Today’s guest on the show has created what I call the “Holy Grail” of online business. Why? It’s because the content for his business, FanPop.com, is based entirely off of crowdsourced content.
This means that the founders, Dave Lu and Dave Papandrew, do not have to worry about generating quality content for their site. Instead, they have created an environment that incites passion among their users and as a result, the users do all of the heavy lifting.
How did they accomplish this amazing feat? Listen to the interview as there are a lot of details that Dave shares that teach us how he did it.
What You’ll Learn
- How Dave came up with the idea for FanPop.com
- How to generate traffic for a crowdsourced based site
- How to solve the chicken and egg problem regarding traffic and advertising dollars
- Key strategies that Dave used early on to generate interest.
- How FanPop makes money
Other Resources And Books
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If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one-on-one business consultations every single month. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/contest. And If you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information. Now onto the show.
Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou!
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I have a good friend of mine on the show, Dave Lu. Now I’m trying to remember exactly how I met Dave, and I believe it was actually through a mutual friend Vivian from Stanford back when she was starting her own company. Anyways back when I didn’t have kids and I was able to stay out past 8p.m, I kind of got to know Dave at various social events. Now he’s a great guy and extremely knowledgeable and humble, and we could actually hung out more if he just was willing to make the move down to the suburbs, but he’s a city guy and we’ll see if that holds up when he starts having kids.
Anyways he is the co-owner of the site FanPop.com, which is a seven figure business that has a really cool business model. And in fact I would even go so far as to say that what Dave has created with FanPop.com is what I consider the, “Holy Grail,” of online businesses. So first off FanPop.com is a network of user generated fan clubs for different topics of interest that is maintained by the community. So for example if I like the movie frozen, I can go on FanPop and interact with some of the other fans and incidentally I was just on the frozen FanPop site, you know for my daughter of course but the key here though, is that all the content is user generated. And FanPop generates money off of advertizing revenue. So without introduction welcome to the show Dave. It’s been a longtime.
Dave: Thanks Steve. Good to be here.
Steve: So can you just give us a quick background story. Just tell us, take us back to when FanPop got started.
Dave: Sure, so I started FanPop with an old colleague of mine from Yahoo. We had worked together back in 1999 together. We were one of the first, you know early employees at Yahoo and we were part of management together and we re-united again because we were both working in down town San Francisco about, I would say about six years later or five years later and you know we would meet up and a lot of– we were seeing kind of a lot of new businesses launching like Delicious and Dig that were kind of you know the open source movement was happening and we felt like you know it was a lot cheaper than when were at Yahoo back in 99” to start a company and we thought, “Hey, we could probably do this on our own.”
And we felt like sites like Dig and Delicious were very tacky focused and we wanted to build something for the masses and you know we started testing out different models and ideas and I think originally we were trying out a travel idea but that was way more difficult to do back then and then we decided to try out this. We felt like there was lack of evolution for fan sites online. It was like GO city sites and really bad you know PHPBB open source forums that were from like the 90’s, and we just felt like there should have been– there should have be another new iteration of community groups for people who shared you know same interest topics like passions.
So we basically started you know working with a friend of mine who was a programmer and we picked up another programmer who also actually you might want to interview who runs cooking for engineers. He was running that at the time I was working at Intel and I went up, I talked to him about it and he was interested. So he quit Intel and joined us, and so we had a team of four and we’ve you know bootstrapped the company and have stayed for you know since we launched and we basically built it from scratch, this platform that allows people to create these communities and these condos around shared topics of interest. So like you said frozen fans, walking dead fans, people who you know love Justin Timberlake, it could be anything and everything and this…
Steve: I heard you started that one.
Dave: Yeah, definitely. That’s Justin Beamer that I started up. Timberlake is okay, but we actually you know the funny thing is when we originally started we had no idea where the audience would move towards and we started off with you know thinking okay, “We will be like [Inaudible] [00:05:31] or you know wine club, wine kind of stores are you know people babies.” They are different people who had shared experiences or interests or you know more hobbies. We had no idea that it would move towards entertainment and pop culture topics which is fine because I think you know all of us are very much into pop culture. You know sometimes it has to be a little younger towards the Justin Beamer’s in the one directions, but you know it pays the bills and there are a lot of people out there who likes that stuff. I don’t judge, I just build the site for them.
