Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode · 11 years ago

Matt Mickiewicz, Founder Of Sitepoint, Flippa & 99Designs, Tells His Story

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

[ Download MP3 | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] Matt is the co-founder of one of the very first online forums I spent some time on, SitePoint.com, which today is a massive web community and information site. Sitepoint became a near-daily visit for me when I was focusing on buying and selling websites. […] The post https://yaro.blog/2873/matt-mickiewicz/ (Matt Mickiewicz, Founder Of Sitepoint, Flippa & 99Designs, Tells His Story) appeared first on https://yaro.blog (Yaro.Blog).

Hi this is Yoosta IC and welcome toanother entrepreneur's journey. PODCAST. Now today, on the call with me, I havea guest who I feel a little bit of affinity to because it's about a person,who's involved with a business, that's connected with my two favoritecountries, Canada and Australia, and it's obviously the intenet business. Sowithout further, do I like to welcome Mat as good as at Matt, so you'd sayyour last name meet Kibe Mix, give it so gay that makes givith. I can do thatfrom now on. You be called Matt and thanks for joining me today, thanks forhaving me so that normally like to start these with a little bit ofbackground study, but I like to just set the scene briefly first, so we knowwhat we're talking about. That's the founder of the CO founder ofsite point and that's a site that I was well I'm a little bit resident rested.I don't want to say this on the call, but I will I think your site was one ofthe first that I actually went to and and do a bit of. I won't call it span,but I was marketing with you know, putting a few articles on your forumthere and I was contributing to the community, but there was a purposebehind. It was to get some exposure from my writing back to my blog, ofcourse, but I'm sure that's not uncommon and Matt's. Also the founderof ninety nine designs, which I had recently just used for the first time.So that was a great experience, so we can talk more about that in the future.But long sorry, short mass got some great big success stories on theInternet and your are you still in the twenty five twenty seven as of yesterday? Okay,well, you're, not old, yet so happy birthday for that. Thank you. So howdid this all begin ma? I'm assuming you've got some technical background,but did you go to university for this? No, I never did I actually got startedwhen I was very young when I was in high school fourteen fifteen sixteenyears old. Actually, I was basically learning to buildwebsite as a hobby back one thousand nine hundred and ninety one thousandnine hundred and ninety eight. I was finding that to do a great deal ofresearch and a great deal of leg work to find all the information and toolsand resources. I need to get the job done, so I thought to my staff: If I'mhaving all these problems, I'm sure there might be hundreds of thousands ofother people exactly like me, so I basically started doing was compilingeverything useful that I was learning. I put it online as a website called webmaster, hyphen resources, com and now website went live on April, first, onethousand nine hundred and ninety eight, and that date is actually quitemeaningful to me because at the date that the price of a two year domain,ame registration dropped from a hundred dollars for two years to seventydollars. For two years back on thousand nine hundred N. Ninety eight we didn'thave Gold Daddy, we didn't have enum, it was nat to exclusions all the wayand that thirty dollar prize difference made all the difference. In the worldto an sits strategically waited for the Price Dop drop before pricing, my firstevery domain name and launching the website and now is very fortunate in mytiming, because, literally within weeks and months of launching, I got somemajor media publicity through USA Today and Li Times, and Washington, post andsort of spared up from there. Okay was so. Why did they care about thiswebsite of yours? I was basically of the only decent places on the Internetto learn about Web design and web development and SCO and about all theseother topics, O one thousand nine undred, N E N G, tanned, N. Ninety nine,the Internet industry, was heaving up. All these companies were going publicand people were just scrambling for information about. You know how do Ibuild their website? How I I started in this web development in this street hader, learn your Ph p or hm, or what have you and I quickly became one of the goto places for that, so I'm doing the math that must betwelve years ago now. So that makes you twin well twenty seven now and put youat fifteen. So you that's right, you couldn't afford a hundred dollars orfifteen, but you could manage seventy, but like that, when I turned sixteen abib with cash,...

