Startup Spotlight: Matoox says what you think

"You think it, we say it" boasts indiscreet French-based dot-com
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
Is there a message that you'd love to pass on to a friend, enemy or colleague, so long as they wouldn't know it came from you? Well, Matoox.com gives you the chance to say just what you think -- anonymously -- by sending your sensitive comment in an email, or a postcard or on a gift such as a t-shirt or cup. After all, criticism of a bank manager's heartless attitude, a co-worker's lazy habits or your room-mate's questionable personal hygiene may be justified -- but in all cases you might not want then to know that the rebuke came from you. With over 70 different messages to choose from -- including a "secret admirer" option -- Matoox hopes that most computer users will find something suitable. The company was set up in the spring of 2000 by French Internet consultant Jacques Monnier, backed with around £500,000 in funding from European investors. Italian and French versions of Matoox launched in January 2001, and the UK site went live a couple of weeks ago. It's very bright and colourful, with some funky animations, and it's very simple to get the service to work. According to Monnier, Matoox is on course to be profitable by this summer. "On a weekday, we're averaging between 30 and 50 orders, each valued at between £10 and £15. We're confident of reaching break-even point by July," he said. To cope with the current difficult market conditions for dot-coms, Matoox has a three-pronged business model. The UK Web site will soon by carrying advertising, and Monnier is keen to open an e-shop within the month. "Lots of users have been telling us they want to buy gifts for themselves," he said. In a more enterprising vein, Matoox will also allow companies to sponsor certain themes. In France Proctor and Gamble -- manufacturer of, among other products, Head and Shoulders shampoo -- has already sponsored the "Dandruff" message. Having launched in three different countries, Matoox has no immediate plans to cross the Atlantic. "UK and US humour is very different," said Monnier. "We would need much more money before we could succeed in America." And, despite the troubles affecting the dot-com sector, at least one company thinks that Matoox has a future. "I've already had one offer from a big French portal to buy the site, which I turned down," said Monnier, admitting that the bid valued Matoox at over £1m. The service: Matoox
What it does: Lets you send anonymous messages as emails, postcards or written on gifts
Who it's for: Anyone who wants to get a point across secretly
The verdict: A cute idea, but Matoox will have to get plenty of people using its service if it is to survive Startup Spotlight brings you the best and worst new Web sites every week. Click here to see previous Spotlights. Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the techTrader forum Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.
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