Quepasa.com has found itself in a very interesting -- and enviable -- position.
Originally founded as a Web portal for Spanish speakers in 1997, the site was made over into a social network in September 2007.
That relaunch failed. But the subsequent management team has proved that the goal of successfully transitioning to a social network was a good one . . . to the tune of more than 1.6 million unique visitors per month and growing, according to the company.
The growth in traffic has put Quepasa.com at the forefront of the recent explosion in popularity of social networking sites. From MySpace to Facebook, a new generation of people are turning to the web as their primary source of meeting and connecting with new people.
Quepasa's soaring popularity has boomed without marketing, advertising, or outreach efforts, practices the company has only dipped into recently. Rather, John C. Abbott, the company's CEO, attributes the scorching popularity of Quepasa.com to good technology and his target audience's recognition that Quepasa is "an authentically Latino site."
Second Time's The Charm
Mr. Abbott was brought on as Quepasa's CEO at the end of 2007 due to his investment and M&A expertise, with extensive experience in the Latin American markets. A new CFO, Mike Matte, a man experienced with turning around public companies, was also brought on board.
"The focus was to reemphasize (Quepasa.com's) technology and develop competency around social media technology," Mr. Abbott told HispanicBusiness.com. "So we again started up as a social network, then searched for a chief technology officer."
They couldn't have found a more suitable candidate: Quepasa's CTO, Louis Bardov, is the man whose efforts on the technology side helped transform Match.com into its modern incarnation as an ubiquitously advertised, and very popular, dating site. Appropriately, Mr. Abbott praises him as "someone who really understands the concept of connecting people to other people" -- a primary focus of the new Quepasa as well.
In February 2008, Quepasa's new brain trust spearheaded the site's second attempt at a transition to a social network. This time it took. As their collective vision for the site began to coalesce, the community began to really take off. In June of 2008, Quepasa was seeing about 2,800 new signups per week. By September, that figure leaped to an astounding 110,000.
"This was 100% a function of our technology," Mr. Abbott said. "No advertising dollars, no AdWords, no banners . . . it's just a reflection of the job Louis has done in building a great technology platform."
"It's been very exciting," he said, "and we're looking forward to developing our site even further, now that we've a very strong technology platform capable of sustaining the things that we want to do next."
Eyeballs First, Money Second
The site's revenues come primarily from ads at this point, but Mr. Abbott says now that Quepasa has the sizable and growing audience, Quepasa is sorting out how best to monetize it. However, serving the audience still takes priority, he says:
"If you look at any successful site -- Google, YouTube, MySpace -- step one is to build an audience, which then allows you to build a better brand, then monetization follows. There's a bit of a tradeoff -- if you spend too much time working on how to monetize a product, you're taking resources away from building the features and products that will draw an audience."
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