After over 2months of doing this interview, I have finally been able to put it up, although i would have loved to put the audio interview with it, but some parts were damaged.
This is a fantastic interview and i would recommend you to read every single part of it, “from beginning to
The reason for this interview been amazing was because matt decided to just open up and share some amazing tips for everyone, especially young entrepreneurs, it’s truly amazing.
In this interview, Matt talked about:
How sitepoint started and getting featured on USATODAY, LA TIMES and on the Washington post
How they celebrated their 10 year anniversary
How hard it was developing a website in 1999
Starting his first business at 10/11 years old, "he started up a bank".
Making money from advertisers during lunch time in high school.
How he started selling books online and sold over 25,000 copies in his first try
Qualities an entrepreneur should possess
How he manages his time and "he doesn’t have a facebook account".
How he manages his employees and keeps them motivated.
His love for his employees.
Crucial quality he's developed as an entrepreneur
The most crucial decision he made to grow his business
Why he prefers Steve Jobs over Bill Gates
What to expect from him in the New Year
Why he loves Hawaii and México and has never been skydiving.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts about it, leave a comment
How you’re doing today matt?
Very well thank you
You sounded a bit busy earlier on?
Yeah, my phone been ringing off the hook, but now it’s on mute so it’s all good.
So how is it going down there?
Umm, we’re coming in to winter so it’s just rainy and cold, and we have the winter Olympics coming up in 2010 so it should be a lot of fun.
Great, Thanks for taking time to speak with me today on YHP
Thanks for having me
Great, so matt, what inspired you to start sitepoint?
So the pre-courser to sitepoint was actually a website called webmasterresources.com that i started while i was in high school, as i was learning to build websites as a hobby i had to do a lot of research, as in the best tools, the best html entries, SEO, all these other things and whilst going through this process i thought I’m doing all these research I’m sure other people are struggling to find these information aswell so i basically created at the time a directory, a listing of different tools and resources i find useful and i launched the website around it which was called the webmasterresources.com.
I launched on April 1st 1998 and within a few weeks of launching i gained massive massive momentum, the website was featured in USATODAY,LA TIMES, Washington post, i had a full page write up about the website on windows magazine which at the time had millions of subscribers, they actually offered me a writing gig for their magazine which was fantastic as well so definitely being at the right place at the right time, everyone wanted to learn how to build their website, i quickly became the go-to resource for that information.
Wow, 1998 that’s a long time ago
That’s right, we’re over 10 years, and we just celebrated our 10 year anniversary.
How was that?
It was a really good party, We had it down in melbourne, Australia where our headquarters are.
Now I’m wondering that maybe i should have met you earlier, maybe i would have been invited?*Laughs*
So what was the hardest part in developing a website at that time (1999), for you personally?
Umm, basically i was never really technically competent, I’m not a programmer, not a developer, not a coder,im not a designer either so i guess the website wasn’t as functional as i would have liked it to be , it was quite ugly to be begin with it as well, but that dint hold it back because i had fantastic content, a great repertoire with people who were visiting the website, most of all just pumping out really really good information that people found helpful, i really wanted to help people build their web businesses, build their websites, so i started doing product reviews, book reviews etc
Just to point people to best tools and resources to learn about this internet marketing and web design topics.
Great, Great, you mentioned you still being in high school, which is pretty right in the middle of your teenage years, so was entrepreneurship something that was practiced in our family or just something you figured out by yourself?
It just came very naturally to me when i was very very little, even when i was 10 or 11 years old, i actually started up a bank and took money from my parent’s friends, so i guess I’ve always been into business and the internet came along and it made it possible to reach a very wide audience and the great thing about the internet was that i was dealing with everyone over the phone and through emails, no one really knew how old i was, they just knew i had this fantastic website, this massive audience , as a result it went really really well.
What’s the shortest way to describe what sitepoint does?
So sitepoint is a media and publishing company targeting the web professional market, web professionals are people who do web design, web development full time for a living and we educate our audience through online content, blogs, emails, newsletters, forums as well as book publishing which is a business that we got into around 2001/2002, we’ve published around 40-50 books now on topics ranging from PHP to CSS to Web designs and online marketing
Talk about short description *Laughs*
So how did you finance your business?
