SearchCore, Inc. (SRER), the “Fastest Growing Publicly Traded Company In Orange County” as reported in the Orange County Business Journal this past fall, is rapidly becoming the defacto powerhouse in the finder site industry for content, scalability and monetization. And they’re just getting started. In 2010 SearchCore acquired a niche finder site called Weedmaps.com, and over the next two and a half years Weedmaps.com went on to become the most recognized alternative medicinal finder site in the country with 16 million visits per month, grossing approximately $1.5m per month with an EBIDTA north of 25%. Having sold Weedmaps.com for a handsome profit, the company is rapidly expanding, and already has identified 7 industries they believe can benefit from their expertise. Consequently, SearchCore hopes to generate significant profits over the next five years through the creation of 50 niche finder sites. The goal of each finder site: to become the information marketplace for all things related to that specific industry. SearchCore differentiates itself from other finder sites primarily by its ability to create in depth, content rich information for specific communities of interest. They have by far the best platform and the most user friendly content in the finder site industry today. And what they currently lack in size as compared to Yelp (YELP) and Google (GOOG), they make up with industry knowledge which emphasizes content rich stories, exceptional images and motion picture grade videos.
Tattoo.com is a perfect example. Tattoo.com is an online service that seeks to gather all aspects of the world of tattoos onto one prime site. Once on the site, users have a wealth of information in front of them. SearchCore’s recently added a database of 16,000 artists and locations, and over 50,000 images and videos of top artists in the industry. The site truly has become the default go to site in the tattoo industry.
Another exceptional site in the company’s portfolio is Sportify.com. The Sportify iOS mobile app, which was recently approved at Apple’s (AAPL) App Store, and is now in beta, enables users to source, schedule, review, browse, connect, and participate in any one of up to 90 different recreational sports in a covered geographic area. Sportify.com features include the ability to find other players, locate recreational sports facilities, courts, and centers, as well as offering easy game scheduling and social media integration, among others. The app provides its users with a variety of functions such as email confirmation of start times, number of participants, skill level of other players, and reviews of the participants, the teams and the sports facility. Currently the beta testing is for users in Southern California from Santa Barbara to San Diego, with later expansion city by city to a nationwide database.
Sportify.com’s monetization strategy is threefold; individuals will be able to pay a small monthly fee to upgrade from the “freemium” model, and corporations, colleges and universities will pay a fee allowing them to organize their recreational sports events. The company also plans to take a commission by offering merchant services. It’s very likely Sportify.com will become the Facebook for recreational sports participants.
The company is also in development of other sites for a variety of chosen industries including manufactured home (www.manufacturedhomes.com), modular homes (www.modularhomes.com), travel trailer (traveltrailer.com and toyhaulers.com), karate (www. karate.com) and rodeo (www.rodeo.com).
Equities.com spoke with Jim Pakulis, the CEO of SearchCore about the niche markets in which the company plans to target, as well as how SearchCore’s winning formula of providing value-added content on a scalable platform makes SearchCore uniquely equipped to consolidate these fragmented verticals, all the while establishing higher barriers of entry for its competitors.
EQ: Could you provide us with a brief overview of SearchCore and its operations?
Pakulis: SearchCore specializes in creating finder-sites for niche markets and connecting brands and services with users. As a point of reference, a finder-site is where an individual goes in order to find a particular product or service. Finder sites have become very relevant in the marketplace over the last 15 to 20 years as technology has advanced. In short, finder sites assist individuals, in an expeditious manner, to locate a product or a service.
And great finder sites, like ours, compel the consumer or user to stay on the site and then take action; whether that action is scheduling a tattoo artist on Tattoo.com or locating a pickup basketball game on Sportify.com. The crucial thing about our finder sites that differentiate us from other finder sites in similar industries is the amount of high quality, industry specific content that we feature, which is crucial in this day and age. The content drives our SEO and ranking, and attracts the user base. When you combine that with our consulting and sales skills, as demonstrated every day from our sales department, it is an absolute winning combination.
EQ: Over the past couple years, SearchCore has had to adapt its model to markets that are somewhat different than the one in which the company originally started. Can you discuss some of the decision making that goes behind how target markets are chosen?
Pakulis: This question really touches on the very foundation of SearchCore. Our business model is based on four requirements by which we assess any industry before getting involved:
1. The industry must be fragmented and disjointed, meaning that no one has gone in and capitalized on it from a technological standpoint.
2. The industry must have a market cap of at least a quarter of a billion dollars.
3. We must believe we will be able to be the number one or number two finder site within that given industry within one year.
4. Through that finder site, we believe that we can generate at least $500,000 in revenues on a monthly basis after year one.
Regardless of the industry, the core of the company and the fundamentals of what we do stay the same. In other words, we are constantly using the same engine on every site and therefore we’re able to monetize the same way. We simply create different body styles to lay on top of the engine. Separately, but related, we also look at industries in which we can create multiple revenue streams from our finder site. In addition to clients paying a subscription fee for our listing services, we like to be able to generate income from ancillary services. For example, on our manufactured home site, in addition to a subscription fee for retailers and factories, we anticipate being able to offer our services to title companies, mortgage brokers and insurance agents, for a fee.
