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Friday, March 6, 2009

10 Million A Year for An Hour Per Week?

Alright, so if you have not heard of, then you are about to find out the work of a genius.

I was browsing the net when I came up with this success story. Its pretty crazy so please check it out.

Plenty of Fish : A $10 million dollar website that started as a hobby and runs itself?

Well I was curious too, and that's what lead me to learn more about this Canada native. So what exactly does he do? He runs a free online dating service, . And no, he didn't have oodles of start up capital. Frind built it as a hobby, with almost no money, no fancy business plan, no investors and little if any knowledge about running a business on the web. Yet today, five years later, his site serves up 1.6 billion web pages per month and is the largest dating site in the United States and perhaps the world. Even more impressive is that coming into 2007, he did all by himself.

So where's the catch? Unfortunately I haven't found one. The key to his business success and his limited work hours was basically building a site that runs itself. According to Frind, “I usually accomplish everything in the first hour, actually in the first 10 to 15 minutes.” Further research reveals that his site really does run itself and most of how it runs itself is through free software (including the software that runs his ad inventory).

So you might be ready to call me a liar... sure he did it with no money, but he must be a brilliant b school graduate or engineer. Wrong on both accounts. Markus didn't even go to a four year college. And until he started plenty of fish, he bounced aimlessly from job to job. But don't let or his work hours fool you. He has three things all entrepreneurs need: ambition, a great idea and a competitive personality.
After graduating from technical school in 1999 with a degree in computer programming (yes – he does at least have some background related to what he does), he got a job at an online shopping mall. However, as we all know, the dot com bubble burst shortly thereafter. And for the next two years, he bounced from startup to start up.

When asked about his experience during these years, he said it was like torture. Not only were the companies shrinking quick, but the engineers were writing terribly complex code – making building the sites and the businesses terribly inefficient. But this experience seems to have taught him two things:

How not to run a web business and how to keep things simple as well as focused.
Tired with this vicious cycle and with the economy not bouncing back all that quickly (sound familiar?), he decided to devote some time to mastering And he decided to do it by building an online dating site (which he said was the hardest thing he could think of). So working a few hours each evening and part of the weekend for two weeks, he built a crude dating site. But although crude, it promised something none of the others did : it didn't cost a dime to join.

When asked where the idea came from, he said basically from using Lavalife. He thought that an online dating site was a good idea, but couldn't believe that a rinky-dink little site like that could charge money for something anyone could make. So through his side project, a site whose slogan is “put away your credit card,” he attracted users and made money selling ad space to fee based online dating services. And he did it using Adsense, the free service from Google that let's you profit from Google placing ads on your site.

So the last question, one that all online business owners ask, is how did he get traffic? SEO and word of mouth. Basically, he went to online forums and free sites (like SBI+ M) and learned how to get his site to show up first in Google's rankings. And in under a year, his site grew from 40 members to 10,000 and was turning a profit of $3,300 / month off advertising alone.
And that's the abbreviated story of how an unlikely character with an ugly website turned into our first entrepreneur success story.


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