Geni is a very interesting online service that leverages an easy to use flash interface and viral tools to create family trees.  One interesting concept to prove or disprove is that the whole world is related in one way or another. Could Geni be the solution to world peace? :-)  

Business Model:
I have been unable to determine how Geni makes money but there are a number of obvious ways Geni can see the green as they quickly hit critical mass i.e. adsense, monthly subscriptions, follow on ‘pay for’ services and there is such a strong potential growth curve that this make sense as a ‘virtual’ investment:

Some Core Functionality:

  • An easy to use interface asks you to add your name and email address.  You can update your profile now or later.
  • You add your parent’s names, aunts, uncles, cousins and their email addresses and Geni begins to create a private access family tree. i.e. only visible to people invited to input into the family tree.
  • Geni is ‘viral’ so any people you add to your family tree with an email will be able, in turn, to see and add to your family tree.

There are a number of reasons why I think Geni will be going ganbusters in six months or less:

The user interface is VERY easy to use and intuitive, I find it hard to imagine that any user will not be able to instantly understand how to use ‘Geni’

Its one thing to be asked to join a ‘networking’ site via a friend, work colleague or distant contact – its quite another to be asked to ‘join’ by Auntie Flow or Cousin Rupert. There is also something immediately to be gained by participating…you get to find out about YOU! A subject at the center of everyone’s universe.  Can anyone really turn up their nose at such a site?  I think not!

Like most sites that go from zero to 180 miles per hour in 6 seconds or less, members only gain value if they bring others to the system.  Hence the reason why Match grew well but slowly (i.e. you could use the system without needing to ‘Add’ to the system) versus LinkedIn where its necessary to bring people onboard to gain value. Geni is the later…in a significant way!

As each person within the family tree has a profile, its also a good way to keep up with those relatives that you don’t get to see too often…now if it could only remind me to send a birthday card, life would be even better.

What’s the revenue model? Yes, Geni will grow in leaps and bounds but how will they make cash?  Will we start seeing annoying addsense ads beside Grandpa Joe’s photos advertising denture cream?  It isn’t obvious at this point. The setup and tools within Geni will ensure the site will grow…no question!  But like many 2.0 companies – when and how they get to revenue is a question.  Without understanding the roadmap to revenue, I’d make a big bet on Geni based on how many users I think they will have by 2008.  There are always ways to monetize significant membership level.  So a big bet but not a huge bet until the revenue crystalball becomes less opaque.

A little nitpick – what about those people who do not email?  I know…I know…but my grandparent’s aren’t online.  So I potentially ‘lose’ that information unless I get on the phone and talk them through it.  May be worth it though…

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would put the phone down on my Mother to invest $500K in Geni.