Matt Mickiewicz was a 15-year-old student when he started SitePoint, a website that became one of the largest web communities to buy and sell websites. While that very successful section spawned off its own site, Flippa.com, SitePoint retains a smaller marketplace for the same purpose. As a 15-year old, Matt was busy closing $10,000 advertising deals in between classes while his classmates were comparing acne medications. By the time he as 16, he had enough money to buy a BMW in cash.
Matt’s story might be what dot-com dreams are made of. However, he also had to overcome various challenges along the way. One of the biggest trials in his business journey was the dot-com crash, which saw his advertising revenue drop meaning he was not able to raise additional venture capital.
The solution to this problem turned out to be simple. Mickiewicz and his team focused on providing solutions to web visitors. For example, one of the most popular features on their website is the “print this article” link. It was based on the concept that people would pay for the privilege of getting content printed on their behalf because they don’t want to switch from one page to another while reading the tutorials. The articles were available for free on the internet, but people paid $35 for the hardcopy.
Several factors made Mickiewicz one of the leading players in the tech industry today including:
- Ability to balance big projects with small ideas – balancing big projects with high potential with smaller tweaks, ideas, and fixes is often difficult. The team behind SitePoint is able to accomplish this through regular meetings and the creation of long-term business plans.
- Good timing and public relationships from media outlets – according to Mickiewicz, the success of his site is a combination of good timing, successful public relations, and hard work. He had the luck of good timing to take advantage of search engine optimization when it was much easier because competition was limited. Dedication – SitePoint started out with a lot of personalized attention from the founder. Mickiewicz spent countless hours writing articles, answering emails, and responding to questions on the website.
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If you have your own blog or are thinking of starting one, then you have most probably heard of WordPress. The blogging platform is known for its user-friendliness, excellent range of features and hundreds of easy-to-install plug-ins. There is a highly active developer community within WordPress that continually launches exciting new functions and capabilities. So, how did WordPress start?
photo credit: Darkfate
The credit is Matt Mullenweg’s. Born on January, 11, 1984, Mullenweg is considered to be one of the most influential faces in the tech industry today. Some even claim that he has changed the internet for the better. The most widely-used blogging platform in the world, WordPress has been downloaded more than 35 million times and is used by some of the most visited websites in the world.
The inspiration behind one of the best ideas in the modern world, WordPress, is actually a simple one. After going on vacation in June 2002, Mullenweg wanted to share his experiences as a tourist. He started using the b2/cafelog and wasn’t pleased with its functionalities. He decided to develop his own blogging platform. He started WordPress with Mike Little, a co-founder.
Aside from the two founders, there were also a core group of developers who made WordPress what it is today. Key developers in the project include Mark Jaquith, Andrew Ozz, Ryan Boren, and Peter Westwood. The ingredients that made the open-source platform so successful are still in practice today. There are regular gatherings called the “WordCamp” wherein developers and users can meet each other. The WordCamp, held in San Francisco, is the WordPress’s official annual conference.
Additional information on Mullenweg and WordPress can be found at the below sites:
Mashable.com: WordPress Founder Open Source
Entrepreneurs: Mullenweg of WordPress Interview
photo credit: Josh Hallett
As the founder of Mashable, a highly successful blog about social networking and technology, Pete Cashmore has been called everything from the “Briton of the Year” in 2010 to a tech maverick. But accolades hold little appeal for Cashmore, because he strives to be on top of things all the time and prefers not to live in the past.
Unlike other tech entrepreneurs, Pete Cashmore actually grew up in Banchory, a rural village in Scotland. It turned out to be one of his biggest challenges, but it also became an advantage. Without connections and far away from Silicon Valley, he had an outsider’s perspective. Turns out that there was a mass market out there that wanted to know more about how technology works and what the coolest gadgets out there are. Here are some factors that had set it apart from the rest:
- Consumer-focused – compared to old-school tech blogs, websites, and magazines, Mashable has always been centered on consumers. It’s about new tools, apps, and gadgets. For example, topics like funding announcements aren’t posted on the site; they only cover topics that users would be interested in.
- Social Media – the site generates a lot of buzz on social media websites. The layout of Mashable has changed dramatically to place more emphasis on sharing via Facebook, Twitter, and bookmarking websites.
According to Cashmore, a key ingredient to his and Mashable’s success is following through. There are many creative individuals out there with great ideas but who fail to push through with their plans, he says. Simply put, Mashable became successful through dedication, persistence, and the implementation of plans.
Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss were classmates at Harvard Business School. Both grew up loving fashion; Hyman is a self-confessed shopaholic while Fleiss was very much enmeshed in the shopping culture of New York, having been brought up there. Both of them turned into fast friends, but neither one thought of creating a business together.
At home for Thanksgiving, Hyman’s sister complained of having nothing to wear despite a closet full of clothes. Right then and there, Hyman had that eureka moment. She thought that girls like her sister were a potential market for designer brands. As soon as Hyman returned to Harvard, she pitched an idea to Fleiss that would be the vision for their business. Soon, Rent the Runway was born.
Today, Hyman and Fleiss’ Rent the Runway is the answer to many women wishing to live the Carrie Bradshaw experience where you can wear the latest in designer fashion for almost every occasion. The company has a fantastic collection of dresses from over 145 designers, and each of these dresses can be rented out for a small fraction of the original cost. Women can rent a designer dress at their members-only site for at least $50. Accessories are also available for a minimum of $10 per rental.
Designers also saw how this setup can improve customer loyalty and sales of their clothes, so it became a win-win situation for all parties.
As entrepreneurs, Hyman and Fleiss are still learning, with the help of their clients and technology. Launched in November 2009, their online catalogue has reached almost 500,000 members in just a matter of months. Although neither of them came from a tech background, the partners were awarded as 2011’s most influential women in technology by Fast Company for their site’s success.
Rent the Runway of Hyman and Fleiss has truly revolutionized the fashion industry.