Here’s an unusual success story from an Irish technology company (the story’s unusual, not the fact that it’s an Irish company). A few years ago, a couple of Irish programmers were contracted to create an online reservation system for a hostel. They did so, and then were asked to do another.
Through word of mouth, they built up a business and eventually launched HostelWorld.com (here are some search results for Vancouver), a hostel booking engine that’s apparently responsible for 60% of the world’s online hostel reservations. They’re apparently making 15 million euros a year in profit, taking a tiny cut of a transaction averaging 8 – 12 euros. I say apparently because I heard all the facts in the previous paragraph through the grapevine, so I can’t verify anything.
This is a great example of profiting from the long tail. Most companies would have turned up their nose at this business, figuring it wasn’t worth their time. These guys, who started from an office above a dodgy disco in Rathmines (a Dublin suburb), are making huge profits from business that nobody wanted and that the Internet enabled. Yet another story of the long tail making a new business possible.