Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 25 · 1 month ago

(EP25): Collis Ta-eed Co-founder Of Envato (Themeforest, Audiojungle, Videohive), Aussie Tech Unicorn That Stayed Private And Bootstrapped


Collis Ta'eed with his wife Cyan started out with an idea -- they wanted to create a marketplace where digital media producers could sell their creations to customers.

They began with the then popular Flash file format and later expanded into things like WordPress themes, music, video and code. Each type of media had a marketplace, including Themeforest for Wordpress and Audiojungle for music files.

As is typical for the marketplace model, they took a small fee from each transaction.

All these marketplaces would later be combined together under the company name Envato

Today Envato is still a privately held company having been bootstrapped from day one. Because they are private, we don't have any public numbers about how much money they generate, but based on what journalists in Australia have written, the company does about $300 Million a year in revenue.

Collis, at the time he stepped down as CEO of Envato in 2020, reported that they had crossed the major milestone of $1 Billion in creator earnings. 81,000 creators have earned through Envato since the company was founded.

The Early Days

I connected with Collis back when we were both part of the Australian blogging community around 2010.

Back then, Collis was the creator of a blog called Freelance Switch, supporting freelancers with advice and tutorials for growing their business.

That was early days for his marketplaces, but signs were already showing that he had a business that was scaling rapidly.

A few years later I was producing a new interview series as a subscription product for my education business and invited Collis to do a bonus interview for the program.

At the time Envato was already a multi-million dollar business selling a digital item every ten seconds.

Collis and I recorded this interview at a great time. They were successful, but they had yet to reach the point where he and his wife were appearing on the 'young rich list' in Australia, which immediately boosted their public profile significantly (making it a lot harder to get in touch with Collis!).

During the interview, Collis shared the entire foundation story of Envato, from going into $100,000 in debt and living with his inlaws, how they built their marketplaces and attracted creators and buyers and why they never took on investment finance and stayed bootstrapped the entire way.

A New-Old Interview

Although this interview is not brand new, it's never been released to the public before. Only members of my membership site had access until now.

I'm releasing it here on Vested Capital because it's a story of an Australian tech unicorn (not officially, but the numbers would justify the valuation if they ever did an IPO or raised finance privately) and shares how the company was started.

Marketplaces are still an amazing business model to go after today, so I know this interview will prove inspiring and insightful.

Enjoy the podcast.




Hi there this is Yaro and welcome tovested capital Episode Number Twenty four featuring my guest Callis Taed,the Co founder of in Vata vesse capital is a podcast about how people makemoney and put their capital to work. I interduced art, a founders AngelInvestors, venture capitalists, Crypto and Stock Traders, realestate investorsand leaders in technology. Today, I'm actually re releasing an episode. Ireleased only to members of a membership site now, like a couple ofprevious episodes, I've released episodes that were on my old podcastand also in my membership site. The most recent one was a tim fares trilogy.You can go back a few episodes to have a listen to that. One of the episodesin that special trilogy episode I released was an episode with Tin, aninterview I recorded only for members of a community. I run called the LaptopLifestyle Academy. The one I'm going to share with you today with calls to isalso one of those exclusive interviews. I called them. I actually sold this asa standalone subscription product we so many years ago, now, probably a decadeago, back when I was very much focused on selling education products, teachingproducts and was my first ever subscription side pure subscription sitwhere I was basically releasing two episodes or two interviews with expertsevery month and also included a breakdown of what I thought were theirleverage points. These reports, I wrote to go with them, so collis was invitedto be one of my guest experts on that series, primarily because he hadexperienced huge success with some market places he had created. So thisis a really interesting interview, of course, like I've done in previoustimes. I've re listened to this. It is a little old. We record this. I think two thousand and twelve thousand andthirteen amazingly enough, the company that he grew in Voto, it's kind of likethe umbrella brand for all the websites and market places and blogs and thingsunder it. It was a ready super successful back when I record thisinterview with Calla, so we covered pretty much the growth from absolutelynothing to the point where they had a hundred staff. I think they were doingwell over a million dollars month at that point in sales across the entiremarket place. So as at least a multiple seven figures, business may be eightfigures at the time and what makes it this especially exciting for me toshare with you- was okay fast forward many many years forward from that firstinterview with him, I'm maybe two or three years ago. Probably about that. Iam reading up on what is commonly released in Australia like the RichList, which you know we have in the states as well and probably have inevery country that releases some kind of like Forbes or angered or whatevermost successful the billionaires- and in this case it was the Australian techbillionaire. I may no mean tech. I think it was tack the Tech BillionaireList in like a top ten richest people and I'm scrolling down, and I'm seeingyou know the founders of at Lacian and then I'm seeing, I think, Kanva Melanieand her two co founders were there Mellie Perkins and then, as I hit tolike number, eight or nine, I see Collis and his wife, an taid listedamongst this top ten in all of Australia, and I'm like Oh, my gosh.How big did in Voto group become how big do they get? Well, just as I recordthis they've had their one billion dollar in return of revenue to theircommunity, so basically just to clarify exactly what all this is in. Voto is anumbrella company name for a series of market places that call us and his teamreleased over many years. Obviously we hear the start of that. In thisinterview, one of the most famous ones is theme forest, which is word pressthings. Audio jungle is another one. That's the one. I've actually used someof my very early podcast episodes had intro, music and outro music. I gotthat music from audio jungle, which is calluses there's a few other early oneslike flashed in later changed to active den, which was a market place for flashdesign files. There was pst toots and other kind of photoshop design side,and you know since then it's become like this market place for all kinds ofvideo, audio and work, press themes and graphic design, and when I saymarketplace, creators come to the site, they list their design files for sale.Then people come to the site search for files by whatever they need. Most ofthe money goes back to the creator, but in Voto and obviously call us hiscompany takes a slice of that transaction. So it's a true marketplace for digital media and Collis, and his wife and team just rode the wave ofthe internet, unlocking these global sized market places to the tune of I'mnot exactly sure of t e the numbers, because, amazingly enough, the entiretime Collis was growing. This company it was bootstrapped, never raisedfunding, never did an IPO, it was very deliberate. I did a bit of researchbefore releasing this to you guys, because I wanted to make sure I knew asmuch as I could about the current state of in Vata. Can't quote me on this. Ican't hundred percent verify it because it is a private company. They don'tdon't releaseo these numbers, but they...