So yeah we’ve been, we launched the site in August of 2006, and we started working on it back in, I mean brainstorming back in until late 2005. So it’s been a long run so far.
Steve: Was it always called FunPop even back when you were thinking of doing the cigars stuff?
Dave: Yeah, good question. It was actually– the original name was, we went through a bunch of iterations when they were all the friends stars, we were originally, we tried fan stars and fan starred. Originally we changed the name to fan spots and the idea was that each fan club was kind of a spot and we just had you know a whole network of spots but the day or two before– and we had checked fan spot singular, we had fan spots plural. We in fact checked fan spots singular and it was actually owned by Carnet Media.
They do like the baseball card valuations, so we thought well we were not going to do anything with it, and it was in conflict at that point but two days before we were about to launch our data, we– I looked it up again and they had launched a sports social network. So since we also had sports fans in our mix we could not do that. We were afraid that it could cost too much money to pay for legal fees, to fight anything, even though we had launched our data before they did. We launched our data before then we were going to launch our official site, but we didn’t want to launch it when we had that problem.
So luckily we had kind of scored a way a bunch of domains and FunPop was one of them and it worked out. I guess it was kind of, for twitters because we ended up being a pop culture site. So it actually worked out pretty well and we ended up with a nice six letter domain that has really, the branding’s really helped. I mean users have, they love the brand, we’ve had users who’ve gone out and– even though we had short printed out a copy press for our own team to go to you know networking events and other stuff, we’ve had users who actually gone and paid good money to have sweat shirts and mugs and other stuff printed out with FanPop because they love the brand so much.
Steve: Interesting, is that a revenue source for you guys or…?
Dave: I mean, it’s pretty marginal. I mean, I’m buddies with the over the dictionary guy and he makes a lot more money out of this stuff than we do.
Dave: Yeah, so it was funny, I mean the community that the users created, the brand helped but it was also a tines of like the community itself, and they launched all sorts of things like talents shows on our site and awards ceremonies for people who brought the best trivial questions or best polls. So we’ve seen a really strong kind of affinity towards the community as a whole, so it’s kind of cool.
Steve: So walk me through this. So let’s say I was interested in something, how would I interact with your site. Like how does it work exactly?
Dave: Sure, so if you– say you are looking, you are a big fun of X-men and you know, you go round the web and you find a lot of fragmented fan clubs who are X-men on Wikis or X-men and where blogs and even like you know some marvel or wherever and it’s kind of pain because you end up, you had to go all these sites and you know, you might have some interactions with people, but it’s mostly a one directional thing where someone is posting and you kind of comment. Well we wanted to change that and a lot of people that come on to our site look for X-men, go there and then basically anyone and everyone can, you know post an article or like you know a video or any fan out that they’ve made, you know create a poll question or you know play a trivia game. And so we just wanted to give people the features and just allow them have their own small community where people who understand them or were like them can relate to another and discuss all of their, you know their favorite topics.
So the goal was when you have one person– when you are by yourself and you are scaling the web for, you know all things X-men, it’s a lot less efficient than when you have a whole community of fans kind of contributing it to one place, one repository where you know, you might not have found something that someone else have found, and you can really appreciate it when you log in to FanPop and check out the X-men fan club.
Steve: So do you aggregate any of the other blogs that are out there or the information is already out there?
Dave: Yes, that’s I mean we– there is something we were working on and now we were originally grabbing headlines and other news feeds from other places but we are starting to build relationships with some publishers to bring in third party kind of articles and content. So anywhere from like Hooloo to other sites like Kid Fix and Just Jared, we are going to be– you know I think there is a lot of folks we want to talk to get their part of the content out there. So for people who don’t really use our access Orases readers this would be kind of a new solution for them.
