If you want a study in how to launch a dream, look no further than to the newest player in the search game. Cuil (pronounced “cool”) is trying OH SO HARD to be cool by being “anti-Google”. Everything they do screams “We are Anti-Google” down to the black vs white background of the search page.
Cuil certainly did it right when it came to generating Web 2.0 buzz which is why they are the “case study” for this How to Launch a Dream post. Cuil leveraged Advertising 2.0 to it’s fullest to promote it’s new search engine. From Twitter to Friendfeed to previews by prominent bloggers, Cuil orchestrated a brilliant launch.
The great buzz builder and Holy Grail for any Web 2.0 launch is to get a write up on Michael Arrington’s Tech Crunch. Cuil scored this major victory and the result was the post, Cuil Exits Stealth Mode With A Massive Search Engine which got PLENTY of attention. The list of trackbacks and comments is a mile long on that post. Anti-google was a theme we were all apparently eager to embrace. Cuil scored big.
How to Launch a Dream begins with a review (positive or negative) on Techcrunch.
Then, reality sets in. Lots of buzz has lots of people who try to USE Cuil. Unfortunately, these folks are not using the carefully prescribed method Cuil instructions for searching. Instead, these people are using Cuil to search in the way they always have to find what they want on the web.
When real people started to use Cuil, what they found was a highly polish turd.
Cuil quickly discovered that there is such a thing as bad publicity when it comes to the web. Technorati reversed their positive initial post with “How To Lose Your Cuil 20 Seconds After Launch“. Bloggers who had regurgitated the Press Release materials so artfully distributed were also lashing out. The blogosphere began to ring with cries of “Cuil Sucks“and “Cuil:How NOT to search the web“.
The beatings of the Cuil search engine continued out of the “tech lanes” of the blogosphere with posts like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” on Jim Goldstein’s photography blog. Seems Cuil is especially bad for photography sites and the comments on Jim’s blog are quick to point out those serious flaws.
So quickly after a big bang product launch, it appears that Cuil is officially “not cool” when it comes to search. While it’s common wisdom to “launch early, launch big – fix the problems later”, I’d have to say that doesn’t look promising for Cuil.
In his post The Startup CEO School of Hard Knocks, Ben Yoskovitz writes:
When it comes to generating press for your company (particularly at launch) make sure you understand how your company fits into larger trends. As much as you’d like full profiles down exclusively about you, reporters will be more apt to work with you if you can provide a bigger story. How does your company fit into global trends? What’s the bigger picture?
Cuil certainly followed that advice. They definitely “got” where they fit in the big picture. By positioning their product as “anti-Google”, they struck and chord and the blogosphere responded like a pitch fork after it’s been struck on a hard surface.
Unfortunately, Cuil’s gleaning of good advice seems to check out when it comes to the other side generating buzz… creating a product or service that users (a.k.a. customers) love.
I’ve learned a lot from reading Ben’s blog. Ben talks a LOT about launching product on his blog. He talks a lot about users and their experience with the product. He should know. He’s launched his own startup company and believe me, it shows in his writing. Maybe the startup team at Cuil hadn’t found Ben’s blog before they launched. Too bad. They could have learned a thing or two.
In the end, Cuil found the right chord with their “anti-Google” approach. They effectively positioned themself as “anti-Google” and with the latest buzz about Google Knol we were more than willing to lift upon our collective blogging shoulders the new way to spell Cuil.
However, by launching their product before it was ready to provide the results for which visitors were searching, Cuil now finds themselves in an unenviable position. They now must scramble to bring their product up to snuff. A search engine that can’t find New York City is not a search engine ready for prime time. The question is, will you go back in 12-18 months when the kinks are worked out? I suspect your answer is the same as mine: NO!
You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Don’t forget that as you prepare to launch your dream.