Home The Very Strange Story of the Startup That Says It Made $10m Before Launching

The Very Strange Story of the Startup That Says It Made $10m Before Launching

Ben Behrouzi came from the shadowy Lead Generation business, but some people in that field said he played too dirty. Now he’s got a real-time search engine that just came out of beta today, called Leapfish, and he says the company will already report $10 million in revenue this year despite having barely launched to the public.

This is a strange story, but no one said the path to the future wouldn’t itself be strange. So consider suspending your disbelief so you can see what Leapfish has to offer.

Leapfish was at first a site for calculating the estimated value of domain names, then it became a patched-together meta-search engine that prioritized timeliness. Now it’s a gorgeous, smartly planned real-time search service with an introductory video that can only be described as epic. (See below.) The company has convinced businesses to pay hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for year-long exclusive keyword advertising and the first right to renew each year. It’s like an investment in the future viability of Leapfish, the company says. Leapfish at present only looks good, though, it doesn’t really work that well.

Leapfish searches for user queries across 25 different services, from Google and Yahoo to Yelp, Digg and some Real Estate sites. The service determines which sources are providing the most relevant results and constructs a search results page accordingly. If users love Leapfish enough to marry it they can turn on as many as 35 different widgets to interact with things like their Facebook and Twitter accounts on the Leapfish home page.

The design of the site and results pages are quite nice and the fundamental idea is a good one. But how could Leapfish already be set to bank $10 million in revenue this year?

The Pleasanton, California company says it has 100 employees; 50 are listed on LinkedIn and almost every one of them are in sales.

The sales pitch is this: Leapfish is small today, but the keyword prices that companies (like this lady) are paying will be a bargain if Leapfish can really grow. It’s an investment, and as such it’s a very affordable one. Some companies have already resold the keywords they bought from Leapfish for a profit, the company says.

One part of what’s being invested in is, no doubt, a vision of the future. Check out this absolutely cathartic video the company made about the real-time web.

It just might make you want to leap to your feet, pump your fist and shout “Go get ’em, Lead Generation Guy, go capture the future of the internet!”

Unfortunately, in our tests Leapfish doesn’t work very well. Search results are often off-topic, there are software bugs in some of the most basic parts of the site on the day of its grand unveiling and the compelling vision isn’t that exciting in reality. Check out our 5 minute tour of the site to see what $10 million in ads have been bought against over the last year.

If Leapfish can in fact pull it off, it wouldn’t be the first time a company has sputtered oddly into a final, grand-slam iteration. It wouldn’t be the first time a controversial entrepreneur with a business model that some people are skeptical of ended up capturing the world’s imagination, either. Leapfish is right, the web has changed dramatically, and someone’s going to figure out how to searching it effectively. The Leapfish story sure is a strange one, though.

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