...have about six hundred employees nowbased in Melbourne, Mexico and La they do about three hundred million a yearin revenue and it's an amazing success story. Obviously you can't techno callit a Unicorn, and you can't even technically call call as a billionaire,although by all metrics that I know of as an angel investor, it is definitelya Unicorn and they are definitely billionaires because I'm assuming theyown a hundred percent of the company across the the family ownership of Anba.So this is a Unicorn Story. This is a billion dollar founders story and whenI'm especially excited to give you this today is it covers the first growth toa hundred employees. So, from the point of this, in to view onwards a six xpath, they grew to six hundred employees and probably you know morethan six ex there their revenue, but we hear from zero literally going into ahundred thousand dollars in death in the story and how they started theirfirst market places. You know how they got their first customers when why dothey invest so much money? They actually moved in with science parentsfor the first year or two, it's a real traditional. You know working in yourcarage, putting in sweat, equity and every single penny. You can make noventure capital, no investors. Besides, you know family, sweat, equity, soimpressive story and I'm really excited to share with you. In fact, we even goearlier than that story, because I know call us from his days as a blogger,which very much connects to what he does with the market places and vottocall us, and I threw the blogging space that we were both in around sort of twothousand and six seven eight will be connected. We met at an event. I thinkwe were both speakers at Darren, rouse's prologue event. I don't knowhow many years ago that was two thousand and nine maybe, and he wasrunning a blog called freelance switch before that he also had a network. Ithink it was part of called north by east, so I found him through those twoblogs connected with them. As a fellow Azi for those who don't know, Iactually grew up in Brisben, Australia. You can listen to vested capitalepisode, Zero to hear that story, and we just hit it off as most bluggers doand shared stories and talked about producing content and growing audiencesand things like that and we kept in touch and then I saw him kind of switchgears into these market places, and I was like that. That's a smart thing todo and clearly it was because he went on to make him a billionaire. Today.Call us and his wife actually live in Darwin Australia and he stepped downthe CEO of in Vado group two years ago. I think it was maybe a year and a halfago, depending on when you were listening to this and he's kind offocusing on, looks like investing in charity based work, so that's great andand viral continues to grow and is now being run by a CEO and he's lived, afull life cycle from start up, hustling, bootstrapping and clearly exiting atthe top, so an amazing story and so excited to release this interview withyou, because, frankly, it's never been heard by the public before only my fewmembers have listened to it, and it's probably one of the only audiointerviews Collis did during that time frame. He wasn't the most prolific onpodcast kind of guy and I'm really glad that he got to share the origin storyof these market places, because you know that is really the sweet spot. Itobviously grew from the point where we we finished this recording okay. Thatis a super huge long intro to this one like I said it is a re release ofsomething I only have from my members. Please share it. Obviously, if you findthis useful will love you to share with anyone who you think would benefit fromhearing about this story and don't forget to subscribe to vested capitalClick The plus the subscribe. The follow button get this podcast on yourAPPS, my Gosh. I have some amazing guests coming up. I've had some amazingguess already in the past, in the previous twenty three H, episodes we'vedone so far just this year, not to mention the fifty plus of my bestepisodes I put on the feed. If you subscribe, that's the best way to getthem and yeah. I can't wait to hear your feed back when this one so pressplay I'll purst play on the interview right now, love to hear your feedbacktwitters the best way to send a message at Yaro, stark or just Hash Tag: lestedcapital after you. Listen to this one share it on twitter. To I'd reallyappreciate that. Okay enough! For me, here's the interview with Calista theCO founder of in Vatoa, I sort of jump back in time. You just tell me like howbig is this business? Can you sort of highlight what what it is, how manypeople you employ? How much money you make all those sorts of things yeahsure I can give a bit of a few so were at the moment we have a little over ahundred staff in like a hundred and twenty or so most of whom are in herein Melvin and Australia, and then a good questioner also just workingremote from different locations around the world depending on what their testsare and love. Not The network as a whole has about a millionvisits a day, a million visitors a day to all the various property say so ormark who places are tutorial sides or AP store network everything allcombined, but our market places are selling an item every ten seconds,there's a little more than that. Actually so, in terms of volume,there's a lot of a lot of through puts these days yeah those a hundred hundred and twentyemployees like employees, or is that a...

