eHub Interviews Lopico

Posted by Emily Chang on Tuesday, February 7th, 2006. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Lopico, originally added to eHub on Nov 01, 05.

imageThanks to J.D. Amer, creator of Lopico for this email interview posted February 7, 2006.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

Lopico: Lopico is a directory of favorite local businesses built completely on user input. Users suggest their favorite businesses, which are then posted to the site; after that businesses are ranked by votes so that people can quickly and easily find great local businesses. For now it’s primarily focused on high level takeaways, but I just launched a review program called “Lopico Lovers” that gives site users the opportunity to say why they think the businesses that they’ve voted for should be number one in the Lopico rankings.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

Lopico: After four years at school I moved back to my hometown to attend law school, I went to my old barber, got a horrible haircut, and wanted to find some place better.  I looked around online for some options, but didn’t see any local web services that I liked.  All sites at the time used star ratings which led to too many things being ranked either very high or very low; to me, the rankings had no real meaning.  Sites with review models tended to have reviews of people that were either very happy or very upset – I wanted a quick shot at an aggregate of opinions, so I came up with the voting model.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

Lopico: I wish that I could spend more time on Lopico, but I am in Law School and I work for a law firm.  I’m also working on a second site which is in support of Lopico’s growth, but also detracts from time available for Lopico.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

Lopico: My name is J.D. Amer I am the only person directly working on Lopico.  I handle anything technical or design related, as well as business aspects, but I leave the content creation to my users. My background is in marketing, I’ve been playing with the web for a little over a year.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

Lopico: 1. Keep it simple 2. Never be satisfied 3. Listen to feedback and implement good ideas.  I find that many of the best ideas for Lopico come from Lopico critics. It’s important to have fans, but naysayers are great too.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

Lopico: Because of my lack of any background as little as a year ago, Lopcio has constantly been in transition on the tech side. Much of my code is open source, and new features are being created in the ASP.NET web matrix. For AJAX fans: I’ve used some AJAX in the new review program that I just launched.

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

Lopico: More cities – Currently in 165 cities and I should be adding 40 more in the next few months, I’m also considering international versions, but need to conduct some market research first.  Other than cities I get a fair number of request for new categories – I’ll probably address this soon.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

imageLopico: For now Lopico is only in the U.S., with highest concentration in my hometown of Akron, OH (if you’re not familiar with Akron, it’s near Cleveland and home to Goodyear Tire and LeBron James).  Akron is really the only city which I feel has an acceptable level of content.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

Lopico: Next 6 months, I will continue to add features as users continue to feed the site content. I just launched the review program and next up is a new site called Lopromo. I’m also working on a mobile version which is scheduled for around May.

2 years – Lopico probably won’t look much like it does today.  There are a lot of features that I would like to add in the next two years, most of which don’t exist yet on the net, so I can’t really talk about them.  I will definitely have mapping/navigation integrated in Lopico in under 2 years, but more than 6 months.  A big part of the 2y+ strategy is to get bigger by going smaller.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

Lopico: With all of the great local sites coming out, I don’t think anyone is expecting Lopico to come out on top.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

Lopico: Of the many things that I need, user input and time are most important.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

Lopico: Of course, but I’m only in the first phase of my business plan, so for now I rely on ad networks supplemented by limited amounts of direct advertising and enhanced listings.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

Lopico: I’ll never say that I get enough traffic, but it’s getting better.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

Lopico: I was talking to someone recently and I mentioned Lopico, this was the first time that I had mentioned it to her but she had already heard of it and was using it – that was a pretty cool moment.  I’m proud of the fact that people use it, and I’m proud that it can actually help people in Akron and a few other cities, but it really needs to become more helpful in more locations before I’ll be satisfied.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

Lopico: I think of web 2.0 (or whatever you’d like to call it) as primarily divided into 2 camps.  Camp A is the software replacement set led by 37 signals and others that seek to replace productivity tools with online versions, and Camp B is the “humans are better than algorithms” camp. Camp B is my favorite part of web2.0; I see this as sites like digg and del.icio.us that let users dictate what content is most important rather than relying on a traditional search algorithm.  Both camps (and sites outside either Camp) are making the web much more useful and much more powerful.  It’s an exciting time for the web and hopefully more great creativity is still to come.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

Lopico: del.icio.us, basecamp, digg, gmail, bloglines, google/ig and Pandora. I also read about 50 tech and business blogs.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Lopico: Too many, usually between 6-8 hours.

Thanks to J.D. Amer, creator of Lopico for this email interview posted February 7, 2006.

Visit Lopico
Originally added to eHub on Nov 01, 05