Building a Better Robot

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Sometimes, smaller is better. That’s the philosophy behind
Robot Co-Op, a five-person Seattle web development company that’s ratcheting
its way up Seattle 2.0’s Seattle Startup Index with 1.3 million unique visitors
each month.

Robot Co-Op started in 2004 with a list of 75 ideas for a
company. The founders created a platform to track ideas, and this platform
became 43Things.com, the firm’s most successful site. 43Things gives users the
chance to connect with other people who have similar goals, and then share the
secrets of their successes and failures.

CEO Josh Petersen feels that having a small, close-knit team
that even eats together is one of the keys to the business’s success. “A big
team would have really made a mess of this,” Petersen says.

Petersen says a business model centered on rapid growth can
lead to an unwanted shift in business and product plans. “We believe in putting
our product first and building a company that fits the scale,” he explains.

Robot Co-Op recently scaled back operation, trimming and
combining websites to shift focus to its two most popular sites, 43Things and
43Places.com, a travel site.

The business was profitable by its second year of operation,
and it’s remained so. The majority of revenue comes from ads, although the
company also is backed by Amazon.com, its only outside investor to date.

Robot Co-Op’s success has hinged on producing a quality
product, remaining dedicated and even small things like having lunch as a
group, Petersen says. “If we couldn’t eat together, our success would be much
less than it has been.”

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