...mix of contractors, employees,contractors and in play. So that's like editors and things is reviewers at soevery item. That's on our market places gets reviewed by our Rebutin to theyare a team of thirty five. I think and they're all around the world. Thenthere's lots of developers and what not have been here in the head quarteroffice. So how many people are with you in the office on a day to day basis,sixty okay, so it's a yeah yeah, it's not a one. Man Show anymore or a wife,husband and wife team yeah. That's right! I sorry a sheet to edit thatwe're very natural here. So let's go back in time to that start, but was itactually just the husband and wife team to begin with, with all this, at thevery beginning, myself, my wife say in we together want to start a business atmy best friend. Gud had also been talking to me for age, but we should dosomething together, so we wrote him and initially he was more of A. I guess. An investor Y put it inbasically bit of his same things and an then gradually started taking overthings like support and what not once wed actually launched so Diana. I did alot of the early billy work. We hired a contractor a contract developer so fromthe very beginning, those a few people, one of the benefits of having cofounders. As you have some cheap labor sources on yeah an an GIN, we did have a singlecontract staff for about a year in, we managed to wrote my brother in as well,so it quickly started a to family. Business was what was it your firstbusiness? What was the day for this to begin with, so this is back in twothousand and six actually a year and a half before that sin, and I have beenfree, lancing together, so that was a technically our first business we'deven had an employee at one point during our freelancing were very fended,though I have to miss overall, and it was the source of many articles onfreelance fish, though a little various mistakes and things we've learned alongthe way free lating. So by the beginning of two thousand and six wedecided to start an online business in wanted to travel was one of the earlyreasons. We were doing it on of travel, and I was like yeah well to. We have abusiness. We can do from our laptops anywhere in the world that I workbefore lasting was it so were you to working jobs like I want to go evenfurther back. I guess call us like from the Berry start here. Were you anentrepreneur, or did you get a degree and then get a job and do that sort ofpath, but like got a degree in math, and then I got a chap at a cafe, not sure if that's where all thatreduce a Prisa making coffee and then decided that I really wanted to do webdesign at Jena. My best friend was a web designer, and so he taught me someof the basics and I learned a lot on line from trials and things am amanatee score, a job in a very small little well, it was me and my boss.Basically, it was two man agency do web design and then I go one other job foranother year and then I decided to start freelancing. I tried working forpeople, but ultimately I think I guess I yeah. I guess I wanted to be my ownboss, be an entrepreneur, then e got it free, lancing with sand and then fromfree lancing into invito. When did you meet SIM? Oh, she met her, not listento exact. Remember I, of course I memorize my anniversary day,I'm sure I botts's say two thousand and two you remember how you met them. I askYou: I remember how that was at a design made up here in Australia wehave the Australian graphic designers association and they were starting alittle student buddy once I got my first job as web designer had taken thenight course in interactive multimedia, so I went join the student bodypartially to meet to make women instead of need right on work. I met sand. That was good, okay, so because science, a big part ofwhat you do, you're a two man team. Aren't you sort of from the beginning.Yeah, that's right, so I actually all I would say both say and I but also Junand my brother valued- and these is my father as well. The five of us togetherand family get togethers. It's pretty bad. The fine us just end up business business business right, I cor it. I guess saying myself: Yeah,okay, so let's jump into the how this all started. So you you were freelancing. You said you were good at it, so you I assume you were just doingwebsite design and that sort of work for people yeah. We did everything fromgraphic to web to brandon. We did a lot of different types of clients, so wedid some local government. We did some small business. We did some haltynatural business. We did all sorts of things. The reason I say we were verygood at it was that we worked insane hours. I think we tended to undercharge most of the time it was really stressful. His were all weekends.Wasn't that we weren't getting work. So...

...wasn't that kind of not good at it. Itwas the kind of not good where it's not a very healthy lifestyle and orprofitable business, if that makes sense right for type of not good, sowas that, what's the mule, the desire to have a different type of businessyeah, I think we really wanted to get away from client work. We were doing alot of last minute jobs, a lot of deadlines, a lot of jobs which had gonewrong, and this became not very profitable at the end yeah. It was abit of stressful business and, as I said, say, I'm want to travel and wefelt really locked down to Sydney where I used to live in Sydney back then,because that's where our clients were so we had this idea that we could startan online business which we could do from a laptop anywhere in the world,and it would be a market place, and you know we wouldn't have clients. We needto go visit or anything like that, and it would be this new holy grailbusiness. We did eventually travel for a year, but during that time thebusiness grew so much so we had to come home so didn't quite pan out the way we rightit still and out. Well, so it shouldn't sound like nothing to complain about.They does something. You've never had a problem with, I guess the acquisitionof clients and being busy with work. It's the type of work you've wanted todo has been the problem. Yeah, that's true and no volume. I love to even spend a bunch of timetalking about how you got clients back in the day call us, but I probablydon't have time I really want to get on to the invade group, because there'sobviously a lot of different websites there. So when you guys decided it'stime to switch yeah good choice of words there, what was the the firstproject you were thinking of starting and then that you brought thesepartners on yeah. So at that time, even while we're freelancing I used to sellstuff online, I guess I was interested in passive income and other ways tomake money other than client works. I used to sell flash mostly marklascallas photo and which is obviously famous for photos, but even to this dayI believe they still have a flash category somewhere in there. Therewasn't a really good way to sell flash. To be honest, the site was all gearedtowards photographers, but even so there were sales at that time. I knewthat you could sell flash. I knew there was a way to sell it, but it wasn't agood way for selling flash at had some experience and had made some flashfiles that were worth selling we kind of decided well. Why do we make theequivalent sort of market place, but everything would be geared towardsselling blash and w? U D, we would be a flash marketplace and the forums wouldall be about flash and sad about photography at the previews would begeared toward slashing in a sto and so forth, and so that was the site welaunched with. It took US six months to construct, which was a lot longer thanunexpected. We hired this contract of over Ryan who eventually became ourfirst embla. He and I used to do the front and work and design and neededthe back income and we built spot in retrospect. If I looked back at it nowwas probably a bit of a ghetto website, but at the time I was like this isamazing. It's kind of pretty feature you can imagine better than now. I look back the wowokay, it was. It was a quick to market so the side, I suppose- and so we gotthat out in August two thousand and six and to do work. It works all well, ithad a single sail in the first day of ten dollars at the time I was verydepressed, a I'm not sure if everyone else has thisexperience, but for me, when you're building something like building aproduct, I think you have it in your head that the world is going to be sosuper super excited when you lunch it that they'll all just be queuing up toyou that, of course the reality is. You have to do a lot of hard work to marketand website, and actually, in retrospect the fact we had a sail inthe first day is amazing. I know I was going to say like where that personfind you, how do they pine and looking back it. It is quite staggering what wedid on the on day. One of the reason we had some traffic was: we used designgalleries, they used to be design galleries both for, like a sister, arefor general website, but also from flash from set. We were mostly itbecause it wasn't, although it was a market place for Flash, it wasn't aflash website. So this was mostly traffic from other general designgalleries, which was very targeted for this particular product, because it's aproduct for kind of web designers, so getting an audience of web designersfrom a Web design gallery made a lot of sense doesn't make sense for everybusiness, obviously, but it did for that one and the design, I guess, wasgood enough to get into a few different galleries and we immediately startedgetting traffic and obviously one of one person that should really look upwho that person was actually one person gave us our first ten dollars. Yeah Customer Appreciation Award Right there.So you know you have four people, five people already working here, one saledoesn't cover the cost. How was this all going to work? Yes, so we had putin our savings, basically say: Saane myself and Ju. We don't put in oursavings. We basically kept doing freelance work for about a year and ahalf. I actually take a salary for almost two years. I think, but we countour ous so that we could get the... pass eventually back test, butwe didn't actually take any money. We just kept freelancing use up all oursavings use up our credit cards moved in with Sin's parents or my parents. Itwas a little bit stressful. Actually, it sounds like a gamble too. Likethat's a lot o sounds like a lot of money. I don't know if you remembersort of the vicinity of how much went into something like that. It was, Ithink, in total we came to close to a hundred thousand dollars. By that, thetime we've gotten someone interact operations we've spent a little over ahundred thousand, that's huge. What if it didn't work like yeah, it's funny now, looking at thecompany, it feels like. Well, you know, of course it was a good idea, but atthat time it was pretty dance stressful. I definitely recall that period of mylife as being one of the more strengthful seens in my life, he is tospend a lot of time worrying about money, and that was a period justbefore we lunch mark place where I didn't actually think we were going tomanage to finish the side. Bills have been dragging on for a while. Somestuff was working and I was like Oh crap, I screwed up. We really blew this.We should have stuck in freelancing, but then we managed to get the side out.Some sales came in by December that year we could see. There was justenough sales to know that they were kind of on to something. I think thefact that we had had experience actually selling flash before I was agood sign. It wasn't a made up idea if that makes sense, O the l, somethingnone of us had any experience with. It was actually something we had testedthe market for in a way, and so I think that was probably one source ofreassurance. But yes, at the time it was scary I mean nowadays no one would suggest.Go spend a hundred grand build a website and it'll be okay, they'll, sayno, no test a small website, fo hundred dollars, and you know build from thatyeah war. True, what was wrong with you classes can say like, but a cabal in alot of ways, but yeah you know it work, so maybe you can keep moving us forwardto the process of what would happen next, so we launched website, and thenI guess the next few months was a big process of improving the side andmarketing. So we were still spending some of that hundred grand after webuild the website. So some of that was content. Production Becaus, you knowwith a marketplace you need stuff to sell, can just have an empty marketplace mark places have that rule classic chicken and egg problem allkinds of market places, whether it's a jump, ord or classified or whatever itis. You mean stuff to sell and people to buy and neither is interested unlessthe other ones there. So the way we address the problem as what we see inthe market with content, some of it was Seti made, but we also commissioned abunch of canton some of that went into the early days and then a lot of theireffort was into marketing. A lot of our time was spent building our user baseand we did that in a ton of different ways. So we pretty much tried everysingle thing that could possibly think of. We didn't have much money. We didspend a little bit of money on advertising, but we weren't have aventure of funded company or anything like that, so that was pretty limitedadvertising. I mentioned design galeries. That was a good source ofearly traffic. We used to go into forums a lot and talk to people likejust individual people, convincing people to come and sell in our marketplace. We did lots of give aways and things like that. A few months in Istarted getting into blogging as a way to I guess starts building traffic, butalso just even do things like run, competitions and stuff and wanted tohave this section number a website where we would run competitions andthings like that and our developer, who was Brian, who was like over worked,was like no, I refuse to build this. Just go, get a blog there's. This thingcalled word: Press Go, try it out and best thing he ever said to me,because that was the start of a long blogging word brest infatuation, whichtook me to all sorts of places. But yet a blogging was one of the kind of early.I guess ways we built some audience: email, marketing, lots of networkingwith other people in the industry, yeah all kinds of things. My I guess,philosophy on marketing. It's really that you just have to try every singlething you can think of and sort of optimize the you can't there's no onemagic, pullet, there's no one solution, one size for it's all kind of asolution. You just kind of have to try things, especially when you have nomoney. I suppose we have lots of money. You could just throw it at someadvertising or somthing. So I've never tried that approach. So when did it reach a point where you,I guess we're casho neutral, where you could actually cover everyone'ssalaries, and you know how a business that was functioning cash flow neutral with launch in Augustby in November. We did one massive promotion where we gave away tenthousand dollars of credit, so that goes another portion of that seed moneyand that brought in a lot more traffic. So by Decembers this only like three orfour months in and we were doing about a thousand dollars a week in sales,which was quite amazing. Actually now I look back a thousand dollars a week.That's not CASHFORD neutrall. Obviously,...