It was really cheap, probably from $100-$150, basically the cost of the domain name, web hosting and account, everything else i was able to do with free tools, i never really spend anything on marketing, once the website got a little bit of traction in terms of traffic, i started generating advertising revenue, so initially i was selling advertising revenues through ad network, then i started doing it directly aswell especially as the dotcom bubble got bigger and bigger, companies started to call me directly and say i have $10,000, i have $20,000 to spend, what do you have available?
So during my lunch hour in high school, i was in the local starbucks, giving out ad sales and getting a thousand dollars richer.
The Ad Company or the direct advertisers? Where did you make the most money?
Oh by far i made the most money through direct ad sales definitely even till this day we don’t run any ad networks on sitepoint, we only do direct ad sales, obviously advertising worked really really well in 1999, 2000 up until the dotcom crash happened and the stock market collapsed, at which point basically all our revenues dried up and we hired a few people, we had bills to pay so we had to go back to the drawing board to figure out another way to make money to survive, at the time a very popular thing to do on website was to print out our articles and our tutorials when people were learning how to program, they wanted to have the piece of paper sitting next to them by the computer so they could follow along.
So we took our most popular tutorials at the time called “Build your database website using MYPHP and SQL”, we took this tutorial bundled it up and sold it as a print on demand book for $35 online and sold it to the people on our website, “you know why don’t you buy this 250 page book, we’ll print it, we’ll ship it to you etc its only $35” and we’ve now sold over 20-25,000 copies of that book, once we figured out it worked, we were like ok, let’s do it with another book.
How many hours do spend on a daily basis working on your companies?
Umm..Probably 10 hours i would say, but it’s really hard to define because when I’m not sitting on the computer or talking on the phone, I’m always thinking about the business, reading books about business or keeping myself educated and informed so i don’t really think a workday really stops for an entrepreneur, for an employee it does, you know start at the office at 8:30am, finish work at 5:30pm and that’s it, but as an entrepreneur you’re always thinking through problems and challenges, keeping tracks of all the things you have to do, your mind never really stops, it’s kind of hard to turn it off, unless maybe you take a vacation for 3-4days to really switch off and relax.
You were talking about educating yourself and keeping yourself informed and always reading books about business? What books would you say has inspired you the most?
I definitely admire the few autobiographies about Richard Branson, so i would definitely recommend entrepreneurs to get a few of those, it’s really interesting to hear how he started virgin and built the entire business out, aswell as some of the failures he encountered along the way
What are the so-called qualities do you think an entrepreneur must possess to be successful?
I’m going to steal a word from my friend Gary Vaynerchuk who said, entrepreneurs need to hustle, so work hard, work non-stop, make things happen, take initiative, be very proactive, also be flexible and look out for new opportunities, so don’t be too set with one plan,
if someone told me that we will be publishing books in 1999 i would have told them that they were insane and smoking crack,
because we had that open mindset, when the opportunity arose we were fortunate enough to test the idea out and find out that it works.
So as an internet entrepreneur, what is your favourite online tool? Is it the facebook, twitter etc
Believe or not, i don’t even have a facebook account, it’s too much to keep track of, on my desktop i just have mail app, ical, tweet deck and a really cool utility called things.
I’ve been meaning to get the i-cal for quite a while as well.
i-cal is really really good, most people are using it these days and it’s good to keep track of meeting and phone calls and it syncs with my iphone as well so if I’m travelling to san Francisco, new York or los-Angeles i can look up the phone numbers and addresses easily so it’s very handy that way.
And the application called things is also really good at keeping tracks of to-do lists and projects and tasks with tiny timelines and reminders, it’s really good.
How many employees do you currently have in your business at the moment? Full time and partime.
So between sitepoint, 99 designs and flippa which are my three companies, i think we now employ about 45 people full time or there about plus a number of contractors which do a lot of contents for us such as our bloggers.
Wow, 45 that’s a lot, so how do you manage all of them, especially keeping them motivated?
