Brad Feld, venture capitalists who have, “Been There,” and stories

Reading in his blog today, via Hacker News, was interesting.

This was the quote I wanted to share:

There are also companies, like my first one (Feld Technologies) that bootstrapped and never raised any money. Well – almost no money. We funded the business with $10 (for ten shares of stock) and my dad personally guaranteed a $20,000 line of credit with his bank. We promptly spent the $20,000 on our first few months of operations, realized there was no more where that was coming from, fired everyone, paid back the line of credit over the next six months from our very modest positive cash flow, and then made a profit – and had positive cash flow – every month for the rest of the seven years of the business up until the day we sold the company.

See how interesting that is?

FunAdvice, the business I helped found in 2003, is still generating a quarter million visitors per month. Ninety percent is still from Google Search, as it has been since 2006, nearly nine years ago, and the only year since 2007 the site averaged below that size audience.

250,000 people per month for life earns about $2,500 per month

It’s an incredible annuity, to be certain. However, it’s not big enough to justify the $20+ million we were offered at peak (2009) nor is it worth, at present, the value on paper at the time I sold my stake in the business.

There is a lot of merit in analyzing the business over time, or 4chan, or Bianca.com from the mid nineties. During Bianca’s hey day, it was the biggest forum of it’s kind. I was there daily for years in college. Webby award winning community, bastion of free speech and hope. Etc, etc. 😉

Fast forward to 1999, Search Engine World was taking off. Brett Tabke, famous Publisher’s Conference founder, was learning how much value there was in sharing the new found world of information retrieval, research papers and, “Black hat,” search spam. In 2000, the largest webmaster forum for years started and I used the handle, “Han Solo,” for fun.

Nearly twenty years later, I’ve been involved in some of the largest, most powerful social networks of the digital era. However, the normal perspective from clients as to why & how I help is with search. Information retrieval is the backbone of search; just as it’s the backbone of digital.

The need to learn, to grow, to teach and enrich our own lives comes with an increasingly digital footprint. Last month, I filed a patent pending on more than twenty years of experience in building, participating, organizing and managing digital communities. Novels, stories and publications I’ve produced and written under a half dozen names reach a hundred thousand people a month.

Agondy, my personal blog, is one of the least influential outlets I own to share my thoughts.

Think about that for a moment. The cobbler’s children come to mind, when in fact, the individual might be the Picasso of shoes. However, to judge his works by the state of his children’s feet would do an injustice to his art.

I applaud Moot’s decision to move on, just as I moved on from WebmasterWorld, from Bianca, from FunAdvice, from MySpace and Geocities. There’s something poignant, meaningful and profound about the life cycle of a digital community. See, when I look at those places, those sites that even if they exist, are a pale shadow of the past, a dim echo, I see the points of inflection. As a moderator at Webmaster World, as a participant in Bianca, as an owner, President, co-founder of FunAdvice, quoted in the media and inflated ego, to boot.

It’s hard to separate your identity, sometimes, from the causes you believe in, the people you admire & love and the actions of your life. It’s hard to carve out a sense of individual, amongst the tribe, to put it into Seth Godin’s oft coined term.

If I get judged by the reach and size of this blog, so much the better. It’s my place, my spot…it’s not a commons, it’s not a community. It’s Jeremy’s Digital Universe and while people are free to browse, I set the rules. The tone. The color palette, the lighting and the mood.

Step in, be curious, be open minded…or ignore it. Step away, hide in the shadows, pretend networked killer robots aren’t possible…just because you can ignore magic doesn’t mean it’s a bag of tricks.

Any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic to the uninitiated; I’m happy with that. There are a dozen sites I can name off the top of my head which reach hundreds of millions of people per month, where my copy still lives. Still breathes. Still inspires, gives hope and meaning. Without my name, with no traces, no digital signature to know the artist behind the curtain.

Cheers to anonymity. Cheers to hope. Cheers to Richard Fenynman, famous physicist.

Why? Because like other famous authors who used an alias, so did he. Rubbed shoulders with Einstein, to boot. So to those who think my behavior strange, that I shun the spotlight, that I refuse to sign my name and instead, use a pen name…to anybody who thinks we’d all be better off with my name in lights, well, why?

I think the universe is better off if each of us can share the spotlight, can feel like the hero in our own story. Even if I share some stories, I’m a commercial artist. It’s about getting paid, about making people smile. Not writing my name in the snow like a small boy. Besides, do you know how much you have to have in your bladder to write six letters in cursive?