...though, for people working on a state, but it was enough to go well in fourmonths we could get to a thousand dollars a week. That's a pretty goodsign the subsequent ear we Renu jumped by twenty fall. So by the end of theyear, we'd got into twenty thousand dollar a week. That was the end of twothousand and seven, which is a big mallston process. Twenty thousand aweek is, is about a million dollars a year. I remember being feeling likethis was unbelievable and you have to remember, though, our business the markplace yet portioned of every sale goes to the author of the item. So this is aroast revenue. At that point, we were still not catchfly a neutral, more orless for a good two years. I would say every time we made inroads into howmuch sales we had. We were just invested all back into the business. Itwas a LE closer to years before we pay ourselves salary, so I would say aboutthe two year mark, but I would classify as mutual ring so two years of livingwith your parents and geat eating noodles for dinner is that I was prettybad. We did with my inmost for the whole two years, then goodness have hadsix months in managed to get it together to move into a littleapartment and but yeah that was a lot of noodle eating there for a while dedication. So when did this start toexplode into the stupid number website, you had like the blogging thing thenturned to freelance switch, or was that still I had a blood called North Biswherever that one so yeah, that's right! That was right at the beginning, whereI used to give advice about logging, a business which is really the stupidestthing, because I don't l just gotten into both of these things. I don't know I had very much value thateither domain, but in any case I use my little soap box and I built a verysmall audience. I think I managed to get to four hundred RS traders duringthat time is over cost about three months, and that was hard work. I thinkthat was probably the hardest readership I've ever had to build fromthat. I had a single post on that side, which was about freelancing, and it wasthe first post that had some social media attraction so back then it wasthe site delicious com, which is, I don't think, it's delicious even stillrunning. Maybe it was, it was tecton. I think it is like there was listeners who don't remember is a tea. It was really awesome and couldsend quite a little traffic if you got on to the popular page, and this postmade it on the popular page, so that weekend came up with the idea that we shouldhave a free, a whole log, dedicated freelancing, because I was a webdesigner I designed and built it more or less that weekend by like them choose Ay. I think welodged it and it immediately hit lots of traffic. I guess it was the factthat that post made to the popular page was a indication that there was aninterested market in freelancing. Once we launched a side, it got a lot moresocial media attraction as well. It very quickly got the same amount oftraffic it roughly has. Today years later, it's been very stable in, likeit was the weird side in the sense that it grew very quick and then it standsstable for years and lines a been a bit like that too, actually is like it. Idon't know what does that mean to saturate the market? I'm not sure it's hard to say. I do find interesting.Your idea there, where you know you start a blog on something one articlehappens to go really well and then you go. You know what? Let's do? A new blogfocus only on this niche that this article did well and that works becauseyeah you could have just kept writing about the same thumpit on the existingbog, but you decided to now: Let's change the branding. That's changed themessage and that's probably a smart thing to do. Eh I now it's a goodPaidin even occur to me that I could have been the first plug there's some decisions that you willfind sound like wise decisions, but were just didn't not occur to me that Ishould have done something different yeah I mean the Anfidius, which was it.It was a targeted brand. The whole site was built around the idea of for hating.I did research, the niche a little bit after that post and discovered thoseone other blow which just dedicated for Lancing with this woman started and shehad written a few good posts and then totally dropped off and hadn't kept itup, which is so unfortunate because, like our post were good and obviouslythe nation was interesting and I think that's that's one of those classicblogging advice. Pieces of you know it's a marathon, but the end of the day.A lot of people just don't keep going. I guess now what was the plan here,because you were doing a market place for flash sort of Troye buying andselling? Basically an no no well. It makes sense to me to start afreelance blog as a marketing tool, because you bringing in people whomight create flash and also want to buy flash for their own products. They dofor client work. So it's a good synergy there, but were you looking? Maybe youmade this up as you've been a long calls? I don't know, but we youthinking for that switch, was a vehicle for bringing customers for yourflashlight which, by the way, was the name of it, there's called flash tenback. Then I looked antill a doby made us change in the him, so it's nowcalled active and a den Yes yeah that sounds verysensible. Let's go with thatreason...

