Trunk.ly is the brainchild of Tim Bull and Alex Dong, who met just four months before they founded the business in November 2009.
A year later, Trunk.ly was catapulted into the marketplace following the rumoured demise of its competitor Delicious. According to Alexa, Trunk.ly broke into the world’s top 20,000 most-visited sites just days after its launch.
Tim Bull talks to StartupSmart about the birth of Trunk.ly and its swift entry into the marketplace.
What were you and Dong doing before you started Trunk.ly?
I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers – I was a global IT architect there. When I left, I had some savings, I had a bunch of money in terms of long service leave and a few different things.
Alex was co-founder of a photo blogging site in China. It’s the largest photo blogging site in China and he exited from that start-up about two years ago.
He had enough money from that to go travelling around the world, which he did. While he was travelling, one of his goals was to find the next big idea; the next big start-up that he wanted to work on.
How did you meet?
In 2009, I went up to Sydney to one of the start-up camps run by Bart Jellema; Alex and I met up at a two-week entrepreneurial camp.
We shared a backpackers’ room together because we were both travelling to get there. We slept in bunks one above the other, we shared the same bathroom, we worked on the same project together 16 hours a day, we ate breakfast and dinner together.
After two weeks, we didn’t want to kill each other. And we kind of thought, we could definitely do something together.
Alex continued travelling and I went back to work at PwC and then we kind of just talked about it from there.
[When we set up the company], Alex came out here for three months and we worked together and then he went back to China. He’s based out of Shanghai.
What was the inspiration behind Trunk.ly?
For many people, social media is now this rolling social rumble of tweets, retweets, [Facebook] ‘Likes’ sharing, commenting and general discussion.
You go to a website and they’re promoting Facebook ‘Like’ buttons and they’re promoting Tweet buttons.
If the goal of that is to share with your friends, why then also bookmark it? It’s two clicks. What if we made it one click?
“What if we just let you do your normal social behaviour, and starting tracking and pulling those links back together?
Why did Delicious serve as the catalyst for Trunk.ly’s launch?
We had in our mind this lovely little timeline that sometime about now, we would throw open the doors of Trunk.ly – we would go out and drive some press and see what happened.
All of a sudden, Yahoo made this announcement [about the demise of Delicious] and we just went, there are all these people out there who are Delicious users, panicking and looking for Delicious alternatives [so] we just have to throw the doors open.
We’re getting a lot more indexing traffic from Google [and] we’re starting to get a lot of long-tail search so that offers us a really good opportunity to start monetising around some of that.
How was the business funded and has it generated any revenue?
We’ve basically been self-funded. It was well under $5,000 to get a proper business established in Australia.
At the moment, Trunk.ly isn’t generating any revenue at all. All we’ve been focused on is acquiring users and traffic.
The critical thing is metrics. Even though I think investing in start-ups is somewhat of an art, at times, there are kind of really concrete things that people look for.
With the user numbers that we’ve got, which are in the thousands now, there’s enough there to be able to measure things. We can try a premium model and we can measure conversions.
It’s not about a desperate need to make money. It’s more about, we need to actually validate some assumptions. If those assumptions validate, then we think we’re in a strong position to get funding in the future.
What tips would you give to other start-ups, particularly online ones?
- Talk to people. Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Ideas are a dime a dozen. People are very protective of their start-up ideas and if you don’t tell people what you’re doing, you can’t learn.
- Have a great business partner. You cannot do this alone.
- Starting a business is not something you can do part-time. Especially in the tech industry, people try and build a start-up part-time after hours. Any sort of traction is just going to blow that out of the water.
You can potentially build a product slowly over a long period of time, but you’re going to take so much longer than people like Alex and I who are working on this 16 hours a day.
If you’ve got a really good idea, timing is critical because the online world does not stay still and people keep driving new material all the time.