Photo Linked From: http://media-files.gather.com/icons/d68/d637/d744/d224/d96/f3/inter.jpg
Thomas A. Gerace has spent his career online. In 1996, after working as a senior business analyst at the Harvard Business School, he launched Be Free Inc., an online marketing services company, with his brother. While at Be Free, he served as founder and chief marketing officer for the company. Gerace also served as president early on in the company’s history. During Gerace’s time with Be Free, the company raised over $200 million and launched U.S. and European operations. After leaving Be Free, Gerace spent two years serving as senior vice president of marketing for the National Leisure Group, which sells travel.
Gerace said that it was during his career in marketing that he began looking at social networking sites like Friendster and MySpace, and began to wonder what those sites would look like with an older user base.
“What if you could do this for adults?” he asked. “I just became fascinated.”
Enter Gather, Gerace’s second online company, which is certainly aimed at an older audience than MySpace. According to a recent Gather press release, roughly 70% of Gather’s half million users are over 35 years old.
Gather has been touted as EBay for the bloggosphere, bringing bloggers to one central location and making it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for.
But Gather isn’t just providing a central location for bloggers –- Gather ’s also paying them. Gather users earn GatherPoints for everything from contributing popular content to active site use to inviting their friends to join. Gather users (sometimes called Gatherites) can redeem the points with some of Gather’s sponsors. Some of the more popular contributors earn cash for their work.
”We wanted to attract people who would really invest in what they contribute to Gather,” Gerace said. He said that the point system is a way to give contributors some of the ad revenue they bring in.
Even Gather’s advertisers are rather unique, as Gather’s older, more affluent user base has helped the company attract a different set of advertisers, including Volvo and Starbucks, and investors.
The American Public Media Group, the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio, invested nearly a million dollars at Gather’s launch, making AMPG Gather’s controlling shareholder.
Gather, now about three years old, has not had an entirely easy history.
In an April 2008 post titled “Talk to Me: What Do We Value,” Gerace admits that site went through “a rough time” a year earlier.
”We had hit a bit of a rut, lost focus, and seen a handful of good people depart,” Gerace wrote.
But Gerace, who funded his first company, Be Free, partially with money he’d saved for law school, says there’s always risk associated with building a new company, especially one like Gather.
”I think it’s hard to build really effective social media,” Gerace said.
The struggles haven’t diminished Gerace’s enthusiasm for his job, though.
”I love building things, and I really love working with smart, creative people who also love building things,” Gerace said, describing his work at Gather as “the best game in town, and I get to play with the best people in town.”