...calls one of the things I love about.What you do business is you sort of build stuff because you want to and itseems to work more often than not, so I want to keep going with your story, butsince I've just said that, why do you think it works like? What are you doing?What right in each of these cases as we go through them all? The reason we gotFrancis was really purely just because I thought it was interesting to do. Ithink the reason that's worked for us has been that I usually look for thingsthat I think are interesting, which means that I guess I would have someknowledge of the space. So I don't really believe in trying to build abusiness and something you don't know anything about a there's been dangerous.It sounds silly, but lots of people do it. Like you know, I hear there's a lotof money on the Internet. I better go to make an interent business. It's notsuch a crazy thing to say the most fail. If you seem to work, you make it workover and over again yeah. So I think, having an interest means that you knowa bit about that area. So I think that's the first thing, and the otherthing I guess is- is looking for trends and looking for signs that there's amarket or some growth or so with flushin. As I said before, I actuallysold flash before so I had some incline that that was a market with friendswhich I'd had a post that have been really successful. So I guess I knewthere was some interest in freelancing went to the survey of the market beforestarting side later. The next sight we started was pschents, which is a photoship Torial site, and with that one I guess- and you were a lot aboutphotoshop and before we actually made it a full blown blog about photoshop.It was first just a little collection of Tutoris, like just page melt,Charles on a single domain, so there wasn't a lot to it and a couple ofthose Charles two of the first four we put up made it to the dig home page. SoI guess once again it was like well, there's, obviously a market here. Let'sdo more now I remember watching you because Iwas following you from the north by east days, when you know you your firstblog and then free lance switch, and I remember I guess it wasn't a flashed inbecause I wasn't interested in flash so much, but one thing I noticed about youwas your incredible ability to launch projects when you already have a hugework plate. Like you know, you are writing one blog. Then you sort ofrealize you know what this is not going to work, because I can't write for afreelance blog as well as run the business and then you're opening up SD,tots and another market place. So you have a great strategy for growth, or atleast you seem to have executed one where you, I don't know, if you bringin people at the right time and find good a players like how have youmanaged growth so well yeah? So I think the first thing is realizing that youhave to not try to do everything yourself like. I think that that is onearea that is surprisingly easy to get stuck on feeling like well, it needs tobe me, so I used to review all the files on question. I first started, forexample, and I resisted getting a reviewer for ages because I was likenobody can review files quite the way that I do, which is total crap o the way better than that could haveever done, and eventually I was forced to do it because I was so excited aboutdoing other things like. I really wanted to start blogging and I reallywanted to do later on a freelance vision later on. I really wanted to dowhatever it was that I really wanted to do. I guess forced my hands saiddelegates like there's just no way you could do everything, so it's alwayslike Demi. I have to give us to somebody else and then I suppose the interms of finding people, but it was a bit hit miss. Sometimes we get peoplewho worked out really well, not always each time you learn a bit more, sowe've had some editors and Free Lancers and employees, and what not, who arebetter than others, and I think we've been blessed to have a lot of goodpeople. I wouldn't say it was a hundred percentsuccess rate or anything like that. How do you find them a mix of things so forcontractors and frees? We often use the Sikhs themselves so for freelance,which I think we found our first editor, O, probably all of our editors throughthe site, so people who are either and typically with our blogs, we would getpeople to rise. The block, so I put a little ad on the side saying if youwant to write for this side, we pay whatever. It is think when we firststarted the side o sixty as an article, we would pay, and then we would picksomeone who seemed like a very organized writer and then asked them ifthey could do more enditing work and then, if they were doing well at that,maybe they could become the editor. So sourcing through the community is agood way to do it. We also just post job ads, there's, obviously, lots ofonline job oars is localized ones here to Sao this, seek that's Vagas for morefull time plays, but yeah I find going through the site to be quite a good wayof finding people who already understand what you're doing andunderstand your content so like for a blog. When you want to get anothereditor, you really want them to understand the sides and like the voiceof the site, so having someone who's already, a reader really helps, ratherthan somebody who's coming in cold and just trying to emulate you from readinga few posts. I now I could not afford... pay sixty an hour, a sorry, anarticle from a writer. Is there like a cash cow that you had, that was sort ofkeeping all this growth working, a sort o stable? Was it the the flash in oractive, then yeah, so active in by that point by the time we laugh fines? Ishould be about April two o seven o would have gone for it ben think, maybeeight months, and it had enough income that we could use that and come to fundfreelance fish plus a lot of the early writing was actually mean San. I evenmade some pseudonyms for myself, so we would look like we had a bigger, risingteam. That's interesting because most peoplelike having a personal brand, her one one or two people, you know behind it.You deliberately trying to make ouselves look bigger. Is that yeah? Iguess I wanted us to look like a real magazine and to attract other writersand to attract other writers. I was like well, you know they wouldn't wantto just do the same old name popping up so many cups, some Sun, that'sinteresting, very counter intuitive to this sort of toditos yeah. It isactually now that he that I can see where you're thinking is behind thatyou're. Looking company you're, not thinking asa brand you're thinkingcompany. So that's an attitude there. That's true, and I was always scared totie our sites too much to I'm. Generally, even scared to tie thecompany too much to me, because it means that it's hard to replaceyourself in the sense that you know with a blog the readers expect to hearI, like you know. If you go to Costa come and that was a blood you expect tosee. CASTA posting I couldn't go off and do something else, so you get kindof stuck to it. So I suppose, in that sense, having a writing team seem likea natural thing to do in order to keep yourself free right and I'm in the samesituation. I writ thing is my thing and they expect it from Aro. So you knowit's a great point, like you know, horses, Por Courses, you wanted tobuild the company because you need to get really large so and I've sort ofstepped in that direction, but realized that no, I, like the simplicity of Bout,a small operation, so I think, like I could never work as hard as you do callus to be absolutely true, though I think also bas, it's partiallywanting it to be large rit. Also, personally, just I get bored reallyeasily. I want to start something else like I have a Abalaine he's us when Iwas gun I used to like baking, cakes, but my mom wouldn't allow me to bakecakes unless I washed up after myself, I always take a like I'm not allowed tostart new sites unless I have a system for running the old side. Already,that's like the cleanup after so an early on that. I guess I realized this,and so by the time we were launching pre that wish it was because we built asystem to keep or in the other one. Unfortunately, this leads to having alarge company, but you know what take us through thatcause, so you set up active den to run itself. You set up for Lance Switzer onitself. You said up pst to run itself. Is that how this progresses, and whereare we at two thousand and eight two thousand and nine? That's right so andwith each one? I guess the other aspect, but we touched on earlier about likedelegating what not, in the other aspect, I think to is to have a veryorganized understanding what it takes to run a particular say so very earlyon. We would codify things. So when we wanted to find our first reviewer forflesh, then we had to codify like right out in detail what it takes to reviewand essentially make a manual of this is how you review files, and I would dothat since I and our team, I guess- would do that for all the differentroles we had. So when it was editing a blog. I would do it for a while andthen I'd write a manual of what I've been doing and find someone to kind ofrun the site off that manual and, of course those people would inevitablyimprove the process in the system and improve the manual. So today, forexample, for all attach network, we have a manual for what it takes to edita particular blog and simply for reviewing and what not, and so that youtry to take the person out a little bit and it becomes more systematic, asystematic way of doing things, and so I guess did that all along the way andintroduced rolls like site Manatos for the market places. I can't evenremember when it was, I think, around two thousand and eight decided we needto sit manager preach marketplace by a tousand. I think we launched audiojumble, which is the second market place, those first two years that willRyan and then later on, we hired another couple of developers wereworking very hard to take the system with built, which was for a single markplace and turn that application into an APP that could generate multiple marketplaces, which is what we have today. So there's a single application. It runs,I think, nine market places now they just spread over different demands, butis essentially it's actually the same market place in gun but yeah and so foreach Marcia lesson I, as the site manager and each site manager, had amanual about how to run a review team and how to manage the forms and how todo this in that, and they would all talk to each other and a systems forhow to invoice us and how to do this. And how to do that. So I think if youwant to grow a business and grow a staff to run that business, it helps tohave this very systematic way of thinking about jobs and tasks andbreaking them down and trying to codify them, so that someone else can come ina switch in how because, like you're talking about what I think is one ofthe most boring things for a creative... do, which is systems, and it soundslike you did. Both you were creative in a writing capacity and a designcapacity and a flat capacity and then you're going down writing systems likehow do you manage to find everything in a you know interesting, but you managedto do it all yeah. I don't know if I find I really interesting, but I guessso. I love work right like I suspect that comes across, but if in case itdoesn't, I I enjoy working, but I don't classify all work is the same. For me,there is like fun work and then there's like work work where you go, you reallyjust have to do it and for me I'm always trying my best to make more time.So I can do fun work, which is thinking of new ideas, doing creative work,planning, new websites launching new things, but in order to do that as alot of work, work that ees to be done- and I guess I've sort of just realizedthis- unless I do the bit that I don't really like- I don't get to do the bitthat I do like. So I just force myself, but I guess is t that it's mildlydepressing sound in yeah, perhaps the reality for all entrepreneurs. Thereare parts you have to force yourself to do so. Can you may be just fill thegaps to bringing us up today? What websites do you have, and what do youspend personal time now on? What are you doing right now, as the companygrew? I guess every year for me so on the CO and Voto Yeah and every yearthat joke changes in my mind, early on it was, I guess I was an entrepreneur-relate starting business these days, it's much more running a company. Oneof the lessons I've had over the years is realizing a running. A company andstarting business have nothing to do with each other, they're, really quitedifferent, and so each year that that role has changed early on it was about.It was a very product, driven roll thinking up products, launching themvery marketing role as well as I would spend a lot of time doing, markingaround the start of two thousand and nine thousand ten thousand elevenperiod. I was starting to learn more about management and business. Isuppose building teams how to manage teams where you have started ourmelborne office in. I think it was two thousand and nine. So there's thingslike office, culture, a work environment, all that kind of stuff and finance had to go. Do some financecourses, so I could teach myself what a balance sheet is and how to read aprofit lost statement and stuff like that, and then today, with the teamgrown to the size, it is. I spend a lot of my time on things like PRcommunications, with the team meetings, lots and lots and lots and meetings. Somost of my days are just meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting,which is a little bit scary. It's not what I had imagined I would bedoing, but at the same time it's good and bad it. So the that is obviously Ihave a meeting after beat after meeting the good to it is that you get to meetwith all these interesting people and your company doing interesting stuffand hear about all the different parts and put in your two cents and thinkabout things and they do stuff you've, never thought of doing so. In thatsense, it's really amazing. But there is some some little parts of me thatkind of wishes that we go back to doing the design work. Doing the front endwork the grassroots marketing and stuff, but it's changed a lot. And how longare your days you doing normal nine to five or no? I don't think you ever getto survive, but I don't do too bad in the early days. I used to work veryhard when during that period, but we had no money and a lot of desk wouldwork months and months for that, a day off of long ten to twelve hour daysthese days that I work a good, solid work week of a sort of ten our daysevery day and the weekends will have what I classify as fun work, which isthat I usually on my weekends. I spend a few hours here and there thinkingabout things and planning for the future. I'm Lena, I have a twenty monthold son, so that kind of wipes out a lot of yures chance to just work like a crazy personright. Yes, so what is the sort of future thinking here? Do you want to dothat? This sort of lifestyle or ever? Are you hoping to sell out one day andswitch completely and sort of you know, relax and have big about of money inyour bank account like. But what do you think? I think for me. It's been yearsnow, and I guess I've always thought this way, but that I just concentrateon how the companies growing there's been new challenges every year. So atthe moment I still feel like I'm constantly push. I think if I wasconstantly doing the same thing. I'd start thinking about like okay. How dowe get out? How do we go to do something else, but every year my jobchanges right like every year, I'm doing new types of things as newchallenges the companies grown. I think in the last year we've doubled thestaff side, so it's just like a whole raft of new things to deal with. So in thatsense, my focus is really about where the company's going and how we'regrowing up missions. Our mission is to help people learn and learn, which isthe learning side, comes from a trial network touts and the earnings de froma mark places, and so I just spent a lot of my time thinking about how do wegrow that, like? How do we help more people earn money on our market placeand how do we teach more people stuff on the test network? One day, I Iimagine how I want to do something...