...it was a very quick appre ride. Risowhat happened during that year? How did you go from struggling to get a hundreddollars to playing a VW at sixteen, which is just wrong? So how did theSally after the first couple of months, the traffic and the publicity for thecity grew in Green, grew and eventually people just started. Calling me up andsaying no have ten Sandolas kind o buy a banner ad on your side? Can SponsorYour News Tater? Can I sponsor your forms so, while attending high school,I got myself a cell phone and during my lunch hour I would hang out at thelocal starbucks and basically take advertising modes. It wasn't really a sales drop so muchas an order taking job. It often come back to you know thirty period, five orten thousand dollars richer, that's ridiculous! So what was thetraffic like an or to justify such a high fee on the advertising for the Cpm? Rats were absolutely ridiculously through the roof back in one thousand,nine hundred and ninety nine. All the e Internet companies which were V Cfunded, obviously were judged on their burn rate. So the more money you spentin the more money you lost, the higher you be valued and the more successfulyou would eventually be, or that was the theory at least that's a floodtheory. If you say I like that, that's for sure exactly so you were a bit inthe right place at the right time and that absolutely absolutely that'samazing. I'm assuming your technical background is all self taught, as yousaid, so you know you put the website up yourself, I'm assuming you'resitting at home in your bedroom. Doing all this work is that right exactlyokay, that's amazing! So what was the the B Nwot by the and justcurious? I always just said three: Twenty three pm: Okay, so you'redriving a school at sixteen a year and your beamer Nice, that's right so fastforward from sixteen onwards. What happened next through running theirwebsite? I met a guy in Newburn, Australia by the nameof Mark Carbal. He was the marketing manager, one of the first employees atsausage, software which made an ht editor called hot dog. So here's a Martin Manager for thesoftware and obviously had this large website a love of Web Masters coming tomy web property. So we met through email, basically and at some point Iwas basically getting a little bit overwhelmed and stressed out by howquickly the business had grown. I had ups and Felix growing up on my doorearly every day with you know, books to review and software to review, and allthis stuff people start flying me out for conferences and what not. So.Basically, I decided that if I was gonna, I had two choices: basically tosell the website for a pretty substantial amount of money or to findsomeone who could tell me take it to the next level and mark at the sametime, was looking to leave sausage software and now be his own boss. Soneeds sort of aligned at that point in time and we decided to team up andbasically go fifty fifty on the business and see where we could take it, that you must have really liked the guy,because you had a successful business and for you to give half of it to him.You know that's a fairly big deal right, I mean he was coming from a job, so youknow what was the? What was this love at first email conversation, a out ofthis work. Bisagu could be a much much biggerbusiness and if I had someone else to help me someone who could dedicate ingof a lot of time to it, love Evertendo it that they would, I would cut itwould get dividends many times over right, but he's an Eben. I mean. Didyou not think I want to get someone in Vancouver or it never occurred to me so to followthat in the far one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine I flew down toMelbourne Australia met mark for the first time, Sur cans spend a coupleweeks of planning and I flew home and then the result of that was we launchedsite point about six months later in Materosa. So why did you decide tochange the name and move with a...

