Tech across Ohio - What's green and square and sits on your Web page? ShareThis
If you've been sharing content with your Facebook friends or email contacts then you've probably seen the little green symbol from ShareThis, a young start-up that hopes to become the big name in online sharing.
Much like Google 10 years ago, which dominated the world of Web searching, ShareThis, founded by Tim Schigel, wants to be the ubiquitous choice of Web surfers to share information from visited websites with their friends and contacts.
The company has attracted $21 million in venture capital investment, $6 million of which came from local investors such as Blue Chip Venture Company in Cincinnati. Other investors include Draper Fisher Jurveston of Menlo Park, California, which invested $15 million.
With the explosive growth of networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Internet users are doing more sharing than ever, tripling the amount of sharing traffic in just the past year, says Schigel, and ShareThis has grown tremendously along with the trend.
ShareThis is used by more than 125,000 websites worldwide, including Procter & Gamble, ESPN, Fox News, ABC, and Cincinnati.com, says Schigel. More than 186 million people per month use the online button.
Here's how it works: Users click on the ShareThis icon, which is available free to any Web address, and send the shared information to all the contacts in their social networking accounts or via email. As the Web surfers share with each other, ShareThis tracks the sharing data to offer advertisers and publishers an opportunity to maximize their ability to reach certain customers.
"We are tapping into what people are sharing," says Schigel. "Brand marketers are very interested in that information. The sharing data will be used to help marketers find key influencers on the Web."
John Atkinson, founder of BuzzVoice.com based in Mason, Ohio, an online audio source for news and blogs, says that as a publisher and a heavy end-user of ShareThis he sees how important sharing has become to Internet marketing.
"It's an easy way to reach a lot of users," says Atkinson. "It will be a better quality of traffic (than searching). People share content they like, so it carries more weight. What your friends say is valuable, so it becomes an important recommendation."
Chip Mahaney, director of digital content for The E.W. Scripps Company, says the personal nature of sharing gives it a lot of traction as a communication tool in a marketplace crowded with messages.
"In a world where ads are ubiquitous, nothing is quite as relevant as something that is shared by a friend or colleague," he says. "I think it's going to have an impact."
ShareThis currently employs 21. While the company is still in the growth and development phase, Schigel says the potential for future revenue generation is significant, although he declined to talk about specific figures.
The revenue potential will come from the sharing data that is gleaned from many users. Publishers and advertisers will be anxious to pay for the information about who is sharing what, says Schigel.
In the first half of 2009, Web-based advertising revenue totaled $10.9 billion, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. While this is down slightly from 2008 due to the economy, the IAB expects advertising on the Internet to recover quickly as the economy improves.
Although ShareThis is based in Cincinnati, it also has an office in Mountain View, Calif., right across the street from Google, notes Schigel.
"A lot of the talent is out there, so it was necessary to have an office out there too," he says.
He plans to continue to run the company from Cincinnati, where its operations and customer support is headquartered, because this is his home. Over the next year the company will even add to its employee count here.
But personal convenience isn't the only plus of being located in Cincinnati, he adds.
Working with companies such as Procter & Gamble has helped keep the development of ShareThis grounded to real world business solutions, says Schigel.
"We're making product that's valuable to all users of the Internet," he says, "not just those in the tech echo chamber."
Lucas Watson, global team leader, digital business strategy at P&G, says that sharing has definitely become an important method for increasing brand awareness.
"Both searching and sharing act as filters with… sharing allowing people you trust to filter for things you may want to know," says Watson. "As brands are providing easy ways to share their content they are activating brand ambassadors and reaching more people with their message."
Mark Richey, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures in Cincinnati, says he's not surprised to see a company such as ShareThis thriving in Cincinnati.
"Clearly where Cincinnati has a history of world class talent is in consumer marketing," says Richey. "We have media talent here that is unequaled anywhere else. You're starting to see some of that talent move into all these other areas of new media. The success of companies like ShareThis will spawn more opportunities for success."