...other than Boto and I suspect it willbe something like painting or drop it so room with no people. So I'd like to maybe just as we'regetting close towards the end of this interview here for the people who arelistening to this now, I think the biggest takeaway for what you'veachieved is the attitude of getting a large company behind what really starsone website and a small group. If we could sort of highlight what you thinkallowed you to get as big as you did, because I know it'd be difficult whereI'm at right now, without getting some investment money and then getting asecond website targeting something different to sort of start. This pathtowards gooding as large as you have, and in obviously putting in fifteensixteen hour days as well. I think and correct me from wrong themodel you chose the business model of market places in very, very hot onlinesubjects of design and flash and everything that people need to do whatthey do online, really like from a technical standpoint. So that's that'sa huge growing market over the years right this. That is a content go, soyou can't underestimate how strong the marketplace model lives in the Internet.I think it's very. I mean just the number of market places you seeappearing in all different sectors, everything from like Airbnb, which younow can think of as a market place for vacation rentals through to the APPstore on Itunes and what not they're all marketplaces. It's a very suitedmodel to the incident I think connecting people from around the worldand it's one that probably it wasn't possible for the Inter, certainly notin this model that this form. In any case, as you say, it's been growing, wewere first to market in a whole number of areas. Theme First was the firstplace for word, fres themes and word press, as you know, has grownenormously and similarly, in lots of other areas, we managed to be the firstand the largest in after vexin plates and print templates and a whole bunchof different spaces. I think that has been a big part of why the company hasbeen able to grow, so we boot strapped it right like it. As mentioned, onepath to growth is using bench capital and, to be honest, we didn't use venchcapital, not because that's not a good idea, but just because I didn't evenoccur to me, we could probably, I think, very happy withboostle. I think I could go back and probably still do it the same way but yeah, I think the mark placebossuited but trapping as well, because it's it was a model that had incomeearly on and this you know it wasn't like a twitter model where you like,let's grow, really large and hope we can figure out a way to monitis laterof the market. Place model is much more harsh type. So if there's a personlistening to this- and they want to replicate your success, you wouldsuggest marketplace model and what else would be like you're, one or two mostimportant tips. I think that we were committed to like. I always like theidea of. I think this is what beach heads right. You know in like a battleand they need to like take a particular position. They try to establish a beachhead. I assume this comes from word or two when they were invading Europe,they had to capture the beaches and from that they could capture for theirin land that they could capture even further in land. I always think ofbusiness in the same way, at least I goodshaped that you know you can't justgo for everything all at once, but you don't have any resources. You have totry to take a foothold and use that to get the next bit, and so, if you thinkabout the way that invites grown, it's all been in that sense, so we built onething: use it to get some revenue to all the money we had and all therevenue were getting from that one thing and then use that to get morethings invested all our time as much time as we had more time that weprobably should have imesse it didn't really take any money out, but justkept reinvesting to grow, there's a bit painful and it'srisky, but it's not as risky as just I guess, trying to overextend so yeah. Ithink that's probably would be one of the main keys. I I suppose, withestablishing a beach head and reinvesting and being trying to besensible and make make sure that it's quite sustainable. So once we've gottenthe company to be self sufficient. Every time we have a new business area,it always work to try to make that one self sustainable on its own two feetand you know: try to get revenue into Freta switch or build a premium programfor to whatever it was whatever the case may be, not letting there be anybig, although not all of them are completely profitable but on the whole,try sustainable. One of the things that I noticed about the invade groupwebsites is design is really taught like you have a very nice elegant,simple design for all your sites. Has that been the specific brandingstrategy in any kind of way, or just because you like design yourself? I am a web designer, so a lot of theearly designs I still some of them are from me and I guess it was some of hispersonal taste by spas also as a web designer. I understand that there's alot of power and good design like it...

