LIVERMORE -- The numbers don't lie. There are more than 800 technology companies in the Tri-Valley area and only a fraction of those ever make money.
So anyone with ideas of making money with a new Web-based business has to be pretty confident. Fortunately, Adrian Lall, 44, of Livermore is just that. Founder of a website and small company called Flit, Lall believes he has an idea that will revolutionize how people shop online and bring him profits at the same time.
Flit is an online shopping tool that lets users explore multiple sites without re-entering searches or typing URLs. For example, if you are shopping for black shirts, you type it in once and every site you subsequently go to will immediately search for black shirts. The goal is to deliver a "mall-like" experience of looking in different online stores quickly and easily.
A person can also share their shopping experiences online with their friends.
"Any startup is a dice roll with levels of uncertainty," Lall said. "But I just think there is so much opportunity with online shopping and we have something special."
Lall started the company with more than $300,000, most of it his own money. Securing the website name, www.flit.com, cost him $8,000.
With a master's degree in engineering from Stanford, and a doctorate in product innovation from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Lall says one of his strength is that he's got a hybrid mix of talent. Because he knows how to program, market and convey his ideas to a room full of potential investors, he doesn't have to rely on a large staff to get his company off the ground.
Unlike a traditional business where the location is geographically centered and dependent on local customers, Lall works out of his home in Livermore to target an audience across the country.
"It's fun, and it's pressure," he said. "The fun is seeing people enjoying using it and creating a tool people can clearly achieve better shopping with. The pressure is we have a small team (of three) with thousands of things we need to do, and we get stretched thin."
His contractors help him on the programming and marketing aspects of the company.
Last December, Lall officially started the company and made it his full-time job. Right now he's taking a cautious approach to make sure everything is just right. Up to this point, growth is completely grass roots, he said, with about 15,000 unique visitors coming in a month.
Flit's site features more than 500 retailers that include big-box stores such as Walmart, BestBuy and Target. In addition specialty clothing stores such as Lord & Taylor, BlueFly and Chadwicks are part of Flit's lineup.
Lall estimates the number of purchases each month to be a couple thousand, with revenues generated via click-through programs, such as commission junction, at 1 to 2 percent per purchase.
Lall's business philosophy behind his startup is to have a solid grasp on what is trying to be accomplished. An example of this is the name Flit itself. To flit means to move lightly from one place to another.
"Flitting is exactly what we do," he said.
Before Flit, Lall held executive positions at Strategic Decisions Group, Unisys, Bain PureMarkets, and, most recent, he was at Frog Design's vice president of strategy. Lall's wife, Victoria, is vice president of finance for social-gaming company Crowd Star, based in Burlingame.
Born in England, Lall initially kept a spreadsheet of different ideas he thought might be lucrative. Flit plays both sides of the fence.
"It's a completely new approach to shopping where both shoppers and retailers love it," he said.
The Flit business model stems on revenue generated via click-throughs. If someone goes through his site to make a purchase, Flit gets a cut. If Flit can attract 1 million visitors a month, then Lall thinks there's a good chance the company could become profitable by the end of the year.
Right now Lall is seeking venture capital money in the neighborhood of $2 million.
Boonsri Dickinson, a writer for TechStartups.com, says the most stubborn founders are the ones that tend to be the most successful.
"They won't listen to people who tell them that their idea sucks or when someone says that it's impossible," she said. "The startup guy's vision is so strong, it burns."
Lall's best advice to other thinking about their own startup is to start cheaply and get something tangible into the marketplace quickly. There's no use spending money on something fancy if you have to ditch it later, he said.
"On the Web that first impression is very critical, because if they don't have a great experience, they'll never go back to that site again," he said. "That's why we do a lot of testing, to make sure the product is going toward the direction it needs to in order to be successful."