...different brand? Basically, what happened is Windowsmagazine which at the time add a million subscribers wrote a full pagearticle about web master resources, so a full page article editorial piece inthe magazine of this size is probably worth a quarter million dollars in freepublicity or what have you, except that they left out the hyphen inthe domain name, oh so that was my first lesson in brandingand online naming so we serve knew if we could on the domain name without thehyphen. They would have to pick something else and if we decide on sitepoint okay, interesting now, I'm just curious before we continue the story.The your site to be of such considerable value to so many people,you must have had a lot of updates going. All the time were you until youbrought on your partner mark. Did you write all the content yourself? Wereyou keeping up with that like reviewing the books or viewing the products soforth? I was doing a lot of the writing by myself. Writing the weekly newsletter. I think I wrote the first four hundred issues of the Sippin Tribune Mon News: EitherPals had guest contributors at that time we started coming and you knowcontributing guest columns to get publicity and mink backs to theirwebsite and what not, but I was doing a lot of it myself. I was basically thehome page of the site at one point became basically a blog and I wourahabout what I was doing and what I was working on and what was coming up. Ihad blog before blogs became fashionable in a sense, and I reallypersonalized that the website and I could send an email news letter and getback hundreds of emails back people knew I would read and respond and whatnot I'm? How did you keep up with that? Imean I have trouble dealing with. You know a handful of emails. I can imaginehow you dealt with a hundred. Oh well. My friends were off at thebeach or going on dates. I was locked in thebasement of working nights away. Okay, so like why? Why was this your r mainmotivation over all the typical things that you know, basically a high schoolstudent would want to do. I mean go to the beach. You know hang out with girls.Why don't you want to do that? Instead, you want to work on your website. Ijust loved it at that was so much fun. I was making a good amount of money and it wasn't work to me didn't feel likework at all. So explain, then, how you manage to, Iguess: Expand with two people living in across other sides of the planet,because I know how far away counted is from here and different time zones andyou're looking to expand the business with a brand new brand. How did you dothis and you had cash foe? That was, I guess, the biggest plus side. So howdid you spend that money yeah? We had that cash flow and abasically post, four months after we launch CIPO, we opened our first officein Melbourne, Australia, so the summer of two thousand, rather than being offat the pitch, like all my friends actually flew down to Melbourne,Australia and we found office face and hired a first couple of people to work for the business. What werethey doing our web design and Web Development? Okay, so you guys are still focused oncontent creation and has had those guys helping out with the technical needs.Absolutely so a business model from day one was to publish a lot of greatcontent, get off traffic and make a lot of money song advertising and thatworked really well right up until about two thousand and one when all these vsback companies who have been spending lots of money with US started goingbankrupt com crash exactly so. At that point wehad a bit of an o shit moment. If you will all the vs money had dried up, sowe can grow them market and raise money to find the business. So we had tofigure another way to generate cash, as would ly as possible to find theiroffice and to pay for staff and to pay ourselves and so on and so forth. Sowhat we decided to do was have a close look out what people were doing on sidepoint com and turns I tho in the most...

...popular links on the website wise print.This article actually makes a lot of sense back in two thousand and one noone had two monitors on their desk, so when they were learning to write, hm lor CSS or have you, they would print out our two toils and have it sing nextto their key boat so that it could follow along. So I came up with this theory thatpeople would pay us for the privilege of printing out the content on theirbehalf and the way we decide to test. This was to find a print on demand.Company could print off single unit books and we decided to start sellingour MOTOPU lar tutoral Jos, on Ph p and my Scura as a print on demand book. Shehas to keep in mind that all the content in this book was Avele freelyon nine people were paying purely for the convenience of having it printedand bound in ship to them in a book form right, and we aggressively markedit this book through all the Unsold Banner Adament ory that we had and wentup Sung about twenty thousand copies of that book. So that became on newbusiness model, basically publishing printed prior right, so that was- andthat was the start of printing many books from that point forward exactlyand we've done fifty or sixty books to date. In a few years after we started doingthese books, we also decided to go into retail in two thousand and five andstarted selling in borders and barns of noble and Amazon Com, as well soincreasing our distribution in reach. Okay, amazing and I'm assuming you mayrevenue sources, the books now Wiltou be correct. Now I gushing is actually picking upquite a bit as well and we have e courses and PD sales. So it's a lotmore different to fight now. Okay, so you're a fully fledged company withmultiple revenue, streams and business models and how many staff are now inthe company were about fifteen twenty people at Sytin, okay and they're,based in Melbourne or yeah, primarily Melbourne, and we have two people inSan Francisco doing our advertising sales and account management, okay, sothey're sort of getting either revenue from advertising, because the Americanaudience, I presume more, the buyers of advertising, absolutely all right. Somy connection with side point es the first taste I got her. It was using theforum, but the next main point of contact for me was actually the sidepoint market place where people would buy and sell website. This is prior tolaunching a flipper. Now. How did that come about? was that by chance or didpeople just start buying it something website? And you decide to vote morefocus to that area. What was the connection yeah? Basically, I justevolved very naturally people started buying and selling web sites. It starttaking up a lot of moderation, time and support time, and the volunteermilvader is now community basically said this is getting a little bit toomuch. I A soul, really take over doing this job for us, so we're like okay, sostart charging people, basically ten or twenty L to post up for sale, listeningin our forums in VI bolt in and I rather than killing off goth, it justspread more and more growth in the sad website sales market place. So after awhile, we eventually decided that this form thread format of buying in songwebsite. Wasn't the idea of situation. So we locked away a developer in adesigner for a couple of weeks and had them built the very first auctionplatform. At the same time, we doubled ourlisting fee and continue to go and go and go and involve from there till Ione point: We decided that we need a separate brand for buying in songwebsite and that's why it became flipper, okay, and that was recently because Ifitba launched in what lasts two years sometime, which is our first thatbirthday f a week ago, I thought so: okay, that's fantastic, so you've got site point running, whichis basically a content site and a very large community forum and a very largenewsletter base. You've got quite a few subscribers. I think you have youbroken half a million were over a...