...establishes credibility. It positionsyou in a good way. It tells the user that you're reputable sort of service,or even that, you're small. If you have a great design, you can look a bitbigger magical thing about the instant. Is it's kind of hard to figure out justhow big a particular site is and there's this that element of it as well.So as a new blower, you can kind of quickly establish yourself as and ifyou think about friends which we talked about before that hows writing wasmaking pseudonyms and things. I was interested in trying to look the sizethat I wanted us to be. That makes sense yeah. That's that's unusual,collison and counter into it to the whole. I want US build a personal brandwith a small group of followers who just love what I do and that's how Ihave my business, which is kind of like what I've done and a lot of bloggers tobut you've, you've sort of added blogging to a different business modelas a way to get an audience. But you still want to have a guess: A bigcompany brand rather than an individual brand, which is absolute latelydifferent way of thinking, and maybe, in your case it's one of the mainreasons why you are as big as you are yeah. It's a no a interesting question.Actually I never really thought about is a different way of doing things andjust at that time s like Oh, we know we need to look like this awesomeprelacies. We should have lots of riders and yeah, and it's just likethinking big. You know they say it all starts with how you think right and ifyou thought it sounds like even the way you started this company, a hundredthousand dollars, five people all in that's thinking, bigger than I'll justput together. Word Press blog, throw some articles out there and see how Igo yeah. What's different about you, you know what's wrong with you guys. Ihave no idea. Yeah I mean early on before we started flesh in and writtena business plan. It wasn't a very good business. I got a business plan bookand I read it in s like up to the bit about finances, which I wasn't I didn'tmanage to make it all the way through that section, but I wrote a littlebusiness line about our market places and I suppose, even from that realizedall this is going to be a lot of work. We'll need a lot of yeah as now, Isuppose, as you say, maybe it's just thinking big. It wasn't somethingconscious. I think it was more just a natural way of thinking. I suppose.Okay well, is peaking you being conscious of conscious of the time, soyou do have to run off about now for something else. I guess the best way towrap it out for us a Callus. You have so many websites. I don't know whatdirect people to if they wanted to pick out what you do like. Where do yousuggest they go? The best place to go is about it. o come you've, got linksthat off to the market places and to the Texas network and APTOR and Cretica,and all our different properties were actually in the middle of a redesign.Although we've been in this middle of the street design for about a year anda half, so hopefully by the time people are listening to this it'll be completeand ready to go, and even if it's not, we can see all the websites in Voto e nV A to Com, that's the parent company behind it all Collis. Thank you there'sbeen, I mean it's a huge story and I'd love to go into every little detailevery single website you built- we probably be here for about five hours.To do that, I'm pretty sure you could do that with me too, because I thinkyou would enjoy talking about it at all so, but I think it's some great takeaways here and on how to think big, how to get big, how to choose a goodbusiness model and then team building lots of things that you've done, that in hindsight, very smart, perhapswithout realizing that the time I guess cose accidental any less comments for peoplelistening again now. Thank you so much for having me and yeah, hopefullyanother at a time in the future. I will do the five hour marathon, one yeah. Itwould be fun to do a follow one, but thank you call us and good luck with.You know the ongoing empire building thanks so much there. You go my interview with ColisTaid, the CO founder of in VAT, which was a re release from my membershipside. So it is not current call us might be very surprised if you go andapproach him and tell him there's an interview about him that just came out.He may even forgot. He did this interview, but I was very excited torelease it to you, because I think it's a great little origin story there ofwhat is one of Australia's Unicorn and six tess stories, which there are notmany today. We certainly hear a lot about lacin and can va. I think that byfar the biggest two, maybe after pay is another one you might have heard of,because it was acquired by square quite recently and call us and in Vata- andyou know, the team in the family just crew, this company privately. So ofcourse it doesn't get nearly as much press. In fact, they recently alsoturned Bato to a certified B Corp, which I did not know much about. I hadto do a quick bit of research in into what a B Corp is some other companiesthat are also certified B Corps include kickstarter, Ben and Jerry's Patagoniaand culture, amp and essentially just means they're realigning their goals tonot just be about profit, but also purpose. I think what that purpose is:is their choice to define it it's pretty clear with in votto thatincludes their employees. They're distributing twenty percent of profitsback to their employees. That was about...

...six thousand dollars each last year intwo thousand and twenty they have money going to charity. So I can tell theeit's not just about squeezing every dollar they can. You know out of theirtheir industry and so on and yeah. I hope you enjoyed that one before you gotoday's sponsor. I have not mentioned that yet. This episode is brought toyou by in Boxton COM, a company which provides a virtual executive assistantthat specializes in a written communication in particular, managingand replying to your email, your social media messages anywhere. You needsuperior written communication and someone who's, not overseas cheap laborthat might have English as a second language. Something who's actually beentrained to replicate you to learn how to represent you as well as you couldin your in box when replying to your messages, obviously to work withsomeone who takes over something as important as private as your email.There is a careful process to help you delegate to your assistance, your emailand other tests. So do you feel comfortable with the process? Not onlydo in buck done assistance to your email, they will schedule a calendar.They will also do other executive assistant test like data entry, basicresearch, basically anything technical, especially with the written word thatyou'd like to delegate to them. You can free up one two three hours per day,depending on how much time you spend currently writing emails or respondingto messages and your social scheduling, your counter and all those things thatwe have to do every day, get them off your plate, hand them to an executivevirtual assistant from in buck done, and your life will be so much simpler,and just so you know you actually get to executive assistance as one of thespecial things that makes in buck done different from other executiveassistant and virtual assistant companies online. You no matter whenyou sign up, you will get two people dedicate assistants assigned to you,because if you've ever had insistent, you probably know this turnover is apain when it comes to assistance, because you know you train them to doso many different things and then they leave you and then the next person. Youhave to train all over again by training to people on everything youneed help with. Even if one leaves you've got the other one still in place.Who can train the replacement person? The second person, so it's a veryredundant system if you're interested of that sounds like something you wouldlike in your business in your life, if you're a founder and executive, amanager, an entrepreneur had to in box done com and book a discovery calltoday, that's in box done com. Okay, that's it from me for today's episodeof Vesta capital. I hope you enjoyed it. My name is Yaro and I'll speak to youon the very next episode by Bye.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (82)