A day late… $15,000 short.

At the beginning of each calendar year I like to make some financial projections for our household. I’ve done it for the last four years and we’ve always not only met our goals, but absolutely destroyed them. It’s pretty stupid when you reach your 12 month goal in seven months. That doesn’t mean that I’m awesome, it means I made our goals too easy.

For 2012 I wanted things to be different. I wanted our goals to actually be a stretch. And boy were they a stretch. According to our 2012 budget, we started the year off with a net worth (NW) of $114,000. I set a goal for us to reach $170,000 by years end. If you saw my latest NW post you’ll see we’re currently standing at $153,000. That means we are $17,000 short of reaching our goal.

Dang. 

If you’re gonna crash and burn, might as well do it to the tune of $17K right? Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) I predicted this failure back in July. Thank goodness we weren’t caught off guard otherwise I might have had a heart attack.

So why did we fail so miserably? It really comes down to two reasons:

We bought a car. 

I didn’t account for this purchase in our spreadsheet because I didn’t know if we’d actually find a car worth buying. Turns out we did. We paid $20,000 for our Pilot out the door (after taxes and licensing). We sold Girl Ninja’s car for $8,200 to help recoup some of the cost. We took $11,800 out of our personal savings to cover the rest. If I included our vehicles in our NW, then we wouldn’t be that far off from our goal. But I haven’t included them in the past, and don’t plan on including them anytime soon.

I started a business. 

I launched MANteresting in February, well after I made our annual goals. I definitely didn’t anticipate the site picking up steam as quickly as it did. As a result, Jesse and I have been playing catch up ever since, both with the servers and our pocketbooks. From idea to launch, we had only spent about $1,000 building the site. From launch to present, we’ve spent around $15,000 making sure it scales with demand.

You know where my $7,500 portion of the expenses came from? That’s right. Our savings account. There was no way for me to know back in January that TIME, ABC, CNN, WSJ, NYT, TechCrunch, CNET, etc would have a hay day and feature MANteresting on their sites.

I’m happy to report the hard work has paid off and the site now pays for itself. THANK GOODNESS!!!! We’ve spoken with a few different “experts” on internet startups and have been told our site should be valued between $200,000-$500,000. Heck, even if the $200,000 valuation is quadruple our actual value that’s still a significant return on our investment. What will come of the website? Your guess is as good as mine. We’ll either die a slow and fiery death. Or we will end up relatively well off from it. Fingers crossed for the latter 🙂

So yeah, we are gonna end the year about $15,000 shy of our $170,000 goal, but ya know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We make money so we can spend some of it (vehicle upgrade) and we save diligently so we can invest in great opportunities (new business).

I’ll be posting up our new budget and our new goals in the next few days. If we are lucky, we can epically fail at reaching those goals too!!!!

How has 2012 treated you? What were some of your financial (or personal) goals this year? Do you count your vehicles in your net worth? Should I?

The only ship that doesn’t set sail is a partnership.

Brace yourselves. Another blog post about MANteresting. Over the last six months we have had one specific individual reach out to us multiple times. He wants to join the team and has expressed interest in growing our site and giving us money to help make that happen. Jesse and I have always politely declined his offers.

After a few months of silence, he reached out again last week. We decided this time to open the door for conversation. After a few email exchanges, the time came for us to tell him what we would want from him. Jesse and I talked and felt that offering him a 5% stake for $10,000 was fair. He responded pretty quickly saying he’ll go in for $10,000 for 7.5%.

Frick.

His counter was reasonable. Knowing that he reached out to us, and not us to him, I responded back with 5% for $10,000 and clarified he would be given no voting rights in the business. He simply becomes a shareholder, not a team member. He obviously didn’t like that.

Seeing that I am not an investment banker I really have no freaking clue what I’m doing, haha. I’m convinced he’d pay us $10k for 5% if we gave him voting rights. That puts our value at $200,000. I have no clue if MANteresting could sell for $50,000 tomorrow or $500,000.

Question 1: Where can we get an appraisal of our site’s value? Who do you talk to? Angel investors, lawyers, bankers?

I will also admit I am a little ignorant on how partnerships work in business. Jesse and I get along great. We are 50/50, and don’t necessarily know what a 47.5%/47.5%/5% voting split would mean.  We’ve all heard about the Facebook partnership debacle...

Question 2: If we bring him on with 5% voting rights, all hell could break loose couldn’t it? What would keep me and this guy from forming an alliance and taking virtually all control away from Jesse? Nothing right?

We really want to stop burning a whole in our pockets. We could use this $10,000 to build out virtually every feature on our wish list and probably sustain the site for an entire year.

