A dozen years ago, Stephen Kaufer’s Web start-up was on the verge of running out of cash, and struggling to connect with consumers. It gathered reviews of hotels and attractions from established sources like Fodors and mixed them with write-ups from people who’d just returned from trips. Thanks to a smidgen of coverage in travel publications and strong word of mouth from early users, TripAdvisor found its way out of the forest. The Newton company now operates the most visited collection of travel sites on the Internet, and its stock climbed about 60 percent over the last year.
Boston entrepreneurs building consumer sites, apps, or products frequently complain that local investors are unwilling to back them. But in many instances, the investors are simply waiting to see early signs of consumer usage, which creates a Catch-22 situation.