Launched in 2006 FCH Serves the Fastener Industry
We created FastenersClearingHouse.com when we saw a specific need in the industry, and the timing could not have been better.
Actually the story begins a few years before that, in 1998, when Eric Dudas and Brian Musker decided to form a company building database driven web sites. In deference to our shared interest in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, we named our company GaltNet, after John Galt, though Francisco d'Antonio and Ellis Wyatt also played important parts. Admitting that graphic design was not our forte, we specialized in developing backend processes to manage logging in to websites, and search functions relating to managing the list of members. Early on, we developed a wide variety of web sites, including the first online pizza ordering system we ever heard of. We chose a company in Champaign-Urbana called Prominic to host our sites and development environment. We were their second customer, and we are still happy customers of theirs. We began to specialize in searching algorithms, and worked for some banks and other companies in Chicago, New York and Texas, adding search systems into their intranets.
One day in 2005, someone walked into our office carrying a large book with listings of thousands of fasteners, and asked us if we would be able make a web-based application so he could search through the fasteners using a browser, rather than skimming through the pages. Not knowing anything about the fastener industry, since this was not an industry that we had looked at, we thought about it for a while. By the time we finally decided that maybe it could be a viable business, the original company decided that since they didn't know anything about running a web business, it wouldn't be a good idea for them. By then, we had thought about how this could work, and decided to go ahead by ourselves. So we pooled our cash, cut out our salaries, cancelled our major contracts, and devoted the next five months to developing what would become FastenersClearingHouse.com.
Initially, we got some help from some people from a company Quality Screw & Nut. They gave us a very old version of The Fastener Reference Guide and told us that we needed to sit down and read it. We decided that the naming conventions in The Fastener Reference Guide (now published by Kanebridge), would be the basis of our naming conventions, and we also decided that we would not provide for a FAX machine in a company profile. This was 2006, after all.
Unlike the TV ads, starting a web-based company is a nerve-wracking experience, especially if everyone is telling you that nobody is ever going to use the web to search for fasteners. And it is the original Catch-22 situation: you need lots of listings to attract people to search, and you need lots of searchers to attract other companies to list their inventory, neither of which you have to start with.
So FastenersClearingHouse.com went live in May 2006 without a search page. Not that we didn't have a search page, we just didn't want it to go live because we didn't have enough inventory. We decided we would make the search page go live when we hit 25,000 listings. In the beginning, our search function was so fuzzy, you could search for a particular screw and get all types of screws, or maybe even some washers. We didn't want to show zero search results!
Gradually, as we got more and more listings, we tightened up the search logic, and then our problem became limiting the search results only to very relevant answers.
Since we initially didn't really know much about fasteners, and we needed to become a part of the industry, we decided to apply to join the MidWest Fastener Association. Unfortunately, there was no category for a company that didn't actually make or sell fasteners, but the MWFA found a place for us, and we have been members ever since.
Advance forward a few years, our one server expanded to two, then to four at different locations to ensure fail-safe operation. Today, there are now nine. That's progress!
To be continued...