Interview with TrustRadius founder, Vinay Bhagat

Estimated reading time: 4 min
Vinay Bhagat, TrustRadius Image via CrunchBase

We were lucky to find out about TrustRadius the enterprise software comparison site founded by Vinay Bhagat

Image via CrunchBase

through a search we were doing for clients.  As a result, we got in touch with them and secured an interview.

Why did you start TrustRadius?

We’re trying to change the way software is bought and sold. If you’re a consumer who wants to buy a product or service there’s a wealth of information out there.  But if you’re trying to buy a piece of technology which could have a huge impact on your career, or business – it’s more challenging; more opaque.

Technology marketers try to control the information flow a customer gets.

Our belief is that through a platform like TrustRadius we can give buyers a more authentic, rapid way to make smarter decisions.  It’s not just picking the right product – it’s the right product for your use case.

Every business has unique needs – on TrustRadius you can crowdsource different perspectives about the context around the problem the business is trying to solve. This allows the user to made a more informed choice.

This isn’t trying to provide all the answers.  TrustRadius is a layer to get intelligent and get insights, way to avoid mistakes.  It’s more than a content layer, it’s a way to allow people to connect with each other. a contextual social network.

What are the issues with other solutions?

The Gartner magic quadrant is not appropriate for everyone.
We have a user who contacted people through the site and did information exchanges to get to the real story behind their tech selection and purchase.

People have tried to do backchannel references for years – it’s hard to get peer input rapidly at scale.
Reviewers have authentication – and we use Linked In – in connect button to verify identities.

What’s your business model?

Today we are not focused on making money – we’re trying to create a trusted at scale network – as a young company we

have to concentrate at this.  If we can wedge ourselves between the buyer and seller its a $4trilliion marketplace.  We bootstrapped for 1 year and now have raised VC money last June – we maniacally focus on getting to scale through effectively recruiting reviewers, sourcing content and engaging vendors.

What about revenue plans?

We’ve appraised other sites who have a choice to monetise the vendor or the buyer (or other constituencies – financial analysts and VCs).  We will do vendor first – in the world of UGC sites – Angies List (home contractors), Yelp and TripAdvisor the most successful have monetised the seller not the buyer.

There are ways to monetise the buyer with premium services (like Evernote or Dropbox) especially at the enterprise level.  It’s easier to do the vendor.  The first revenue vehicle is matchmaking or lead generation…. I think of it as match making.  At Ziff Davis you download a white paper and they sell your name to 10 vendors.  But you are just researching at that stage – not in the buying phase so the lead quality is low.

As a result, the IT vendor has to triage some C-grade leads.

Buyers can research on our site without being pestered and allow them to “hand-raise” and ask to be contacted e.g. for product pricing or for a demo. It’s only on the Product review pages at present and we are still working on CPL and establishing a conversion rate.

We’re at 70k users a month now growing at 30% per month. We have targets for users, reviews, registered members, retention. The revenue will be nominal this year. At the end of 2014 we’ll have cracked the code on getting to a reasonable critical mass – and the foundations for the user engagement model so monetisation will follow in 2015.

What is key: Letting the user control who they want to talk to

We might do a user scoring system – to manage an RFP process (especially when buying in teams) having a central hub of where you can collaborate, curate reviews etc.
Or allow you could allow Trust Radius to be an intermediary and we can route the enquiries and handle bids from 3 trusted vendors for you.

Philosophically we are trying to be the quality destination – there are other software review sites but they tend to focus on ratings. These are good for ‘sentiment’ guidance, but don’t help you discern between products who are similarly rated. We believe there isn’t a one size fits all answer – the buyer needs to understand the nuances of what’s right for her. We try to source super-high quality reviews. the average is 500 words and the reviewer takes 18 minutes to complete. We’re also starting to do curation and editorial of the reviews – longform reports. We did Social Media software last autumn [The social media managers software buyers guide], and coming up is marketing automation space. We use visualisations to understand how different products stack up against the vendors.

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