...million Alta's. We have new letters yepnow it sounds like you had your news letter from day. One in terms of withback with the original Web Moser resources cite did. Is that somethinghe just naturally did or did someone tell you because, like in my community,the Internet marketing world having a list is always considered the mostimportant aspect of running your online business and not everyone willnaturally do that until they're told to do it in some sort of study resources,but it sounds like you just added one. What was that was that conscious or howimportant has your list been to the business over the years? It's beenincredibly incredibly. Incredibly valuable, I think, is probably one ofour most highly prized assets. Absolutely and it's gone tremendouslyover a decade. The first issue of the site point news: Either went out to twohundred people and now, like I said, we have five news letters reaching over amillion. So it's been absolutely fantastic resos both for getting peopleback to our site, as well as promoting our own products, the books are, wepublish and now pushing the messages of our advertisers and sponsors as well since we're on the topic, if you werespeaking to a person, who's just getting started in this game, whatwould be the number on one or number two things you suggest they do for thisbuilding like how do you get so many people on to a list? Well back in two thousand two thousandand one, it was actually quite easy, because people were nearly as skepticalas they are now about giving away their email address, and people were nearlyas afraid of Stam as they are now and there wasn't as much competition, and Idemand for attention so best way to do it right now is to offer something ofvalue in return, whether it's an e book, a discount, a coupon. I report a whitepaper. What have you- and this is what you do on site point now- it's all somesort of incentive offer to get on the list yeah. Basically, what happens is mostof our optans come through our book sample chapters, so people come to ourside. They look at some of our book products. They decide that they won thefirst four chapters free of charge. They enter their email address, we sendthem the PD and we also princed them with an offer to opt in to ouradditional newsletters for free content. Deliberate every week, a nice model,very cool, so flipper took off. Well now tell me more about the idea withninety nine designs. That's quite a, I guess, a step a little bit to the leftof what you were doing beforehand. So how did that come about? It actuallycame out of the cyclone forms as well. It was originally called at photoshops.Basically, the designers would create made up fictional projects andcompete against each other for fun to practice their skills, to build theirportfolio and to interact with other designers from all around the world. Soat one point I was some of the other members of our community Salis activityhappening and they came and posted a form thread essentially saying I'mlaunching a new blog next week. I need a new logo and I'll give a hundreddollars to designer, like the best, so designers really jumped on thisopportunity to not only make maybe a hundred dollars, but also to get realfeedback from a kind and possible ongoing work from that client. So theyprobably gave this guy. You know thirty or forty local designs to treat from ina week. He was very happy and the designers were very happy. So it was avery win win situation that we eventually call on to in decide tocreate a business around which today is called ninety ninedesigns, and I'm pretty sure yours was the first to follow this sort ofreverse auction was not really a reverse auction at an auction, pestilformat for getting a design done where you can choose the best and pay a setfee. Now that's become popular I've seen quite a few imitators come intothe market recently, but I think you guys still have the best brand aroundfor for the concept. Obviously, it's ninety nine designs. The idea is thatyou can get ninety nine designs or you know a lot of designs made and thenchoose the one you actually want, which exactly what I did recently. I had aloco design through ninety nine designs,...

