Monday, January 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Genealogy Companies

Tamura Jones emailed a link to a presentation that Paul B. Allen made on 31 March 2008 at a BYU conference. A PDF of the PowerPoint presentation is here. The title page just says "" and "" but it is much more than that - I'm thinking that it should have been called "A Tale of (Developing) Two Genealogy Companies."

There are many interesting slides in this presentation, including:

* use of the Wayback Machine to see early web pages

* the development story, 1996-2002

* the development story, 2006-present

* the goals of - the last one was "cash flow positive in early 2009"

* advice for entrepreneurs - the first one is "catch the next wave"

Looking at the presentation, it's apparent that the stock market crash and recession in early 2001 dealt a major blow to the development of

This presentation was made before the 2008 stock market crash and the current recession. I wonder if the goal of being "cash flow positive" will be met in early 2009. These are probably tough economic times for many genealogy companies.

An interesting takeaway from the presentation is the number of subscribers - WorldVitalRecords had about 25,000 in early 2008. I'm guessing that had about 800,000 subscribers in early 2008 (from what I've read). That's quite a difference, isn't it? It shows up in the Revenue projections for the two companies - Paul had a graph that showed Ancestry's revenue for 2006 was about $150 million, while WorldVitalRecord's sales revenue for 2007 was about $700,000 (obtained by adding up monthly revenue numbers from a chart).

Read more about the company's development here.

My fervent hope is that Paul's company continues to grow, becomes profitable, and becomes the second largest genealogy company on the Internet (wasn't that one of the original goals, to be #2?). The content list at is impressive, considering that the company is less than three years old. The company led the way in forming partnerships with other data providers, and is the leader in creating and installing applications on social networks like Facebook.

In recent months, we've heard about the debut of and These additional developments will add significant content and features for genealogy researchers to use. It seems that the one constant of the genealogy world on the Internet is "change."

I am a subscriber to, and have uploaded my family tree to I've tried and failed to upload my family tree data to and to the We're Related application on Facebook over the past year.

Thank you to Tamura Jones for finding this presentation and for sharing it with me.

UPDATE 1/27: A kind email friend sent this link to Paul Allen's March 2008 presentation itself - see


Anonymous said...

You said you wanted numbers :-)
I just came across a more recent PowerPoint presentation. Dated 2008 Nov 05.
Check your mail ;-)

M. Diane Rogers said...

I agree - a lot of interesting info here.

When I think about the #s of subscribers for these two companies, I wonder how many rotate in & then out for good. Ancestry seems to focus a lot of energy on getting new subscribers -WVR may have an edge there by working with the social networking angles. (I myself think the future will be all about sociability and mobility - I know people who only use the web on their phones - no 'land' computers at all.)

I notice on Ancestry's home page, Jan 11 1997, that the lead offered "Find your ancestors in one of our eight FREE, fully searchable databases--the largest FREE collection on the Web" - that couldn't have been correct (except in some technical sense) but it's interesting that that's the way Ancestry thought to draw people in then. Rootsweb was/is the biggest (and best!) and now Ancestry supports Rootsweb. (I do appreciate that.) So it might also be useful to compare's growth - also at (WayBackMachine).

I still wish WorldVitalRecords luck, but...I am an older subscriber, but was shut out of the 'World' records, when WVR partitioned the collections. (Yes, I am still ticked off & NO, I am NOT upgrading my subscription.)

Now I wonder where I can get those free passes to conferences that Paul Allen mentions...mmmm...