Friday, March 16, 2007

Geni-us?

Geni is this brand new family tree engine that allows you, in one screen, to see all the people you have to buy gifts for. Basically it allows you to create your family tree and has just received $10 million in funding, for a total valuation of $100 million. From The Founders Fund. Which I had referred to in an earlier post, about how they are ok with partially paying founders when investing.

In this case, the founders of Geni are perhaps not quite in the need of money - they're all ex-Pay Pal, Tribe and such companies that, if venture funding was a religion, would be senior Gods worshipped in every household.

TFF, to its credit, is not the one giving the $100 million valuation. They only gave it a piddly 10 million dollar value and stuffed them with $1.5 million. The $100 million value was provided by Charles River Ventures, which, albeit the valuation, involves more venturing by the Charles River.

But you may be thinking: Is this company worth a $100 million? I must be honest: Even with my exposure to large sums of money flashing on all TV channels in the forms of scams, frauds, bribes, ransoms etc. this sum seems ludicrously large. $100 million is about Rs. 440 crores. This is the kind of money that will buy you a two bedroom house in Bangalore nowadays, and should not be considered a trifle. This house has a real garden.

Some of you may think I exaggerate needlessly. But I think if we were not intended to needlessly exaggerate Darwin's law would have eliminated all writing anyhow. I originally intended to put god in the last sentence but after my baby boy's colic attacks I have finally understood there is no god. But I digress.

Now the question is: Is Geni worth Rs. 440 crores? Is this 18 person company a proposition that, if exchanged for currency, would yield a 100 million greenbacks? The last time such a question was posed, they all laughed at you. This was February 2000.

But we will assume this is not February 2000, because we haven't yet invented the time machine. So is Geni worth so much because it is unique and can't be copied?

Geni is perhaps easily copiable, and is definitely not the first family tree representation on the planet. Unfortunately it has also not taken into consideration the probability that someone could have 13 siblings, like in my father's family and therefore it will not work unless I have a dual monitor machine. (Which I do, incidentally) What actually worked, when I had to explain the 126 "close" family members to my wife, was pen and paper and lots of arrows. Actually it's better represented left to right rather than up to down - all family trees are, IMHO.

But they have a business model for sure. Have you seen the most popular serials on television? What are they about? Some of the biggest blockbusters in the hindi film industry were: Maine Pyar Kiya, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Hum Saath Saath hain, etc. Think of the basis of all of them. Everyone's related. And now, look at Geni's logo.

Soon, you may see Geni sprouting the capability of saying "I don't like this person" and you will see strange music in the background when you drag and drop people near each other. Perhaps even red colors as you move across the evil people who try to murder their mothers-in-law using faulty fans (don't ask me, I saw this on TV, I swear).

Then there will be mock fights and in comes the revenue from online betting on who will win. And you can SMS to a four digit number who you like the least so that person's icon will be relegated to a corner of the screen. The SMS revenue itself, shared 50:50 with Airtel, will yield millions.

And there will be people who will pay to see who is having whose baby in the Bold and the Beautiful and to unravel how, through a series of bad marriages, a person has become his own step-aunt.

Finally of course, look at the ease of understanding large family battles. If Geni were to host the discussion of the Bajaj family and their various holdings in various group companies that hold stakes in various other companies, it would be so much simpler to understand. After all you hear that Shishir Bajaj said Niraj Bajaj was siding with Rahuj Bajaj and his sons against Kushagra Bajaj. THe reader's band is baja(j).

Take all the business battles: Bajaj, Ambani (whose battles don't even have the same last name), Birla, Tata, Rin, Surf Excel etc. All these battles look so much better explained in a flash videos marked by respective family trees, and I'm sure stockholders will pay to see the darn thing unravelled. Eventually, though, they may be pissed off that the real owner is a pair of underwear or something. Still, that's information that someone is willing to pay for, either to know or to ensure others don't know.

I have now come to the understanding how this can soon become a billion dollar company. Maybe even a trillion dollars. Yes, success is an absolute, but you will see how it can be a relative.

P.S. Maybe there can be a Geni for India that gets there before they do - www.khandaan.in?

5 comments:

Just Mohit said...

The company and it's venture capitalists are all Geni-ass-es.

The post was truly geni-us...more you than us, but quite cool anyways! heh

Arun said...

Heh... Nice one.

From your complaints about ICICI, you should draw up a relationship-tree of the ICICI products in Geni so that we can avoid them :-)

I have given my thougts on Geni too on
my blog.

Steve said...

Family tree i am doing….!
Read you post on genealogy, we have just launched family based family trees- Kincafe. We would like you to particpate in beta release of Kincafe and provide feedback to andy@kincafe.com
Thanks

The Geni Team said...

Interesting discussion. We're always interested in feedback--we've created a Geni Forum for just such discussions, feedback and comments.

http://forums.geni.com

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