Victor Wong has been a successful young entrepreneur more than once. The Yale graduate has created a technology that creates a unique advertising display for your company by pulling information from the web automatically. Simply type in the name of your business and it builds a custom hyper local ad. Wong’s company Paper G has created some amazing resources for publishers to connect with local businesses.
Victor had his start founding a microcredit group Elmseed providing small businesses training and capital to entrepreneurs.
Wong has attracted a pretty amazing group of advisers including Stephen Taylor, publisher of the Boston Globe’s Boston.com during its first five years of existence, John Kannapell, former SVP of AOL Search, Local & Maps, and Mark Potts, co-founder of WashingtonPost.com and founder of hyperlocal startup GrowthSpur.
With so many options for publishers to join ad networks, how did you have the confidence to go after this market?
We felt a new choice needed to be offered to publishers — tapping local ad revenue rather than remnant direct response ad dollars. We thought offering the capability of attracting local ad dollars would be compelling and couldn’t be ignored by media companies — particularly local media companies.
When you first formed the team, there must have been an analytical person and then someone who wanted to sell and market the product. How did this dynamic work?
We had a large founding team with a balanced set of skills. Many of us had some technical background, but there definitely was a technology person, a numbers person, a product person, and a sales person among others.
How did you get customers to first believe in your product and realize the value proposition?
We launched our product with smaller publishers on a trial basis first to show the value. We then added advisers from the local media industry who were able to introduce us to the right decision makers. Our growing reputation was then sufficiently able to convince large local publishers to start using our technology.
PlaceLocal is a great idea, but we all know even great ideas are difficult to execute. What was the biggest bump in the road?
Getting connected within the industry proved to be the biggest bump for us. We were young and new to the industry so we had to rely on the merits of our technology to convince early adopters and build a reputation among the rest of the industry.
How did you initially get the word out about your product?
We signed up marquee partners who then marketed the PlaceLocal (www.placelocal.com) technology to end users — the advertisers. These advertisers have referred others to use us from there.
How difficult was it to go from zero and then getting The New York Times and MTV to use your product? How did you get your foot in the door initially?
Once we signed The Boston Globe’s website, things snowballed from there. The media industry is pretty well connected, and it turned out the folks at Hearst were close to the ones at Boston.com. But the real driver was the success our publishing partners were having generating revenue using our platforms. This led to one major deal after another as word spread.
What inspired you to go from founding a non-profit microcredit company to the online advertising tool?
Part of the non-profit microcredit business is working with small business owners and training them how to grow their business. I worked with one of my PaperG co-founders at that microcredit non-profit and we wanted to be entrepreneurial like our clients and start our own company. In addition to my experience working with small businesses, I had a background with online advertising from earlier endeavors and so it seemed natural to start a company to helps small business advertise online.