I actually have a general manager for each business who deals with the HR and the hiring so i have actually outsourced that because i don’t think i have a good track record when it comes to hiring personally, that been said i think we have a fantastic group of people, the people who work at sitepoint, 99designs and flippa, for most part look at it more than a job and are really passionate about what we are doing, passionate about educating web developers, web designers, preaching web standards, the people at 99 designs and the team are passionate about changing the landscape of the graphics design market, people at flippa are really interested in allowing web owners to basically hold an auction and sell their website through our market place so i think the people that we have at the three businesses are very passionate, yes, they are a fantastic group of people who have been very much a huge part of our success.
As someone in charge of three successful businesses online, what would you say has been the most crucial qualities that you’ve embraced or developed during your entrepreneurial journey to this moment?
I think perseverance has always served us really really well and obviously trying new things and testing ideas even if they might fail, so for example, back in 2000/2002 we tried selling e-books online, that dint work, we tried selling online video tutorials, like streaming videos, that dint work, but we also tried new things that went really really well, for example, rather than publishing books, i had the idea of putting out this kits, basically binders full of contents weighing 10-12 pounds and selling it for $200-$250 rather than $35-$40 for a kit and we found out that re-packing the product in a new format worked really really well that’s something we experienced because of our willingness to try out new things.
What would you say has been the most crucial decision you’ve made to grow your business?
Bringing on board lots of fantastic people has been absolutely essential to maintaining our growth and trying new things, i see entrepreneurs who try and do too much themselves or don’t realise what their weaknesses are, so i think it’s important to build a great team.
Do you Guys have any plans in expanding your business further in the next year or two?
Definitely they are lots and lots of things in the pipeline, i can’t share them because all our competitors are probably listening or reading.
Not even a sneak preview for the YHP Readers *Laughs*
We’re always innovating so, for sitepoint, the thing that always has been successful for us and the biggest challenge for everyone in our community is always getting more clients, getting more work, so whenever we launch a project or information product it helps people their business it’s always proven successful for us in the past so we are thinking along those lines for the future, helping people promote themselves, their businesses and getting new clients.
What has been your most effective marketing technique in getting your businesses to this level? You website averages 2M Unique users per month which is Great, so how have you guys been able to draw that amount of users to your website?
To be honest, it’s really been about putting out fantastic, high quality contents, we don’t do pretty much no out-bound marketing, we don’t buy banner ads, we don’t buy magazine ads or anything like that, it’s all based around repeat visitors, our email newsletter list which help drive a lot of traffic as well and great SEO which comes having a long term established presence, Google obviously values older websites, Google also values in-bound links, so when we publish high quality contents, people will link to it, people tweet about it and that acts as our marketing vehicle so we don’t take any short-cuts with our contents, we don’t outsource it for $0.05 to India or something like that, we try and do it right, do it well and do something that we can be proud of long term.
Who would you say is your favourite young entrepreneur at this moment under the age of 27?
I m not going to name any names because I’ve got a lot of friends who are entrepreneurs that are all doing fantastic things so i think people can be successful at many different things.
I know people that are fantastic at direct marketing and sales, selling softwares, i’ve had other friends that have had great ideas with facebook and figured it out really really quickly and in less than a year’s time they basically conquered the fan pages for big corporate, so they are lots and lots of people doing fantastic things so there isn’t a particular person that i would single out.
I see you don’t want to get anymore upset, okay, fair enough *Laughs*
What would your tips be for upcoming entrepreneurs? Either starting up or are looking to build on their businesses especially in this Economic downtime?
I think economic downtime probably bring up more and the best opportunities because they are fewer competitors and the competitors that you do have are cutting back on their marketing and their expenditures are they are laying off staffs, so i think launching in this downtime is probably one of the best things to do and if you can be successful in the downtime, it means when things turn up and the economy recovers, you’ll be in a really really good position, so i would suggest to entrepreneurs that they bootstrap their business.
We’ve never raised any outside funding for three of our companies also that they think creatively, for example, for a few years we dint pay any hosting costs, because we did a deal with our web hosting company for advertising space on our website, so always try harder to negotiate discounts, think creatively about how you can get what you need.
