Matt Mickiewicz is not your average 27 year old. He started the popular website Sitepoint.com when he was 14, today it is ranked in the top 1000 most visited sites in the world.
He did not go to college because in high school he was already making more money than his teachers. He also co-founded the popular design site 99designs.com which has generated over 50,000 designs some of which include the cover for Tim Ferris’s best seller “The 4 Hour Work Week” and also the t-shirts for the LA and San Francisco marathons. To top it all off he founded flippa.com which sold retweet.com for a quarter million.
Matt is a passionate entrepreneur who hopes to continue to build more companies by being the first to market. Read below to see how he got started and what advice he has for people venturing into the business world today…
How did you get the idea for SitePoint? Were you always looking to start business?
Back in 1997 I designed websites as a hobby. Back then the internet was still very primitive and there was not a lot of information online on how to start a website. This meant I had to do a lot of research to figure out how to get things up and running. During this process I compiled all that I had learned and decided others could benefit from the same information. So I started Webmaster-Resources.com in 1998 to display all the information on how to build a website for everyone to else see. The name then changed to Sitepoint.com shortly after.
So basically the research for my hobby led me into creating the massive resource we all know today.
SitePoint quickly became a force online..What do you think was the key factor to that? Do you think people can still do that today or is it to crowded online?
SitePoint’s success was a combination of good timing, PR from newspapers and magazines, great content, hard work – including answering every email sent to me and helping countless people get up and running with their own websites.
Everything was personalized and I spent day and night creating content and responding to questions. Also SEO back then was much easier than today. Organic search engine traffic grew quickly because competition was very limited.
Today it is much more competitive online. You have to be the top few sites in your industry to really have any leverage.
What is the revenue model behind SitePoint? What do you think about the online space today and making money…has it changed?
Originally we were able to sell advertising and sponsorship for the site. This worked well until the NASDAQ bubble popped and all our advertising clients went bankrupt. We had to move quickly.
We saw that developers wanted the materials next to their keyboard while doing web development work (this was before many people had double screens). So we decided to see whether people would pay for a printed version of our most popular tutorial, which was about PHP & MySQL. We used a print-on-demand company to limit our risk and started marketing the book online – it went on t to sell 20,000 copies.
In the past few years there has been a major shift to eBooks and digital content. People rather spend $5 on an ebook than $40 on a hard cover. Recently 5 for 1 PDF sales have created SitePoints largest sales days. We have switched to cheaper products but distributed to a wider audience.
Also online training is now up & coming as a major revenue stream for the business.
Tell us about 99designs.com….How did that idea come around?
99designs.com started in early 2008 as a crowdsourced marketplace for graphic design. We flipped the industry by lettings designers submit work 1st. The customers submits a project description & prize offer first and then designers submit deigns to win the money. The model eliminates risk by letting you see the finished product first.
The idea came from the forums on SitePoint. People were requesting designs and designers began making them for the people in the Forums.Eventually we started charging people to post a forum thread with their design project request, then we built some basic software to facilitate the process outside of vBulletin and eventually we created a new brand.
What would you say has been the biggest lesson you have learned while starting these companies?
Get stuff out the door quickly and learn from the customers. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Especially at startups, you need to make money first and perfect your offering over time as you learn from your visitors and customers.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneurs today?
Create long-term value for others. We’ve done that by helping people sell over $40,000,000 in websites on Flippa, teaching hundreds of thousands of people about new technologies and helping them improve their careers & jobs and pay paying out over $10 million to the designers on 99designs.
What are your future plans?
Grow 99designs and continue to help small businesses get affordable logo, brochure & product packaging design. We hope to start additional companies in the future as well, which will create new categories by being first-to-market.