Archive | June 2012

Wizpert: Is There Demand for Experts On-Demand?


It took a while, but Wizpert really grew on me.

Disclosure: Wizpert is an ERA company. I am a mentor for ERA but have not advised Wizpert nor do I have a financial stake in ERA. As always, I may invest in Wizpert but for now at least, I have no skin in the game.

In brief, Wizpert instantly connects you with experts. Let’s say you…

  • are trying to get back in shape but are not sure what exercise routine is right for you.
  • have been trying to sleep-train your child but no matter what you do, he won’t go to sleep on his own.
  • want to make social media work for your business but you don’t know where to start.

You could spend hours searching for and wading through volumes of free and often contradictory advice on the web but wouldn’t it be great if you could just pick up the phone and get instant, clear, concise advice from an expert in that field? Wizpert thinks so.

There have been past attempts at creating directories of experts but they all generally worked like this:

  1. You read through a bunch of experts’ bios and try to pick one you think is qualified.
  2. That expert is rarely available right away so you either try to book an appointment or you go back to step  1.

Wizpert, currently in beta, presents you with a list of pre-qualified experts who are available right now. You don’t need to read though pages and pages of bios – each “Wizpert” has only a 140 character description! – you simply pick an expert from the short list Wizpert provides.

Wizpert is free for now but will roll out paid advice within the next few months. They expect most experts will charge $0.50 – $2.00 per minute. Wizpert keeps 25% of the revenue.

The first time I saw Wizpert, to be candid,  I was not exactly stoked. Wizpert needs a lot of traffic and a good conversion rate to succeed. This former often requires a large marketing budget and the latter is a crap shoot. Wizpert actually failed my first screen but stuck in my mind as a dark horse to watch. Fortunately, I ran into the co-founder, Michael Weinberg (@Michael_Wizpert), again recently and I liked what I heard.

Obvious question #1: How does Wizpert recruit experts?

When they open up a new category, they manually recruit the first few experts, focusing especially on experts with highly trafficked blogs. For the next wave of experts, they run a paid email marketing campaign. After that, word of mouth kicks in. In parallel, Wizpert has inked strategic alliances with other organizations of potential experts to help populate certain verticals.

Wizpert currently has over 1,100 experts and the cost per expert acquired is surprisingly low, almost trivial.

But how does Wizpert qualify its experts? Each would-be expert must answer a number of calls and get sufficiently highly rated by users before they can charge for their time. Once approved by Wizpert, the expert’s ranking (viz., likelihood to be recommended to a user) is determined by their rating, availability, and other factors. This winnows out the bad ones and keeps the best ones busy.

Obvious question #2: How does Wizpert acquire users?

Wizpert widget

Very cleverly. Each expert can put a Wizpert widget on his blog that their readers can click on to get live expert advice. If he is online when they click, he gets the call and makes some money. If not, Wizpert queues up some experts who are available. In fact, having a Wizpert widget on their blog is almost like a seal of approval or badge of honor, so much so that some experts have asked if they can put one on even if they intend to take no calls themselves.

In effect, each expert Wizpert acquires brings with him a slew of potential users. So other than a small Google AdWords campaign to kickstart each a new category, Wizpert spends virtually nothing on user acquisition.

With the specter of a money pit marketing budget put to rest, that leaves conversion rates. In the month since beta launch, Wizpert says that nearly 1 in 4 users who come to their site contact an expert and over 80% of these users rate the experts with whom they spoke positively. Many of these users have made multiple calls.

What these numbers will look like when Wizpert activates the payment mechanism is a legit concern. The categories that are currently performing best for them include Health & Wellness, Parenting, Relationships, and Social media.  These are all categories where people are used to paying for advice offline so it’s not a crazy bet that this will stay true for online.

So ultimately it comes down to one irreducible question: Will people pay to speak to Wizpert’s experts? There’s only one way to find out.

Twitter: @Wizpert

Claiming and Improving Your Digital Identity

Great article by Alex Taub (@ajt) :

5 Key Things Needed To Improve Your Digital Identity

I’d definitely add LinkedIn to the personal pages to claim, as well as industry specific pages (AngelList for startup people, Goodreads for authors, etc.).

Also, Bonnie’s StartupOneStop (SOS) newsletter is another great resource for tech events in NYC.

Technorati makes me feel stupid

Someone suggested that I “claim my blog” on Technorati so I tried.

Now I’m a reasonably bright guy (MBA from Chicago Booth, worked at Booz & Co, was COO of a successful startup, etc) but I have to admit, it was a pretty confusing process for me.

They tell me I need to post this code ( RH499G8AAZZB  ) to my blog and everything will be copacetic.  We’ll see.