Steve: I see, so would you pay these people to have their…?
Dave: We were just having, a lot of them just want traffic leads. So you know obviously we’ll take snippets of their content, but it’s at least it’s one destination that the people can go to and look, at least browse through all the stuff, and don’t have to search you know a bunch of sites for.
Steve: Okay, yeah that’s makes a whole lot of sense. Orases it’s kind of dying at least and your site will act like a more modern version I guess of…
Dave: Yeah and even more simple because I think a lot of the mainstream just I mean, they never adopted, I mean that’s just from my much knowledge, they never fully embraced Orases anyway so it seems like people were just going to the destinations sites versus aggregating themselves. I mean I don’t know why that’s why Google reader shut it down but– and it seems like even companies like Sleepboard [phonetic] who relied on that are having to move away from that model because I think it’s not everyone necessarily adopted it.
Steve: Yeah so you know, I’ve been thinking about your site a lot before I came on this interview, and I was just thinking about you know starting a user content generate site takes a ton of work and there is kind of this like chicken and egg problem in the beginning, right?
Steve: So how did you guys overcome that early on?
Dave: Yeah, it was tough, I– my mom always teases me or I guess makes fun of me in front of people because she’s like, “Oh, you are like a genius, you created a business and you don’t actually do anything,” because, I guess it did work out that way, but you know I think when we started it was tough because when there is no community, no one is going to be there. When there is no content, no one is going to come. So it doesn’t really make for good SEO when you don’t have any content. So I think one thing we did was we went around– early on we had to create a lot of fake users ourselves to like pretend that there are discussions going on, that’s kind of sad talking to ourselves, but you know we wanted to make sure when people came they didn’t see like an empty house like you know party.
But then we started kind of paying forums and groups around the web that we thought might appreciate it, and so we surely picked up on different, you know couple of different blogs and once we had, once you get a small– you only need a small subset of users to create the content, I mean and all we added like yolk and other sites at most it’s like 3% or 1% even contributors and the rest were all kind of consumers and so we only needed to get like a handful of the right people to start adding content and that just took off.
And slowly but surely we tried to reinforce that by giving them social recognitions like medals and banners and stuff so they could show that they were experts or good contributors and I think that incentivized them more. So we never got them rather having to pay our contributors or top contributors, it’s been all about you know the social reward of being considered an expert or you know a top fan of our site.
Steve: So earlier on you guys were trading a lot of your own content?
Dave: Yeah, we had to write our own articles, we created some threads for forums, we added you know videos we found or you know articles. I mean we just– or images, wall papers and things like that. So I mean, I think we just had to give people an idea of what it could be because when you start from scratch it doesn’t work like that.
Steve: Because I know just from my experience blogging that even if you have the content, even the people who are willing to make a comment on a post or wherever it’s a very small percentage. So how did you guys kind of encourage people to actually give their inputs and make comments?
Dave: Yeah, I mean I don’t know I guess people when they are already– I think it’s difficult when you are starting a topic that might be somewhat new and not that you know you are trying to build the traffic, but when there is in store base that you pursue like walking dead fans they all have an opinion and so everyone is on one like you know for Twilight they are on team Edward or team Jacob and they are already kind of, they are going to voice their opinions no matter what. So I think it’s that aspect that you hit, that you get to hit upon when you doing standard related topics that people are just passionate about and vocal about, and so we didn’t have much trouble getting them talk once we had the right topics up.
Steve: I just noticed you are very familiar with these female vampire series [Laughter].
Dave: Here it goes; I’m not going to lie.
Steve: So where did you grab these people from initially, did they just find you on search or…?
Dave: Yes a lot of these– a lot of them did find us through SEO but I mean like I said we reached out to some of these fan clubs as well, and we ended up getting typical folks coming from like forums and other places so we kind of like invited people to come check it out and they did.
Steve: Because and just judging, you know banking on my own experiences in the past like you can’t just walk into a forum and…
Dave: Oh yeah.
Steve: And tell them to come to your site, right?