Do you have any mentors, any one you look up to, any role models? Steve Jobs, Bill Gates?
I’m more Steve jobs because i think he’s a master of product development and visual eccentrics because i think he’s done tremendously well with apple since rejoining the company, basically re-inventing the smart phone segment with the launch of the iphone, Umm and just doing things very differently.
People like dell probably thought that they were in a really really good position, people had no PM, Motorola got really entrenched and though they had the market conquered and apple decided to enter the market and then just blew it up, which was fantastic because they were an outsider, they sat down without any conceptions, and thought if we could build the ideal phone, what would it look like? And they built the iphone which was so different from everything else out at the time.
I believe that focus served them well than anything else at the time, and that’s something i would do at sitepoint,99 designs and flippa whenever our teams get too big we try and split them up into smaller groups and divide the tasks up so that people can really focus on what’s important at that point in time.
So what should be expecting from you in the nearest future?
Ohh, There’s going to be lots of great things happening at sitepoint, and 99 designs is rolling out some really cool things in January as well.
Actually, we haven’t really talked much about 99 designs, that’s a business that we started about 2 years ago, it’s started off at its own separate company out of sitepoint, 99 designs has now actually flourished to become the largest marketplace for crowdsource, graphics designs.
We connect business owners and entrepreneurs needing everything from logos to business cards, to wordpress themes to banner ads, whatever graphic designs, with a group of over 50,000 designers around the world, that business has done tremendously, tremendously well for us since we launched it in feb of 2008, we’ve completed 31,000 graphic design projects, we’ve done the book cover for Tim Ferris new book “Becoming superhuman”, we’ve done big projects for brands like mashable, HGTV, for some of the luxury retailers.
Nice, that some pretty cool stuff
Definitely definitely, it’s a really destructive model as well because rather than graphic designers bidding on jobs, we have them submit their concepts, they show the business their different ideas, their mock-ups, what the designs will look like, rather than saying, “I’ll come up with something for $300”, they submit their actual ideas.
So on average now, projects on 99 designs sees over 100 concepts submitted for the price of 3-400 dollars, absolutely fantastic for an average small business owners who have no idea on what they want, to be able to come to our site, put up a couple hundred dollars and see a hundred different versions of their new brochures, new business cards or their new logo and have it all done in less than a week’s time, it’s a really really cool module.
WOW..You’ve left me speechless now Matt
But, Quickly to an important question, although you have experience and history behind your company but there are so much companies coming out in the web development, designs side practically flooding out right now, How do you keep such a competitive edge for your company and also maintain such high standards?
We try not to outsource a lot of things and try to do all our developments in-house and apply the quality assurance to all the contents in-house so it means the people that work for us have a great deal of pride in our website, in what we publish and what we do, which i don’t think you can get when you try and outsource things and we do things with the long term in mind throughout so we do things that we can be proud of 4 years from now as suppose to just taking shortcuts to make a buck “here or there” which i think is another mistake which a lot of entrepreneurs try and make, having the short term rather than the long term in mind.
So Finally, What do you do to kick back and take your eyes off work for a bit?
I try and go on vacation; anywhere sunny or warm is good, a beach with a cocktail or a nice beer is perfect for me.
Any favourite spot or location?
Holiday Location, umm, I’ve being to Hawaii 4 or 5 times which probably tells you about that and Mexico as well is a really nice holiday destination especially because of the adventures side and the big commercial
resorts, it can be quite fun.
Any place you visited so far and know you’re definitely not returning to any time soon?
I’ve not had any real disaster stories; I’ve always done my research
Not falling of a bike, or something silly like that?
I spend way too much time over-thinking things, whenever i plan a trip, i spend a lot of time researching everything, researching the hotels, researching the restaurants.
So no skydiving or nothing edgy so far then?
Umm, we’ll see, i haven’t done skydiving yet but a couple of friends are organising a skydiving trip, we’’ see whether or not i get dragged along.
*Laughs”- Alright then, thanks so much for your time matt.
Ok, Thank you for having me.