it with a free, secure service that is backed by a solid business model.
TechAddress: Where are you in terms of funding and your lifecycle?
Conduit: Conduit is currently fully funded and has no plans to raise additional capital at this time.
TechAddress: If your technology or service is not formally launched yet, when’s the launch date? If you have already launched, when was your launch date?
Conduit: The company was founded in 2005; however, we just recently launched an official marketing campaign in November, 2006. Incredibly, Conduit has grown virally from 0 to 125,000 website publisher customers and 5,000,000 users in less than two years.
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