...just to test out the service and seewhat came out and it was great I had about twenty twenty five people submitdifferent designs and was able to choose the best one and I think it costI just around two hundred fifty dollars to do that. So you can see that servicegreat way to get some sort of basic graphic work and you do everything fromwebsite design toward press theme, design to advertising materials and soforth at that site. So that's where checking out for everyone listening so have I covered the the entire potfellow of your businesses. Now that we've got nine and designs, flip o thewebsite, auction market place and, of course, site point, which is acommunity around web development, which is content as well as the forums. Isthat what we're, what you guys do on a day to day basis and you work on that'sexactly it okay, so that leads me to a question.I'm quite curious. You know you're a little older now youknow longer a teenager, so you know, maybe you missed a boat on the going tothe beach and getting drunk and hanging out with girls thing, because you'reworking on the website, it's progressed a bit further. What do you do nowadayson a daytoday basis right now, I'm spending more than halfof my time on ninety nine designs, basically playing the role of POFmarketing and trying to scale up our customer acquisition efforts there, okay, as then you're just trying to getmore people coming to that website and using it absolutely so in nine design,says going tremendously by word of mouth and that were trying to take overand prove the user experience, encourage referrals as well as do moreoutbound marketing through so paper Click Facebo, K, ads media buying,email, marketing, so on and so forth. But what do you actually do on a day day basis? Man, I'm curious,like is this: You live in Vancouver one of the greatest cities in the world, soyou know you get out, but you are you you're in your office or you re at home,or how does how do you live yeah? I walk over five feet from mybedroom towards my Home Office. I have a beautiful view. I get to work okay, so simple, as that hund and you know, haveyou I'm assuming you enjoy some financial success from all this beyondthe B. I are you, do you have interest in you know stocks and shares, or youknow, virtual or angel funding or buying property. How do you spend yourtime outside of work? I cashed out all my hot real estate afew years ago and I thought the market was going to melt down in Canada andfortunately the US. The Canada has not followed the US in terms of the realestate down term, which just still absolutely mind bobbing to me by a travel quite a bit at yourconferences in public speaking, I collect wine. Some of my hobbies trying my goal this year is to take sixvacations as well. So I'm trying to not work as much or enjoy a lot bit more ofmy free time. It sounds like you enjoy your work alittle too much as an entire to leave because he just having so much fun. That's true, yeah, okay, Great! So I'm just one of myquestions. I'm curious with the structure of your company now, with yousitting at home in your Home Office, the staff and your business partner,all down in Melbourne and then two guys in San Francisco doing the advertisingselling that should have customer support for ninety nine designs as well,and some marketing functions for nine nine designs in San Francisco h officehas grown quite nicely over time, so I'm actually in San Francisco once amonth for about a week. That's one of my frequent drifts and why didn't youopen that company of that branch in Vancouver- and I would be kind of that-would make sense to me, but just because you wanted the American office for noine designs, we was most of ourearly customers where the text startups, those were primary customers and wherewe had really good way of mouth. So we want to feel that, by having a presencegoing to other conferences in...