Yes, I have more than $10,000 in my savings account, but I’m not comfortable putting an increasing amount of money in MANteresting until I can be certain I will be getting all of it back. We know we have huge potential (and this guy does too), but I bet MySpace thought it would be around for a lot longer than it was too. We’d build an iPhone app tomorrow for the site if we had $10,000 to mitigate the cost.

Ugh. There are so many details I want to share so you guys have a better understanding of the business and can give more solid advice, but this post would be like 10 pages, and 90% of you would be bored out of your mind. Anyone out there with experience dealing with this kind of thing? Jesse and I are trying to navigate as best we can, but really need to speak with an expert. Lawyers, bankers, and people who successfully operate partnerships… please drop me a line! Heck, even if you don’t know anything, do you know someone who does?

My favorite nail from yesterday:

The best and most expensive idea I’ve ever had.

Jesse and I haven’t gone to bed before 4am this last week. It’s been a long, but good, seven days. Late today MANteresting 2.0 launches. Everything, from our code to our servers and our layout to our design, is completely new. We didn’t just redecorate a few bedrooms in our house. No. We blew the mother lover to smithereens and built our dream home.

I want to talk a little bit about starting a business… something I admit, I know very little about.

Some insight: 

I’ve managed to make a name for myself in a sea of over 1,000 personal finance bloggers. Although I am by no means the most visited PF blog (my traffic is actually pretty terrible), I think I can say with reasonable confidence, I’m one of the most well-known. I guess I have my crappy stick figure drawings to thank for that.

PDITF has had 1.2 million pageviews over it’s three-year life span. MANteresting, which is 6 months old, has had quadruple that. PDITF has around 2,000 active subscribers that read each post, MANteresting has tens of thousands of active users. PDITF costs me about $150 a year to operate (domain and web hosting). MANteresting has gobbled up over $5,000 (of my money) in its short life. So I ask…

How do you keep business, business, and not personal?

MANteresting is my brainchild. It’s near and dear to my heart. I am not in this for the money (although I wouldn’t complain if someone wanted to buy us). I’m much more narcissistic than that. Ego is my driving force. I thought I had a good idea and wanted to see if I was right. It’s really no different from the reason I created this blog. Of the thousands of other blogs out there, I wanted to see if I could author one worth reading . <— If you just read that line, I have accomplished my goal.

That said, I obviously don’t want to just keep pumping cash in to MANteresting just for the heck of it. Money may not be my primary motivation, but it is second on the list. To date, Jesse and I have made exactly zero dollars from the site. Ha! How’s that for honesty.

That might sound bad, but we are in the red on purpose. We knew if we even spent one moment of our time on monetization – and not solely on making the site better – we would lose users, traffic, and interest. I’m a firm believer that if we do this right, people will line up to give us their money (Zynga, Facebook, Instagram).

We have no clue if we will walk away $10,000 poorer or $1,000,000 richer at the end of this journey, but I do no one thing: It’s gonna be one heck of a ride! 

To any of you that have ever started a business, how did you decide how much money you were willing to pour in to it? How do you keep emotions from clouding your judgement?

p.s. it’s 4:08 am as I write these words.

I’m with you in spirit.

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. We are about ten days away from releasing MANteresting 2.0. Jesse and I have been slaving away, rebuilding the site from the ground up. We launched back in February, and while we knew we had a good idea, we didn’t quite realize just how quickly things would pick up. It only took us three weeks before CNN, ABC, and TechCrunch started requesting interviews.

It’s been a heck of a ride, but the biggest downside is our inability to scale properly. We anticipated it would take us six months to gain some significant traffic. Little did we know that would happen within six weeks. As a result, MANteresting has been pretty clunky and isn’t the most efficient. We have re-coded the whole site and are releasing 2.0 in around a week. Until that time comes, it might be a little quiet in this neck of the woods.

I’ll leave you with a teaser of our new logo….

p.s. if you are a reader of PDITF and you DON’T have a blog, I would love to have you write a guest post sharing your story with the community. It’s always good to see how other people are doing….good, bad, and the ugly. 

And another goal bites the dust.

As most of you know, my business partner Jesse and I launched a visual bookmarking website for guys, MANteresting, back in February. Aside from a few casual references sprinkled throughout some recent blog posts, I haven’t really talked much about it. Today I thought I’d give you a little insight in to how our first four months have gone, some of the struggles we’ve had, and where we are headed.

