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Lessons From Successful Entrepreneurs on How to Beat the Competition

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This story appears in the June 2013 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Cliff Shaw had already founded and sold three companies in the genealogy space, all of which had to cope with the supersize competitor he confronted once again when he started Mocavo in 2011. Based in Boulder, Colo., his latest venture bills itself as "the world's largest genealogy search engine." But to get there, Shaw had to devise a business model and pricing scheme that would compete with Ancestry.com, whose 2 million subscribers and 11 billion historical records made it the reigning behemoth in the field.

What's a startup to do? To distinguish his company from Ancestry's subscription payment model and content supply, Shaw decided Mocavo would offer a basic service free of charge, with customers providing content. "We originally started as Google for genealogy," Shaw says. "We've now evolved into a giant community of users who want to contribute content online for free."

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