...networking events and meet ups as wellme of our advertisers for sideport, such as a Dobin, Microsoft and their adagencies are based of San Francisco to it a would be really valuable and giveus a leg up over competitors to have that physical, real world presencewhere he could get for lunch, get together for lunch with the mediaplaner. What not for such just having that email phone relationship? Okay,I'm actually curious, because this relates the same subject of the growthof your company and having offices around the world. What what have youfound has been the greatest challenge with managing this and going from a oneperson show to multiple offices, multiple staff and so forth? Um, it's really bok having the right toteam in place. So we have a general managers in each of the threebusinesses side: Point: Nine, nine designs and flipped, and both me and mybusiness partners so of serve the roll as Chairman and advisory board members,or sometimes we do deep dives into particular businesses in particularprojects. But we don't manage the day to dayaffairs your there as much as we used to a few years ago, so I would beoverwhelming how who found hiring, especially whenit was just you toe initially hiring. You know what was the key defining goodpeople mike had some really good connectionsfrom his previous employment in Australia, so at the first couple ofpeople that we hired he had worked with previously, you had known for quite along time, so it's the important that you cal your first few people rightbecause they said the tone for the rest of the company and when you have, when your small teamthere's not a lot of room for people who aren't pulling their weight so thefirst couple. People are absolutely the most important and you should try andhire them. Fiah your personal referral, referrals or friendships or people thatyou've worked with in the past. Okay, interesting all right, an I think. I've covered everything.I've just got one more question than he the interview with the for the people. Listening to this, whoare say, they're just getting started or they're sitting on some sort of webproperty- that's doing recently well, but they want to wrap it up and startbringing on employees and taking to the next level and in particular the guysand girls out there who run web properties where their main revenuestream is either or both advertising and selling information products. Andthat's what you guys do predominantly now, especially with site point. At leastyou know, what would you say is the the best advice you can give to them andlike what's what are the key functions of your company that make it work andand what should they focus their time on? So I I start off by looking at what youspend most of your time on and that you don't enjoy and hiring someone to feelthat roll at to begin with, whether that's you know, marketing or writingcontent or dealing with authors and contributors to your website or dealingwith customer support just find whatever you dislike the mostand you're, not passionate about and find someone who do a great job at itand give them a lot of freedom to really go into that roll and developtheir own methodology of working, not at everyone will always work the sameway you have in the past. Everyone has their own few point in approach to ajob. I think it's important that you give people enough freedom to reach your objectives and your goalswith no defined framework without micro, managing them think it's one of thetough things for entrepreneurs is sort of letting go and not micromanage stuff,and just accepting that small bad things will happen, I mean being okaywith it, okay, so people is the most importantaspect of growth. Definitely, definitely all right can doeverything yourself. That's for sure yeah, but you can do a lot from yourHome Office and S in still and be in charge of a fairly large company. Absolutely especially if you spend alot of time when planes and without rooms traveling a I'm just curious.What car are you driving today? I just have an ARD,...

I think, to fancy know what kind likean arright? No, no, no, all right! Okay! I thank you for that now. But anyone tocheck out your website, we've mentioned them several times at site point com:We've got flipper, F, L, I P PAOM and ninety nine, at nine nine designor, tocheck out everything going on in your world cool, I think just for a just for thefun a bit I haven't done this before by this, give the try and see what happens if anyone posts a project on ninetynine designs before July, fifteenth and sends me an email, applying a wholebunch of free upgrades to their project and save them a whole bunch of money.All they have to do is email me personally, Matt at ninety nine designs:Com with the El of the ninety nine designs project, the mention that theylisten to this interview I'll, be cool and see what happens? Okay, well, thatwas compete on planned. So thanks mat for a offering that little incentive atthe end of this interview. So that's Mat at ninety nine designs COM, send itas much email once you got your n designs, project up and you'll get somebonuses, so that's cool! Thank you! Not For taking the time today, I appreciatelearning more about how you got started, I'm extremely jealous. To be honest,you know sixteen and driving a beamer and having a profitaient, that'sincredible, so a great story, interesting time in the world of theInternet, marketing and yeah good stuff and, of course, good luck in the futureFreny for everyone else. Listening if you're keen on hearing more interviewswith experienced and successful marketers and entrepreneurs like that,please had to my blog entrepreneurs, hyphen journey com or you can google myname Yaro y Aro, and find all the content there. Thanks for listening tocatch you on a future interview by by T T.

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