Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on April 10, 2007

I don’t know how genealogy websites make $, unless they’re subscription based. I read about Geni and on a whim signed up last night. By the end of the night, 200 people were on my tree spanning 5+ generations.

But it looks like a one-time thing. It was great last night for me, but unless more people are compelled to add relatives, traffic will nose-dive and then probably taper off (by the time of this post, a day has passed and traffic = zero).

Really, there is no compelling reason to go back regularly to your genealogy tree and look at it. Sure, it is for posterity and kids may make the trip forced by parents (assuming they’re so into it). But invites to relatives pretty much came from just my wife and her cousin. The cousin is highly-motivated and happened to have a lot of information about much older generations (from 1600s) stored someplace, just waiting for Geni to come along.

Show me the money!!

In terms of monetizing this idea, it sucks because of the 200 people that signed up, only one person can be charged at the most (tree creator) for the monthly subscription (you can neither throw freaking ads at me nor expect to divvy up the payment with relatives across the globe!!!!). So right there, by definition, you can count off the people paying, on one hand.

Genealogy of services….

But wait. It’s not all just about skepticism; two sides of a coin, remember?

It seems to me that if Geni becomes the epicenter of a personal family network, then there is money to be made in ancillary services. So Geni can partner with WhizSpark (or Evite) to organize family gatherings (including tickets and hotel bookings right from the website); automatically create an ‘storybook’ of my family tree for each relationship; use a service like Cardvio to send birthday or wedding cards and offer relationship books for parents with kids – i.e. make it easier for regrouping with your favorite relatives through one single service provider. And Geni itself will be the loss-leader.

The Geni interface is very cool, but unless you’re Apple, you can’t afford to ride that wave! If Geni had read this post of mine, it is clear that their only limitation is cash to burn. Geni in a bottle, anyone?

– Harsha Raghavan


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