How I Did It: Woot


Matt Rutledge launched based on a simple concept: The site would sell only one product a day until the inventory ran out or the clock struck midnight, whichever came first.

Rutledge saw it as a way to unload overstocked merchandise from his Dallas-based wholesale consumer electronics business.

From the start, the site prided itself on honesty: If a vacuum cleaner was a putrid shade of green, Woot said so. Soon people came to the site just to read the snarky product descriptions. Today, Woot has four sites, 1.5 million registered members, and sales of $117.4 million.

Q: How did you get started?

Rutledge: When I started Woot, I wanted it to be a blog and a store at the same time. I saw a niche. The product life cycle is so short today. Every six to eight months, new merchandise comes out, and manufacturers have to get rid of the old stuff as quickly as possible. Everybody’s chasing that leading edge, but there’s an awful lot of opportunity in the trailing edge.

Our novelty of selling one thing a day, the transparency, and the community created a lot of word-of-mouth buzz for us in tech circles. We had an old-school PR guy here in Dallas who thought we should start by pitching neighborhood newspapers. I found myself constantly saying, “Hey, The Wall Street Journal called. Can you see what they need?”

We do something called a Woot-off, which is basically a huge clearance sale. That was a user’s idea. Instead of one product, we will occasionally sell small batches of many products, one right after the other, for two or three days straight. We usually get a million visitors when we do a Woot-off.

A very big part of our growth is that you can come to and not buy anything, but have a good time reading the story of the day’s item or listening to a podcast. Our writers have taken product descriptions to new levels. They will parody song lyrics or famous literature. Ninety percent of the audience will have no idea that a description is an Edgar Allan Poe spoof. But the few people who do get it — they just can’t believe it.

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Photo by Woot.

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