André Rademan and Ken van Ginkel,co-founders of Bizcommunity, are testament to the fact that if you work longand hard enough pursuing a good idea, success will eventually come knocking.Today, Bizcommunity is the twelfth biggest online publisher in the country with105 000 readers, 55 000 newsletter subscribers, 2,1 million page impressions amonth and 4 000 businesses listed (Nielsen/Net ratings audit, May 2005). It isalso the largest independently-owned business-to-business online media companyin the country. The site, which targets all aspects of the media, advertisingand marketing industries, has been successful not only as an up-to-dateinformation portal but also in creating a true online community where loyalusers log on to get their daily “fix”.
The success of Bizcommunity was notimmediate, however. Rademan started it in 1999 when his fiancée mentioned thatthe advertising industry needed more current information than was beingsupplied in trade publications. The software developer worked on theBizcommunity concept for 18 months before teaming up with Van Ginkel, who madeup the site’s editorial component. Rademan discusses some of the uniquechallenges posed by the site’s target audience in the early start-up days:“Although advertising companies were encouraging their clients to create anonline presence, they were slow in taking their own advice.” Van Ginkelconcurs. “We had to slowly break people into the idea of Bizcommunity. It wasjust after the dot bomb, so they were initially reluctant to consider onlinesolutions.”In those early months, cash flow was achallenge. Rademan used his savings to support himself while he was planningthe site. “Those funds were getting really low just before Ken joined and wewere about to go live,” he says. Fortunately, an investor provided themuch-needed capital to launch.
The fact that the site wasn’t an overnightsuccess didn’t dampen the partners’ spirits for long. “The vision was alwaysthere and we had faith in the fact that it would eventually work,” saysRademan. As the industry realised that Bizcommunity was here to stay, thecompany started to see incremental growth. “There is nothing like time forproving that you are truly committed to something; it took a while beforepeople realised we were serious about offering a long-term online service,”explains Van Ginkel.After only six months, their dailynewsletter surpassed the 10 000 subscriber mark set by the only other industrynewsletter.Initially, they ran the site alone. “Wewould do the daily newsletter in the morning and then spend the afternoon onsales,” says Rademan. Piet Badenhorst, sales director, was appointed in 2003and the Bizcommunity team grew to 14.
Editor, Louise Marsland, joined soon after,taking over the content reins from Van Ginkel and bringing a wealth ofjournalistic experience to the group. A bigger IT team meant features could beloaded faster and more efficiently. Both partners agree that finding the rightpeople at the right time has provided the foundation on which their success hasgrown.Bizcommunity has really taken on a life ofits own. With 22 main sections, there are many areas on the website where userscan participate and feel like part of a community. Rademan points out thatalthough the target market is predominantly professionals in the marketing,media and advertising industries, many subscribers and users come from a rangeof other businesses. “Marketing is important to all businesses and they use Bizcommunity to keep up to date on news and trends,” he says. “Our vision wasto create something that would make a difference to the industry and the responsefrom our users indicates that we’re achieving that.” With the number ofsubscribers growing by 1 000 a month it seems he’s right on the money.