Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson

Seattle-based Sigby is saying sayonara — just fifteen months after the company raised $1.2 million in cash from WRF Capital, Clear Fir and Trilogy Equity Partners.

“Thanks for coming on the adventure with us, but Sigby is closing its doors,” says a message on the company’s Web site.

Founded by former venture capitalist Katie Thompson, Sigby created a service to help busy parents find educational and fun activities for their kids. The online directory of classes and camps was free to use, with Sigby intending to make its money by passing leads to the various classes and schools.

GeekWire previously featured Sigby in 2012 — then known as Funnerator — in 2012 as part of our Startup Spotlight feature. Thompson is a former venture capitalist at Trilogy, one of the backers of Sigby.

The Sigby Web site was shut down last month, and Thompson tells GeekWire that the business was really on “self-serve” for the past 10 months or so. Three of the eight team members at Sigby, including Thompson, have formed a new wireless consulting business called Protemo, using some of the funds raised via Sigby. Citing non-disclosure agreements, Thompson, who previously worked at Nextel, McCaw Cellular and Microsoft, declined to discuss specific projects of Protemo.

sigby2As to why Sigby didn’t work, Thompson said that the service is very much needed by families. However, she said the “fractured nature of the channel” — meaning camps and event centers — made it too costly to service that side of the marketplace.

“I do believe that the consumer interest and need is there,” she said. “But, as an entrepreneur, we made the decision out of really focusing on our shareholder interest, and our interest and obligation to create a return for those investors.”

According to its Web site, Sigby says that purchases for upcoming courses will be honored.

Sigby is not the only casualty in this arena.

GeekWire just learned that Tohula, a site that allowed families to earn rewards for participating in outdoor activities and other events, closed recently.

“Tohula was a huge work of passion but at the end of the day we were unable to find a viable business model and I ended up hitting the end of my financial runaway,” co-founder Sebastien Fouillade told GeekWire via email. 

tohula_v12_shadow_600px_greenThe Tohula site continues to operate as a resource for those looking for fun outdoor activities and hikes, but Fouillade said that big potential advertisers didn’t quite bite at the concept.

“These brands favored other ways to spend their marketing money and the sales cycles were lengthy so we missed our revenue targets,” he said. “As for user traction we were an inspirational site, families came to us when they needed to be inspired but they also quickly got sucked back into their busy daily lives. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to think that everybody should be enjoying nature as a family every weekend regardless of the weather, it’s much more challenging to do that in practice, even if we sweeten the deal with scavenger hunts.”

Comments

  • Ali Alami

    This is too bad, although parents are a lucrative demographic to go after, one of the things we’ve learned with KidScore & Judy’s Book is that certain kid verticals don’t have the budget to allocate to advertising. The parent local model we’ve found that works is to hook/engage parents through some verticals (eateries, camps, activities) and monetize with others (doctors, preschools, etc…).

  • West Seattle Blog

    It was a great idea and tried to take advantage of one big problem in one big sector – the city not having a user-friendly registration system (your story doesn’t mention it, but that’s the only reason I knew about Sigby – the Parks Department partnered with them for event/activity registration). However, sometimes the smallest things can torpedo you, like a name that doesn’t hint at what you do. Good luck to the entrepreneurs on their new ventures!

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