Dave: No, I think we reached out to the owners sometimes and I think they saw it wasn’t us, I don’t know, I don’t think they think of it as a threat, I think it was just a complementary tool that people could use to post poster fans so yeah I think I mean some of them like really embraced it and so they wanted to know that there are users about it.
Steve: Interesting, I think I might have an opposite reaction. Like if I run like the most popular fan club for one of your favorites like twilight, I would be a little reluctant to…
Steve: Follow my traffic over to your site, unless there was a mutual benefit somehow.
Dave: Yeah, I mean I think we gave them links from our site as well so we didn’t do a sub co-links for their reasons but I think some of it was that the features that we offered that they didn’t really have appealed to them, and so there was like more, I guess they saw, some of them saw it was a complimentary feature.
Steve: Okay, that makes sense then and they are probably diehard fans as well, right?
Dave: Yeah, exactly.
Steve: Okay so let’s talk about the business model. How does FanPop make money?
Dave: We make money by splashing ads all over our site. Now we do make money through advertizing and a lot more, you know this– advertizing is since we started has evolved a lot. Before it was you know really cheap running networks and then you know some direct sales stuff, but we’ve worked with a couple of sales represented partners that sell large campaigns to you know, I think they were from TV networks, the movie studios to the Walmarts and T-Mobiles of the world, and you know they’ve made us money and then as the programmatic remnant of the world has continued to improve, places like Google and other kind of programmatic network businesses have really figured out a good way to generate high CPMs for– and optimize the whole ads base with like real time bidding and other solutions.
So things have definitely evolved and the ads side of things. I think there is still room for it to evolve on the mobile side and that’s something that we are shifting towards. Everything is moving towards mobile, and I think we need to be prepared for that. So we’re actually in the midst of redesigning our search of a mobile responsive site.
Dave: And so when you see on our mobile site right now, it’s very different than we see like sort of the desktop, so that’s kind of emerging soon, but we want to be a much more visual site than we’ve been in the past.
Steve: So let’s– you said a lot in that last statement. Let’s back up a little bit. Regarding– eventually you guys only have four guys, and at least in my experience with blogging if you are trying to get direct sponsorships that’s almost a full time job in itself. You have to contact sales reps, kind of do negotiations and just work out how ads are being displayed. What percentage of your ads are direct versus remnant networks, versus you know other structured deals?
Dave: Yeah, so it does fluctuate from month to month. I mean like in some months it’s very slow and we can get back with like 10%, 20%. You know some months it could be 30 or 40 % so and usually isn’t more than you know 40, 50 % because the direct deals you would– there are a lot of websites out there, and it’s pretty noisy so you know in terms of revenue split, I would say most of your revenue is going to be especially if you are a display advertizing site, it’s going to be on remnant programmatic and the direct is you know when you can get it, it’s very high paying but the fill rate is just not always there.
Steve: Okay, and do you– are you using DFP?
Dave: Yes we are.
Steve: Okay so just for the listeners DFP is Google’s like real time ad serving. It allows other advertisers to bid and you only show the ads that pay out the most so…
Dave: So, I mean we use that as our subject P and stands for double click the publishers one the small business platform and you know we serve any campaigns that are sold directly to us, so say right now we have couple of classic campaigns for some books on our site, we use DFP to launch those sites and manage that but we also manage the whole [Inaudible] [00:20:17] chain ups and networks through DFP as well. So basically that handles all of our ads serving on the front end and we fill in on the backend with you know different networks and partners.
Steve: So what are some of the ads networks that you work with?
Dave: So we’ve basically, you know in the past we worked with so many you know from travel fusion to MTV networks to now it’s like all networks to cash programmatic everyone. And we’ve basically now that Google is just– since everyone goes to Google anyway; you figure all the demand is there so they had a supply of inventory. So we basically, we mostly rely on Google ad exchange, but we also have open X-exchange in the mix.
Steve: Wow, okay.
Dave: It actually helps with losing CPMs on both sides because when you’ve you know less supply who pushes out demand and the price, so the CPMs are higher on both sides. So it’s good to always you know put pressure on the prices more in the mix. So, but yeah those are basically our big ones for now.
