On Friday, the NYT had a revealing Q&A with the founder of ChatRoulette , Andrey Ternovskiy. The 17-year-old was over in the U.S. to talk to developers and potential investors about how to evolve his site, which he developed over three days in his bedroom. His responses to Nick Bilton’s questions–specifically when asked if he was talking to investors*–brought back memories of the first Dotcom bubble, when the Nasdaq peaked at 5,048.62, on March 10, 2000 (almost 10 years ago to the date). Fast Company undertook a whistle-stop analysis of Ternovskiy’s words to discover whether he and his site will make a mint out of the Internet.
Name: Inspired by, we guess, The Deerhunter, (“I watched a movie about American soldiers who were fighting in Vietnam and were captured and forced to play Russian roulette”) ChatRoulette does exactly what it says on the url.
Verdict: simple and punchy, it’s a winner.
Concept: ChatRoulette is one of those blessedly simple ideas that has just about everyone slapping their foreheads and wishing they’d come up with the concept. Rather like the guys from YouTube, Ternovskiy was looking for a Web site that would let him chat randomly on Webcams and, when he couldn’t find one, he built it himself.
Verdict: This is what the entrepreneurs of the future are made of. Top marks.
Execution: Ternovskiy showed ChatRoulette to his friends who didn’t get it. Undeterred, he posted his handiwork on a few Web forums, inviting people to try it out. Result! The number of visitors doubled each day, and last month 30 million people checked his site out.
Verdict: Shows both initiative and a singlemindedness in getting his product out. Good work, fella!
Marketing: Asked his views on all the media attention, Ternovskiy shrugged. “I haven’t read a single article. I don’t want to read them. I see a wall of text and I just look at the picture and click next.” Either this was a fabulous joke that references the action that most ChatRouletters take when they see a fat man playing Sweet Child O’ Mine on his genitals/ukelele, or that he’s just not bothered. There shouldn’t be a language barrier, as the teenager studied English and Chinese with a view to being a translator.
Verdict: Let’s hope it’s a joke.
Relationship with Google: Although ChatRoulette has AdWords, Google aren’t sending Ternovskiy the money. “At first it took two months to verify my address in Moscow because I wrote a code down incorrectly. Then when that was fixed and everything should have been fine, I received a letter from Google that said they could not send me the money because I was not 18 years old yet.”
Verdict: Hard to tell whether he’s indulging in some clever reverse psychology or merely being sloppy.
Willingness to tweak his product: A “report” button has been added to ChatRoulette , and three strikes of that and they’re banned from, as Ternovskiy wants his site to be clean. Very reminiscent of Facebook’s original incarnation, as a way of rating hot girls at Harvard.
Verdict: Well, that’s the iPhone app sorted, then.
Thinking big: Ternovskiy knows his site could be worth a lot. “People say they want to buy my site, but they are only offering me $1 million. Six months ago I would have said yes, but now I want to keep it.” He’s in it for the long haul, making him more Facebook than Boo.com.
Verdict: He’s already talking the talk.
Thinking forward: “I don’t have a business plan. I’m looking for ideas. I personally don’t know, but I’m debating changing everything. I’m meeting with people to look for ideas and see what to do next.” He’s certainly honest.
Verdict: Oops. Unless it’s reverse psychology again, in which case expect to see Ternovskiy as Russian President in two decades.
Conclusion: It’s hard to say whether Ternovskiy’s naivete and candor will work for or against him. His age is both a boon and a curse–The world loves a clever, Web-savvy teen–and so, sometimes, do investors, but not for the same reasons.
*Response: “Well, for now they are more interested in me than I am in them.”
[Via The New York Times]