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Not Your Parents’ City Guide: Austin Based Startup Changes the Game

Not Your Parents' City Guide: Austin Based Startup Changes the GameMetroSeeker.com is an online residential guidebook based in Austin, TX, but it’s really much more than just a residential guidebook. Unlike traditional living-shopping-culture guides, MetroSeeker uncovers the essence of the place and of the people. “It really lets you connect to a new city,” says MetroSeeker’s CEO Ysmay. “We know if you’re going to make a life somewhere, you’ll want to go beyond the obvious.”

A self-funded startup with only five employees, MetroSeeker began in December of 2010 because of the realization that when people move it often takes them between 9 and 18 months to settle in and feel like a local. For a college intern, that’s unfortunately a large amount of time – often, the whole internship. “MetroSeeker is designed to help people connect with their city in a more personal way,” says Ysmay. “We often lose our sense of community when we relocate and it’s that sense of community that really helps people nest and feel comfortable in their new city.”

MetroSeeker.com is geared toward Millennials – the first generation to come of age during the millennium. As a whole, Millennials are wired in, early adopters that tend to gravitate toward cities and away from rural areas. But with all the options Millennials are faced with about where to start the next phase of their lives, finding a place they can truly fall in love with can be challenging.

Part of what sets MetroSeeker.com apart from other residential guidebooks is featured artist and musician profiles, along with featured locals, known as FeLos. “A FeLo,” Ysmay explains, “is someone whose livelihood could only come from one specific place. FeLos impart a flavor of their surroundings into their art, their music, their invention, their business, and in turn, contribute some of their own flavor back to their city. FeLos love the city they’re in, and the
city loves them. At the same time, MetroSeeker’s featured artists and musicians showcase the best creative minds in a city. They’re accomplished, one-of-a-kind, and constantly exploring new paths. Whether through vision, sound, or motion, they communicate the feeling and soul of the city that they love.”

Art director Cynthia Wenslow adds, “Although we have an open and ongoing Call for Creatives on MetroSeeker.com – we’re continually featuring new artists and musicians while keeping previous profiles available – we are quite particular about whom we select. We want to feature musicians and artists who are accessible and engaged, who can speak about their work and their passion; creatives who deserve a closer look by a wider audience.”

Trying to start a business on a budget in this economy is a challenge. MetroSeeker uses a wide range of free business tools, and a number of them are from Google: GMail for Businesses, Google Analytics, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Alerts.

“We also use Hootsuite, and Open Office, which is popular with our editors, but the one thing we could not live without is Evernote – for task management, priority lists, and long-term project planning,” noted Ysmay.

Not Your Parents' City Guide: Austin Based Startup Changes the Game

Ysmay

Another way MetroSeeker is keeping initial start up costs low is not investing a penny in advertising. “We haven’t invested in advertising yet, and we’re not sure if we ever will,” Ysmay explains. “ We only opened our beta September 1st, and within the first month we saw a surprising amount of growth with over 18,000 page views from over 34 countries. All of our advertising is done with social media .”

“A good social media strategy is essential to any new company in today’s market.” Ysmay, a former marketing executive, says. “We maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Foursquare, where we have a brand page. We plan our strategy and are careful to make sure we interact most often during peak user times. 9am, noon, 3pm, and 6pm are said to be the most active user times across multiple social networks. And of course, it’s important to have quality content.”

“It’s not just quality content that matters,” interjects Cynthia Wenslow, “but variety of content. Across our social media channels, MetroSeeker regularly offers tips, facts and studies, quirky news items, and updates about our FeLos.”

MetroSeeker’s 25 year-old founder has a personal viewpoint on success. “Success is always subjective,” Ysmay says. “Some entrepreneurs define success in terms of selling the company or establishing and meeting a revenue goal, but the success of MetroSeeker is going to be determined by a variety of metrics: Are we a useful resource? Are we staying true to our brand values? Are we branching out into new markets? Are we doing what we set out to do? Are we still doing what we love? At the end of the day, if the answers to these questions are ‘yes’, then
we’re successful whether any arbitrary goals, monetary or otherwise, are being met.”

Ysmay recounts a brief meeting with Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media. “I was working as an artist and trying to figure out the next big thing in my life, and I happened to be at the PayPal Innovate 2010 conference where Tim O’Reilly gave a Keynote. During his
talk he said something to the effect of, ‘Do it because it’s fun, don’t do it for the money. Do something you’re passionate about, and the rest will fall into place.’ Later that day I got to meet Mr. O’Reilly, and I thanked him for his keynote. In our brief conversation he reiterated his point that the best ideas take hold because someone said ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ And that’s really why MetroSeeker is here – eradicating urban ignorance is an enormous challenge, and it’s something we’re quite passionate about. MetroSeeker.com will exist whether or not we make our projected revenue or have to take on second jobs to make it work.”

You can follow MetroSeeker.com on Facebook, Twitter, and even Foursquare, where they have a brand page that provide all sorts of interesting tips!

http://www.facebook.com/MetroSeeker
http://www.twitter.com/MetroSeeker
http://www.foursquare.com/MetroSeeker

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