Steve: Do you guys use adsense at all or…?
Dave: Yeah, I mean an exchange apparently pays a little better than adsense so the best, I think much of the, more of the high impact display ads are coming from ad exchange.
Steve: So outside of advertizing, do you guys try to sell products that are related to some of the fan stuff on your site?
Dave: Yeah so you know we experimented for a little while with Amazon and they have a unit called the omacasa [phonetic] unit that should read the cut on the page and target content based on the topics but contextually is not so good. It’s not so accurate so we stopped that one. EBay also has one and we were going to explore doing that but yeah we haven’t turned into the E-commerce side of things. We could but at the same time I think, it’s not like doing electronics websites where your revenue would flow or do much higher because you are on you know really high, you know high priced purchases. For us it will be like a cute t-shirt or paraphernalia and so we haven’t focused so much on that.
I think the one thing about our business is that because we are lean and small, we focus mostly on the product side. Our [Inaudible] [00:22:39] you know they cover our bills and we don’t, you know we don’t ask sales guys. I try to optimize it as much as I can but in the meantime we spend most of our time doing product stuff and you know the coding for getting the features in place so, that takes up more of our value.
Steve: Okay, so at least for me in my experience like the mobile ads stuff tends not to pay as much. So do you find that a lot of your traffic is kind of shifting over to mobile now, and how are you kind of making up for some of the, I guess the little revenue aspects of going mobile?
Dave: Yeah, I mean so the funny thing is we didn’t even have a mobile solution before. Basically what we had was when you go on you know your phone and you looked at our site you just get the top left corner of the page, it was pretty horrendous. We were trying some demo solutions like dedicate m.FanPop.com, there was someone else who was going to host for us and we were going to do a mobile version, mobile version of and we ended up shifting towards a mobile responsive site. So we have a mobile web and instead of a dedicated website. It’s now you know just responsive flow from our [Inaudible] [00:23:53], so a lot of those ads the same ads that we put on our mobile site because we’ve changed to a more tiled UI.
It gives us the facility to actually serve the same 300 by 250s and 300 by 600s…
Dave: in our phone view, but at the same time– so CPM’s on that all the same. We don’t have dedicated you know 300 by 250 or dedicate 320 by like 50 whatever units those mobiles are, and we tried out some mobile units that perform well, but I think we are looking at different mobile solutions that perform better on better CPMs. And so there are things out there, they are a few and far between because I feel like no one’s really tapped into the mobile web, advertizing space that well, is we had [Inaudible] [00:24:39] from a company called, “Mobile Theory,” and they seemed to monetize these certainly well.
I think it’s just like any creative and there is different start ups popping up here and there to do things like appleflows [phonetic] like the things that you see Facebook making a lot on with appleflows within their work. There’s companies that are trying to do that for like mobile web versions of sites. So I think it’s just about getting creative with what kind of you know units that are out there, that are available.
Steve: You know early on when you guys didn’t have as much traffic, how did you actually get signed on to some of these ad networks?
Dave: It’s very difficult like it is like there is a chicken and egg thing where if you don’t have the traffic they don’t really want you but I mean Google was always been you know you’ve got three pages a day or a month and you still signed up for Google. So we’ve always had Google mixed in there but in terms of getting the bigger networks, I think we had to definitely work on getting traffic out there before we even got their attention or had their interest to work with us.
Steve: So, I’m just curious from my own knowledge you know, how long did it take before you actually started generating a lot of traffic?
Dave: It was probably a year and a half or so, a year to a year and a half, I think so, yeah.
Steve: Okay, and was a lot of that SEO or was a lot that people just coming back for more stuff?
Dave: SEO takes a lot more time. We did have an SEO consultant come in and help us fix things and that definitely helped a lot but that takes time to build up. Initially it was definitely you know links that people hosted up or that we posted on our different sites that they got, yeah.
Steve: Oh, okay so did you make any mistakes early on and…?