Tattoo.com is another good example. We structured a very favorable management agreement with the principals of Tattoo.com. And over the past 120 days we’ve demonstrated, again, our ability to create the best site in the industry. Hands down. And we’ve done that through having exceptional working knowledge of the industry and unbelievable content. The consumers are ecstatic because they can see an artist’s work, watch their videos, and read reviews before even contacting the artist. And the artists are elated because we provide them something that no one has done before; an optimized finder site in which they can truly promote their work. And a lot of these artists do unbelievably great work. It’s amazing how much talent is in the industry.
EQ: Where do you see your competition coming from, if not now at least in the future? What do you think gives SearchCore the edge over any current or eventual competition?
Pakulis: Our process for vetting an industry before we get into it already assumes that the competition will be, if not insignificant, certainly a minor player as we grow. We combine our advanced technology platform with good old-fashioned sales techniques. These are the crucial components that drive our company, make our company successful, and will continue to drive revenue.
For instance, somebody who goes to our competitors to find tattoo artists will find that the competitor offers only the most basic level of information. In comparison, we offer our user base a significant amount of content. We have just uploaded over 50,000 images of different tattoos. We have video content. We have gone to great lengths to interview and spend time with the best artists in the country, and we have a significant amount of blogging and interaction for consumers who are looking for different tattoo artists.
Additionally, part of our due-diligence is to find key individuals who have expertise in a certain industry before we get into that industry. We deliver the highest quality of content available generated by true professionals for that specific industry.
Conversely, we carefully avoid industries were we won’t be able to compete; either through optimization and ranking or branding. The automobile industry is a good example. It’s competitive, saturated, with major players spending millions of dollars.
And the platform on which we program is Node.js, one of the most cutting-edge platforms in the marketplace today that allows for scalability. Wal-Mart (WMT), Yelp, LinkedIn (LNKD), and others all use it. We carefully weighed out the pros and cons of utilizing other platforms in order to get to market quicker, but we firmly believe the extra time, energy and capital that we allocated to create our scalable platform with Node.js will definitely be worth it.
Another edge I believe we have is our combined experience in the technology space. We understand the importance of patience. You can’t rush good code. We’ve created an environment that allows our tech team to thoroughly vet out issues before we go live. And post launch, we stay flexible and are willing to pivot when needed. We definitely have a pride of ownership with our sites, but we also understand the importance of implementing user feedback as quickly as possible. We stay humble and agile with each of our roll outs.
EQ: Can you tell us about your background and experience, as well as other key members of your management team?
Pakulis: Sure. Let’s start with Brad Nelms, our Chief Strategy Officer. This is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Industry specific knowledge. Brad was the individual who grew the sales force of Weedmaps from zero to $1.5 million a month. In short, he knows technology and sales. He’s a huge asset to our company. In addition, Brad has about 15 years of experience in the manufactured and modular home industries. SearchCore also has over 75 years of manufactured and modular home experience with other members of our staff, so in total, we have about 90 years of combined experience in that industry. If we enter into an industry, as we’re doing with manufacturedhomes.com and modularhomes.com, then we want to be experts or have experts on staff.
Our CFO Munjit Johal has over 15 years of regulatory expertise, and he excels at dotting I’s and crossing T’s. He also has a strong understanding of the complexities of various regulatory agencies through which a small company has to navigate. And Brian Lebrecht, our legal counsel, is one of the premier counsels in the country for microcap companies both privately held and publicly traded. He’s forward thinking, direct, and gets the job done.
I have about 30 years of experience with startups. I have been heavily involved in financing and operations, as well as mergers and acquisitions. I’ve been in the healthcare and real estate financing industries in various capacities. I tend to approach business decisions with the same entrepreneurial, garage startup mentality. And I try to surround myself with exceptional talent. That’s one of the reasons I’m so confident about SearchCore’s future. We have excellent legal counsel, accounting, management and sales. And we have created a very scalable model. My job is to keep everybody on the right track.
EQ: Some of SearchCore’s more recent major milestones include posting a 38-percent revenue increase for 2012, completing the sale of WeedMaps, and it appears as though Sportify.com is due to be up and running pretty soon. Are there any other significant achievements that you would like to discuss with us?
Pakulis: I think we can look at our previous revenue increases, the speed at which we reach those revenues, and our strong profit margins as being indicative of what the management of SearchCore believes will be taking place over the next 12 to 24 months. And this will be the direct result of our hard work over the past six months. In the past six months we’ve identified seven industries that fit our model, we’ve entered into two of those industries, and we’re hard at work coding for the other five industries.
I firmly believe that with the management team we have in place, including an outstanding technology and sales division, that we can reach our corporate goal of having built and monetized 50 finder sites in different industries over the next sixty months.
EQ: Are there any other developments or milestones that the investment community should be looking out for?
Pakulis: I think a natural course of action for SearchCore, conditional on meeting our objectives over the next year or so, is to qualify for a larger exchange, probably NASDAQ.
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