I am at DealMaker Forum today. We just finished the speed dating sessions with start-ups and I was struck by one common theme. The most common business model is Free Service with an up sell to paid premium subscriptions, commonly known as the "freemium" model. I asked each of them what kind of conversion rates they were seeing. The average is less than 3% conversion. The companies presenting include; Echosign, Seriosity, Smartsheet, Central Desktop, Oddcast, Yugma, and others.
Freemium business models usually involve a Free service, sometimes time limited or feature limited, supported by advertising. The ads rarely cover costs. The goal is to convert these free users to paid subscriptions. Most services start with a $10 per user per month subscription and scale up to $20 or $50 per month based on a small, medium, large usage scale. They all have slightly different measurements and cut-off points, but most have some notion of small, medium, large.
The Open Source Software vendors have a similar model where they offer the software for free download and sell consulting, maintenance and support contracts for revenue. I am working with a few companies in this space and they are seeing the same kinds of free to paid conversion rates.
The companies presenting at DealMaker Forum are seeing 1.5% to 5%, with most of them averaging around 3%. Doesn't sound like much but they are reaching tens of thousands of users...sometimes well over 100,000.
Do the math. 100,000 free users convert to 3,000 paid users. They pay between $10 to $50 per user per month. Lets use $25 as an average. That is $75K a month or $900K per year. That is an excellent revenue stream for companies that typically have 3 to 5 employees. And, it is an annuity stream that continues to grow every year. By the 3rd or 4th year these small companies can be generating $3M to $5M a year, still with less than 10 employees. Most of these small companies don't take Venture Capital so they own the whole company. pretty good cash flow business.
What are you seeing for conversion rates? How does this compare to the Open Source conversion rates?