Dave: Oh yeah.
Steve: If you could talk about some of those and how you overcame them.
Dave: We shot ourselves in the foot for a while. So like when we were, one of the things we did when we were testing some page if we had a little like star TXT blocking any callers because we were still doing a test and when we rolled up the page to the live production server, I guess it was like a few months before we realized, we were like, “Why isn’t Google indexing any of these pages anymore?” And then we started develop a TSC file up there in the page and we were like wow we just shot ourselves in the foot. So there are some silly things that we did like that. There is just a lot of other things that I regret and don’t really want talk about but there were mistakes made in contracts, you know contracts and other negotiations that we regret and you know there is certainly a lot we’ve learned along the way and I mean, it hasn’t you know, it hasn’t killed us, so they haven’t been fatal but it’s definitely an interesting learning experience the whole way, every step of the way.
Steve: So just curious going forward, you know the web has changed a ton in just the last couple of years in terms of Google updates and just the way websites are structuring themselves, how do you see kind of FunPop transitioning in the next coming years to grow?
Dave: So we are– I mean we are basically currently trying to redesign the site to become a lot more visual and a lot more user focused. So whereas before we were focused on the topics, we are much more focused on the fans now. So I think we want to provide them a feature set that allows them, that empowers them to share their fan dome whether they are on our site or the other sites and I think we are you know when we look at the pinterests and the tumblrs out there we see that platforms are the way to go. We were going to go down the path of trying to hire a editorial staff and have people write you know content, but we decided we’ll clear that because we are product guys that’s how we build the best. We– and we know that there is a lot of people out there who do a better job with that, so why would we you know try to re-write the same articles.
For us it was about what can we provide people that you know that are out there , that are fans that they don’t have today, and so you know we are playing with a feature set right now and we are trying to you know build it out so that you know we have a product that really speaks to fans, and allows them to express themselves and I think that will be the next iterations and yeah I mean if pinterest and tumblr can be that big as platforms I mean , I think our goal is to become that big as well.
Steve: That’s interesting so you are kind of going not towards the content, and you are more going along the lines of kind of aggregating and…?
Dave: Yeah, let’s, I mean it’s not just, well it’s not just well we are going to go the call on contract side only aggregating, but that’s kind of complimentary to the focus young user and giving them a tool set to be even more empowered to create content.
Dave: So for us is more of a how do you get the user security content even better than they had before and make it easier for them to secure the content?
Steve: I see that’s very interesting. I would have thought that you would want more content on your own site and just kind of own more content going forward so that people definitely…
Dave: Oh yeah, this will be on our site. It’s just that…
Dave: It would encourage them on their own profiles pages and other you know areas to create content for themselves. You can just…
Steve: Oh, okay, got it, got it. Yeah because you know the things with these fan sites; at least, I actually have very limited experience in this but you know if another site would have come on, let’s say I’m really into a TV show if a new site would have come on, that was better than the old I might grab a take towards that one, but I guess what you have is since a lot of your users have invested a lot of time into the content that they place on FanPop, there is less likely to leave? Is that…
Dave: Yeah, I think there is commitment on investment that they’ve made so they definitely stick around.
Steve: Okay. So what are some of the challenges then in just running a community based site? I’ve never done it before myself so I’m just curious.
Dave: It’s a lot of work. There is a lot of you know people get– it’s almost like being a teacher because you have to manage like kids like fighting in class or misbehaving and doing other stuff and we build that social kind of recognition system in it. We both try to cheat the system and they want the recognition from people so they create fake users. I mean it can be a big headache, but at the same time the users please themselves, and they are very vigilant because they are protective of their community, and they don’t want you know bad actors joining in and messing things up. So they definitely are very vigilant and let us know if there is someone misbehaving. And so we have a pretty good moderation kind of a queue and we have moderators on the site that manages it for us because there is no way that the four of us can do all that. But you know we’ve managed to– whether be using third party services like Mechanical Turk or others to get help, we’ve found ways that we can you know keep the site clean and safe for everyone.
