I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Adrian Blake, CEO of Omaha-based TownCommons.com. Adrian comes from an interesting background of management consulting with a history of working with large organizations, and he brings a unique and fresh perspective to the his startup.
Simply put, Town Commons is a website that aggregates event information from websites across your city (currently only in Omaha), and allows you to create a customized feed of events specific to your interests. Think of it as Google News for local events.
Recently launched in beta, the site already features a wide array of events for the Omaha area. You can sign up and customize your list of events and elect to receive a weekly digest of events tailored to your liking. Adrian is quick to point out however, that the beta is far from a complete product:
You want to start with something thats a “Minimum Viable Product“. Our Town Commons Beta is not as pretty as it’s going to be, right now it’s very functional. We got something out as quickly as we could, got real people looking at it, and telling us where we have messed up. And that’s immensely useful.
Town Commons’ history is rooted in a site many in the Omaha area may be familiar with: OmahaWiki.org. Founded by Creighton University professor John Workman (left), OmahaWiki was at one time one of the largest city-wikis in the world, as measured by number of user-submitted articles. The core of the site focused around articles that didn’t change all that often, such as venues and landmarks. This presented a business challenge for the site, as users would look up facts about landmarks once or twice, but wouldn’t frequently return.
This led to the development of Town Commons with a focus on events, paired with this regional wiki data. The goal is to make Town Commons the definitive resource for event information online in mid-sized markets, thus generating a reliable repeat base of traffic.
Once you get below market 20 or 21, around the size of St. Louis or Cincinnati, there aren’t very many distinctive pure-digital plays in these local markets. We feel confident that once we get the recipe correct in Omaha, that there will be opportunities in other medium-sized markets around the country. That’s really the sweet spot, where you have enough stuff going on, but you don’t have an incumbent doing a super job serving up digital information.
In the interview, Adrian goes into more detail about his own background and expereience, more detail about the history and goals of Town Commons, and how they are leveraging the Lean Startup Methodology to build out their site and organization.
- 1:15 – What are the origins of Town Commons?
- 3:45 – What is your background?
- 5:27 – How are you utilizing Lean Startup principles?
Here’s a video screencast showcasing some of the features of Town Commons: