When you think Internet, does your mind conjure up white lace, champagne and wedding bells? David Liu's did. In 1996, he and partners Rob Fassino, Michael Wolfson and Carley Roney decided the Net was just the place for couples to shop before they tie the knot. It seems the partners were right. "We get 250,000 users monthly--not counting repeat visitors--which is four times more than our nearest competitor," says CEO Liu, 33. "And we're signing up more than 1,000 new members a day."
Check out the site, and the reasons for the heavy traffic are clear. The Knot Inc. offers one-stop wedding information and planning--from an online gift registry and a tool that searches for just the right gown to chat rooms, write-ups about honeymoon destinations and pages of advice. "This medium is about service," says Liu. "Everything on the site serves the consumers' needs."
The age demographics of those planning first and second marriages match up well with the Internet's appeal to a young crowd, creating an opportunity any entrepreneur could love. "Our prime audience is 18 to 35," says Liu, who adds that 80 percent of the site's visitors are women.
Best of all, the would-be-wed are prized by advertisers, who know weddings trigger an avalanche of spending--on the wedding itself, as well as on the honeymoon and new household. "We wanted a site that would generate ad revenues from day one, and we did," says Liu.
One key to The Knot's success is flexibility. Originally funded by AOL's Greenhouse program, The Knot created its own Web site in 1997, and traffic is now split 60 percent via AOL, 40 percent via The Knot's own site. The company is also exploring new ways to increase revenue. "We originally thought we could be profitable on ad revenues alone, but we've now entered into e-commerce arrangements," says Liu, meaning The Knot now acts as a full-line wedding retailer. More cash will come from ancillary deals--a three-book contract with Bantam and a 13-part wedding series on PBS. The company is also considering an initial public offering.
Add it up, and in 1998, The Knot garnered $1.2 million. "Every day in the Internet business there are surprises," Liu says, "but the greatest surprise has been the sheer volume of opportunity."