Steve: Okay so you have designated users which are probably the most active ones to kind of moderate and handle the day to day stuff so to speak?
Steve: Okay, that’s pretty smart and they are just doing this not for money, they are doing it because you’ve given them a title?
Steve: Okay, wow that is really, that’s a great idea.
Dave: Yeah, I know, a lot of, I think my mom’s pretty impressed that I’ve really done absolutely nothing. Now, I mean I think the right way to do it when you are trying to scale, it’s just not– unless you want to hire a whole bunch of people, it’s just not a very scalable thing to do and basically by being small we are forced to you know come up with ways that we can scale by using the masses of our users to help support us.
Steve: So do you have any advice for people who want to start some sort of a crowd sourced site like your own if there were to start today?
Dave: Yeah. I think one thing I would say is we started off pretty broad which is I think the chicken and egg problem is the worst when you have to start off from a broad topic because you don’t have any, you don’t know where to start and where to target and even if you have, even if you have people coming, if they start coming to all different points in the site and different topics, then it will still be too thin and too shallow. So I think the most important thing is, I think to focus on a niche because that’s a lot easier to build up critical mass in than trying to reach critical mass in a lot different areas and we’ve gotten lucky. I can’t say that most people would have that you know fortune but you know doing it again, I would probably spend more time focusing on one specific you know topic of interest, or one kind of group of audience target because that makes it much more easier to target when you are trying to recruit people.
Steve: I imagine that’s kind of how you guys started too, right? You can’t possibly cover all the things. You probably just focus on a couple of them.
Dave: That’s right, we focused on a few and we went out to people on them, but for us is because since people have multiple interests anyway once you get into one, they get to add and register things. They will start themselves to build other communities around their other topics that they care about.
Steve: Okay. So what about in terms of platforms you mentioned you coded everything from the ground up. Are there tools out there today that makes this a lot easier now?
Dave: Yeah, I mean they’re definitely are. I think a lot of the CMS’s out there like Jupo and others have become a lot more play and play and easier to use. Ours because we started way back and we felt like so many nails and bolts on it that I don’t know that you could choose just like ours but I mean there are so many things with models out there that you could use, like Trupo [phonetic] and other you know CMS’s and even there is still programming languages and others like Nagios that make it a lot easier and quicker to build these things, but I think the hard part is knowing if you can scale it or not. So, I mean we’ve had to learn the hard way by building a site that was forced to scale so we had to make it you know work. So we probably had to get– it’s just targeting in a lot of time but out team is gun pretty good at managing this process, but I think for our future, for people who are developing now or building sites, if you are not a coder, I do think that there are some programs out there but I do feel like it’s a lot more difficult especially when you want a lot of customizations.
Steve: Okay, yeah that makes sense. So maybe some of my gold [Inaudible] [00:34:58] you…
Dave: And they are very pretty robust and verse domino.
Steve: Yeah and I think if they had to scale to something your size, I think a lot change would need to be made regardless?
Dave: Yeah but then you– it’s you know let’s that’s good they probably had to get that big.
Steve: That’s true so.
Steve: So are there any business books that you would recommend or your favorite business book that kind of you know influence the way that you decide to run your business?
Dave: Yeah, I really enjoyed and it’s funny, I wasn’t very fortunate to meet him but those few books were great because they kind of– when you are getting started you feel pretty alone and unless you have other friends who’ve gone through it and even then they don’t always share everything with you. Hearing their personal stories of some of these guys and the stuff they went through when you are going like the tough dark times which a lot of my friends do, and then also focusing on the important stuff, programs, essays and, I guess since then they’ve probably published a book version of all those essay’s. Those are very helpful too because I think they just gave you the common sense and practical advice that a new entrepreneur needs to know that they don’t always teach in school, and it’s like simple things like the order of how you divide up equity and you know different struggles that you have along the way and you know, I think that hearing kinds of the follies and metaphoribles [phonetic] of previous people who’ve gone through this path is very helpful to avoid them, but you still end up making your own mistakes and that’s inevitable, but I think that it just gives you confidence that you don’t have to be perfect when you are doing, when you are going through this process. It’s okay to stumble and fall and that’s how you learn.
I remember when I started this or I guess when I started giving talks one I think I’ve done this– said this analogy a couple of times but I was like into the near Jones and the tumble of, none of that would do, it was last crusade where Andy has to walk to get the, “Holy Grail,” but he has to walk across the bridge to get the, “Holy Grail,” but he didn’t see a bridge it’s like just his bottom was casent [phonetic] . I think when you step off and take this journey towards entrepreneurship or starting your own business, it’s, you have to take that legal faith and step out and when you do you’ll realize that it’s going to be fine because all the friends and colleagues and you know co-workers that you’ve had from your past will all come out to support you and help you in any way and they build that bridge across so that you can be secure and I mean no one is waiting for you to fail unless they are a jerk, but there are people that care about you. They’ll connect you to the right people; they’ll introduce you to the right people. They’ll you know a lot of them will go out of their way to help you out because I think especially here in the valley it’s everyone’s dream to start their own thing. So when you actually do it I think people– they just feel like they want to do their part to see that happen and they are rooting for you, I mean hopefully and I think that’s one thing that I think every entrepreneur who is scared to step out– and I talk to so many people. I try to encourage them to start their own businesses but you know giving up their health care plan or their salary and other benefits is scary, and I think as you get older and you have more obligations that’s gets harder and harder so…
Steve: Yeah you know I’ve, I tend to preach everyone starts something on the side while they are still working. And just build it up until the point where they are comfortable quitting.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, I think the one thing is that I will say about that is, I started something probably on the side like that proved this model to me because I was working as a product strategy for EBay on a field in marketing and then that’s when I saw these guys were making tons of money on the side for referrals and affiliate marketing stuff like selling stuff on EBay and other sites and easily driving transactions, and so I build this project on the side for camera enthusiastic websites for you know canon digitalized horizon and saw people were– I was actually making some money on it, so that’s what gave me the confidence that this would actually work. It wasn’t making enough for me to pay the bills, but I think that model, seeing that actually worked gave me the reinforcement that it could be done on a larger scale.
I would say that the people I know who tried doing things on the side when they have full time jobs, it is much, much more difficult to do especially if you believe in an idea that can be big enough, but you are being held back because your best hours of the day are spent working for someone else and you know when you are like running around doing your product and personal life and trying to start something. We tried to do that in the beginning and it was you know pretty much hectic because we could only give it our late, our worst times of the day and we basically decided you know what if we are really serious about pursuing this, we just going to have to quit and go all in on this because you know it just wasn’t our best and so my co-founder and I– we just decided we had to quit our jobs to make this a reality, and if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out but we wanted to know that we gave it all our best– put our best foot forward and not just kind of dipped our feet in the water.
And you know some ideas, I don’t think they require– I think for someone like new comers site where you are selling stuff, you can do that and see that people are buying and when you get pushed to the limits then you know better about whether you can afford to quit or not, I mean that’s a scalable model, but for us we would have build a lesser site or a lesser product and that could have ended up disastrous if we spent just half time on it.
Steve: Yeah, that’s makes a whole lot of sense. It really just depends on what your business model is going to be. So hey Dave I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Thanks a lot for coming on. If there is anyone out there who has any questions do you want to provide some contact information and just talk about your sites?
Dave: Oh sure. Oh sure, yeah you can reach out to me at Dave@FanPop.com and yeah www.FanPop.com is our site.
Steve: Okay, well thanks a lot Dave. Thanks a lot for your time.
Dave: Thanks Steve.
Steve: All right, take care.
Dave: Take care.
Steve: Here is what I like about Dave and his business FanPop.com. Unlike a blog where you either have to create your own content or hire a team of writers and editors, Dave has essentially created a business that pretty much populates itself with quality content by leveraging his audience, and as a result his business is generally hands off and it generates cash like a machine. Now while the end result is impressive, it clearly took a lot of hard work to get there and that’s why I admire him.
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