If you haven’t heard of Behnam Behrouzi, it’s only a matter of time. He’s had a hand in building over 25 multi-million dollar startups and online services. Behnam took the time to speak to Young Money to tell us about his latest project: LeapFish.com.
Young Money: Tell me about yourself, your background, age, education, etc
Behnam Behrouzi: My name is Behnam Behrouzi, I’m 27 years of age and a serial entrepreneur from the San Francisco Bay Area. I have been thinking, dreaming and executing business concepts since I was 15 years and in my time thus far I have been fortunate to be a part of building over 25 multi-million dollar startups and online services from the ground up, including Reply.com, iMotors, AgentConnect, RealtyNow, iCastle, DotNext, LeapFish and others. I’ve helped produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, several million dollars in profits and served hundreds of thousands of clients & customers nationwide.
I was born in Tehran Iran and was forced to leave the country due to brutal religious persecution by the Islamic Government there. I’ve lived in Pakistan and Alaska but spent most of my youth growing up in California. I am frequent consultant for young founders and startup organizations in the San Francisco bay area and enjoy providing guidance in startup architecture, agile software engineering and scalable technology infrastructure. I studied Philosophy at the University of California at Davis and enjoy cycling in my hometown of Danville, California.
YM: Tell me about your previous companies, experience.
BB: I have over 12 years in building and managing startups, building management teams, developing core technology infrastructure and leading product design and architecture. Currently, I serve as President & CEO of DotNext Inc. a venture firm based out of Pleasanton, California.
I co-founded and was formerly Chief Technology Officer and Chief of Product at Reply.com, a leading online lead generation portal for service professionals in real estate, automotive, home improvement and lending. I founded Reply.com in June of 2001 at the age of 20 while in college and lead the company in the full detailed architecture and engineering of Reply.com’s service products and state-of-the-art technology infrastructure. I produced over 20 multi-million dollar profitable service provider products and services including Reply.com, iMotors.com, AgentConnect.com, CarClub.com, OpenAuto.com, RealtyNow.com, iCastle.com and others to grow the company to over $30M in annual revenues prior to my leaving in 2006. We raised $17M lead by BA Ventures, acquired and expanded ConnectingNeighbors.com and become one of the top two market leaders in online lead generation. I left the company in December of 2006 to pursue new ventures and continue to remain one of the largest share holders and advocates of the company.
Prior to the Reply.com marketplace and suite of lead generation services, I co-founded and developed the lead generation duo iMotors.com and AgentConnect.com. iMotors was incubated in June of 2001 and the automotive platform was managed to over $10M in annual revenues, while AgentConnect was incubated in February, 2003 and was developed into one of the Internet’s first successful real estate lead generation platforms with over $15M in annual revenues prior to my leaving in 2006. The combined entities drove the formation of the Reply.com suite of lead generation services and continue to operate today.
Prior to iMotors.com, I founded Adovis.com and developed a web hosting lead generation destination, delivering high volume web hosting, Internet security and data center solution leads for small to large size hosting companies nationwide. We quickly built relationships with some of the largest hosting companies nationwide such as Web.com, Verio, RackSpace and EV1 Internet, and grew the business to an annual run rate of $1.5M in less then 6 months before I transitioned focus to the automotive and real estate lead generation arenas.
I was bitten by the entrepreneur bug at a very early age when I started my first novel service KwikKoupon.com and developed one of the first online coupon destinations for my local community of businesses while I was in high school. I successfully signed on and served several hundred local businesses and was featured on the cover of the Modesto Bee business section at the age of 16. Since then, I have been busy building and growing different businesses.
YM: Why a search engine?
BB: Why not?
Search is a big space and the natural evolution of the Internet fragments the accessibility of the evolving Internet. We see a value in being able to build an engine that offers a convenient Internet Dashboard to all that we care about online.
YM: What about all of the competition?
BB: We don’t compete with them they way one may think. We seek to lend more accessibility to them.
There is no doubt that the authorities in the indexing of the web are Google and Yahoo. We do not intend to race along side these two; rather we seek to integrate them as indexers in the multi-dimensional search aggregator that we have developed.
Most users do not surf past the first page of results from Google or Yahoo. As a result the limited real estate Google and Yahoo have to work with cannot capture the growing breadth of the Internet. They are built to render the most relevant of search data. But as the web grows relevancy is no longer enough. Breadth and variety are required to capture everything we care about today.
There are many successful meta-engines and some simple aggregators such as DogPile, Mamma, Altavista, Lycos and others that combine the results of engines including Google and Yahoo. Google and Yahoo have built robust APIs in an effort to get more and more companies to integrate their search data. The more their data is integrated the wider their own reach becomes.
YM: What makes LeapFish special?
BB: The Internet has grown more and more complex and more than often a search for something leads users to not only search the major engines of the web, but also the other major online destinations that hold our video information, image information, shopping information, news and more.
LeapFish delivers convenience in two ways. If you are faced with a wider, more complex search, LeapFish will do the heavy lifting for you by querying the online authorities that you care about all at once. Something you would normally end up doing manually one site at a time.
Additionally, since LeapFish is always checking other major online destinations, the engine conveniently surprises users with information that they wouldn’t have normally been aware of had they used a traditional engine.
Overall LeapFish keeps users up to date by offering search results from Internet authorities we already care about. The engine is able to capture the variety and breadth of the Internet in one place, so that users have a more well-rounded set of results per search query.
We are working to grow LeapFish into the dashboard of the Internet.
YM: How did you get funding for LeapFish?
BB: LeapFish is a private company funded by DotNext Inc. DotNext is a venture firm driven to innovate which was funded by me.
YM: How will Leapfish make money?
BB: LeapFish offers Advertisers with Sponsorship Keyword Ad Positions similar to those found in other ad networks across the web. Advertisers have the unprecedented opportunity to purchase the Sponsorship Keyword Positions permanently with just one single registration fee. There are no per click fees. Eventually Advertisers can resell these positions to the highest bidder.
YM: What is the first thing you do when starting a new business?
BB: After you have identified a viable opportunity, the very next step that should be taken is to develop a business plan. The theoretical and conceptual exercise around the business plan will reveal hurdles and challenges that will help you prepare for implementation.
YM: What do you look for in a business idea?
BB: Two things:
First, whether there is a need for new or additional value that can be driven to users/customers
Second, whether we can monetize that product/service.
YM: What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
BB: In a startup, agility is everything. So be prepared for no sleep.
YM: What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
BB: The ability to create and produce something that can deliver new found value.
YM:Does the risk ever scare you? Does the reward always outweigh the risk?
BB: Absolutely, but that risk is exactly why there are big rewards. Not everyone will take them.
There will always be businesses that fail and there will always be businesses that succeed. The existence of both is what gives life to our markets. So failure is part of the equation and one should know that it will take place sooner or later. Be sure to learn from them.
Check out www.leapfish.com