55-Alive! Wants to Be MySpace for the Baby Boomer Set.
BY Dalia Fahmy
Can it raise $250,000?
The Pitch: We've created an online community for those over 50. At that age, people are often retiring or becoming empty nesters. They're also using the Web. But because of the stereotype that older people don't even know how to turn on computers, most websites don't try to target that demographic. Our expert contributors write about grandparenting, relationships, and pet care. We have blogs, a dating section, listings of RVs for sale, movie reviews, and articles from providers such as Filmcritic.com and LexisNexis. In July, we had 72,000 visits and 600,000 page views. We need $250,000 to expand our content and to hire someone who can help with ad sales.
Owners: Jeff Lantz (41) and Kelly Lantz (43)
Location: Lake St. Louis, Missouri
Employees: One part-timer
Founded: November 2005
2006 Revenue: Approximately $4,000
2007 Projected Revenue: $30,000
Amount Needed: $250,000 to hire an Internet-savvy salesperson and a writer/content manager, and for grass-roots marketing
Clients: Internet users over age 50
Recent Buzz: CNBC, TheMature Market.com, the radio show South Florida's First News, and various regional TV stations
The Investors React
This presents several risks. First, does the 50-plus group really use the Internet the same way kids do? Second, if 55-Alive! does take off and attract 500,000 unique visitors a month, can the Lantzes sustain that edge? It wouldn't take much for an AOL or a Yahoo to make a big entry and take away their audience. I'm also worried that $250,000 won't tide them over long enough. Instead, they should raise $1 million to $3 million and make it last 12 to 18 months. My final tip: Retirees are very local. If 55-Alive! can add a geographic angle to its site and help members network locally, that would make things more interesting.
New York City
Hone the focus
They get props for having come this far with very little money. But they're not going to succeed by simply targeting a certain age group. What brings people together is not their age but their interests. Even MySpace and Facebook started with a narrow target audience: MySpace specialized in sharing music, and Facebook was a network of college students. 55-Alive! needs to do some research, figure out what content attracts the most hits, and build the site around that. They could focus on grandparenting, for example. They should try to sell ads on their own for now, and then wait until they have more visitors before trying to raise money.
David S. Rose
New York Angels
New York City
Easier said than done
It's an interesting idea. But building an online audience is a science and takes lots of capital. Those things don't just catch on: For every site like MySpace that catches on virally, there are a million ghost towns. And St. Louis isn't exactly known as a hotbed of Internet talent. Plus, there's a competitor out there--Eons--which is very well financed and was founded by the same entrepreneur who started Monster.com, Jeff Taylor. The Lantzes need about $20 million to get 55-Alive! to the point where it can make real money through advertising. Major advertisers want scale. Anything under a million unique visitors per month doesn't attract them.