FossilEra launches in a sea without competitors
What do you do when you’re obsessed with fossils in your spare time and you want to buy cool pieces of history online, only to realize that there is no useful site that lets you trade money for awesomeness? Do you travel to fossil conventions or dive into the underground fossil trade (which is a pun we just made up and probably not a real thing)?
If you’re Matt Heaton, you see a need in the market, you launch a company called FossilEra, and sell hundreds of items within the first days of existence, and immediate fans who, like Heaton, were clamoring for this market with high quality images, easy to understand descriptions, and an approachable look that attracts experts and newbies alike.
Heaton tells us, “The idea is to market them in a way that transcends the niche community of fossil enthusiasts.” He’s nailed it.
Heaton notes, “Fossils have an appeal across a wide range of demographics for many reasons. Most of us grew up in awe of dinosaurs, and creatures that roamed the earth hundreds of millions of years ago.”
“There are many people that would love to be able to hold a real, five-inch Megalodon tooth, have something cool from the past to display in their office, or give a dinosaur tooth as a gift to a child. FossilEra gives them the chance,” Heaton added.
The site carries a diverse catalog of high quality fossil specimens acquired from wholesale suppliers around the world. They range from spiny trilobites from Morocco, ammonites from Madagascar, to fossil dinosaur teeth from Montana. Price ranges on items start as low as $10 and go up into the thousands of dollars. They also offer an authenticity guarantee on all of the fossils they sell.
FossileEra will likely be copied, but as it stands is the only dominant online retailer for fossils, and is poised to grow in this niche industry which boasts nearly a billion dollars in annual sales.
How the startup came to be
Heaton tells AG that paleontology has been his lifelong passion and he has been a collector for nearly two decades, even spending time in the field collecting them, amassing a large personal collection, some of which he has donated for research and educational purposes.
Interestingly, Heaton hesitated to launch the company. “I’ve always known I could build a successful business in the space with my background in marketing. I just had personal reasons for avoiding it. I did not want to corrupt my hobby with business.”
“I’ve heard too many stories about people to make what they love into a business and it stops being fun,” he added. “I didn’t want that to happen to me. I had also been very weary of doing something commercial in the fossil field because there is a very misguided stigma attached to commercial collectors by a small but very vocal portion of the academic community.”
Like many entrepreneurs, although successful in the business world, Heaton eventually came to the realization that he hadn’t been pursuing his “true passion,” and he eventually reached the tipping point and he realized he would be more fulfilled by building a business around what he loves to do. “Other than the typical startup stress, I finally feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do.”