One of the most unassuming consumer-driven dot-com success stories is Craigslist from San Francisco.
It started out as a simple online list of happenings in the Bay Area, maintained by Craig Newmark.
As the list's popularity soared and more people wanted to get on the mailing list, Newmark created a Web site and opened it up to the public to contribute info to the site.
Almost everything is free. Only job listings incur a small fee. Still it's enough to keep the company profitable. Auction giant, eBay, bought a stake in the company two years ago.
Craigslist has expanded all over the US and even internationally. It has a Malaysian site but if you go in there, you'll see most of the listings are empty. It's quite an inactive site.
Why hasn't this taken off in Malaysia? There are probably three reasons:
Firstly, unlike San Franciscans who are used to the spartan, text-based interface, Malaysians are used to more elegance. It can be spartan, but it should at least look sleek and cool like Google. Craigslist simply looks ugly.
Secondly, Craigslist Malaysia has no physical local presence (only online presence). There is only so much you can do remotely, unless you are a behemoth like Yahoo or Google. Craigslist is a relative unknown. It needs some people on the ground to do the marketing.
Thirdly, brand exposure is non-existent. There was no big launch, no newspaper articles announcing the launch of the Malaysian version, no banner exchanges with popular local sites.
A local version of this kind of listings-based site that is managed by locals, who understand the culture here, would have a much better chance of success.