While I believed the idea of a Pinterest site – sans cupcakes, puppies, and weddings – would be successful, I don’t think Jesse or I quite realized just how quickly this thing could take off. When we first launched there was only one other site like ours. Now I know of at least five others. We are all jockeying for position to be the standout Pinterest site for guys. Fortunately we’ve managed to establish ourselves early and separate ourselves from the pack.

Our site has been viewed over two-million times, we’ve been averaging well over 200,000 visitors each month, our users have uploaded over 52,000 images, and as of Friday we can check off another major milestone: we were featured on the front page of CNN.com this last weekend (as of this writing we are still on the front page under the “tech section”).

After this latest mention, I can now say with relative confidence that we’ve been featured in EVERY major news media outlet out there. CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, MSN, CNET, CNN, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Gawker, TechCrunch, and Washington Post. To be honest, it’s been surreal. 

As awesome as things have been, there have been times where Jesse and I get sick of it. We were bogged down, worn down, and beat down. Our site was constantly crashing due to heavy traffic. We struggled to scale properly. We switched servers and hired on a handful of independent contractors to help us out. We  grew tired of responding to interview requests, managing the social media, and interacting with users. After two months of no sleep, we needed a break. We were exhausted – both physically and mentally – so from late March to early June, we retreated and let things coast.

About a week we reconnected to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, but more importantly talk about where we want to go. Do we want to sell while we have a ton of great press? Do we take on partners to help mitigate our increasing costs and give us more free time? Do we suck it up and push on, maintaining sole ownership, in hopes of something greater down the road?

Right now, we are about $8,000 in to the site. We have another $4,000 left to spend to keep us at (or under) our $12,000 12-month spending cap. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to commit so much money to something we haven’t even tried to monetize. It’s also near impossible for us to put an accurate value on our site. Our we worth $10,000? $100,000? Or $500,000? When we think about all of the things we’ve accomplished in the last 5 months, and all the things we want to accomplish in the next five, we are moving forward; hoping our $12,000 investment rewards us handsomely.

F.Y.I. When I registered MANteresting.com, Pinterest was valued at $40,000,000. When we launched, Pinterest was valued at $200 million. As of today, they’re valued at around 1.5 billion. While we don’t necessarily think this site will make us millions we, at the very least, recognized the potential from a very early stage. 

 

My life as of late.

I hate when people talk about how busy they are, as if they are the only people with who have things going on and should receive some sort of award for pressing on. They say “I’m so busy” but I hear “I can’t prioritize my life and it totally stresses me out.”

If you’ve been paying attention to PDITF over the last month and a half, you’ll notice I went from a solid five-day a week posting schedule, to a much more sporadic three-ish times a week. I refuse to let me life be so busy it steals my joy. 

With the launch of MANteresting, the sale of Girl Ninja’s car, the hunt for a new car, a few trips to San Diego, and being a best man in a wedding, something had to give. That something just happened to be this blog. I’d give you some lame half-hearted apology, pretending I’m going to get back on track and stick to five days a week of posting, but truth is I probably wont be in the near term.

It’s been wonderful having a few nights a week where, instead of getting on the computer to start typing, I’m actually spending quality time with Girl Ninja (watching movies, traveling, or going on dates with her). I’ve been blogging on PDITF for a little over three years now (wow, didn’t even realize my 3 year anniversary was a few weeks ago) and have posted some 830-ish different articles. Sometimes I literally sit in front of my computer screen for an hour trying to think of something to write about. Reducing the number of posts I do has helped give me a little sense of freedom.

What’s more, MANteresting continues to kick butt and is shattering all sorts of expectations. Our Alexa ranking is stupid low for being only two months old (25,000) and our traffic is stupid high (had 30,491 visits on Sunday, 34,296 visits on Monday, and 38,774 visits yesterday). If you are unfamiliar with the internet these numbers mean nothing to you, but if you are familiar, you know just how insanely high these stats are for a site our age. Moderating content, responding to emails, working on new features, and managing social media has been where the majority of my focus has been these last few months. Fortunately, the hard work is paying off.

The other primary reason I’ve been so distracted as of late is the sale of Girl Ninja’s car. Being a one car family is definitely doable, but extremely annoying. On the nights we don’t have something in our calendar, we are test driving cars, going to dealerships, speaking with car brokers, and scouring Craigslist. Until we find a suitable ninja-mobile, I’m afraid things in my personal life wont be slowing down. We found a 2007 Highlander that meets all of our needs for $17,500 (54k miles), but doesn’t necessarily have all the “luxuries” we would like; things like heated seats and leather interior (which obviously will make a similar vehicle $1,000+ more expensive). We’ll be deciding in the next 24 hours if we want to purchase this car or keep hunting (Here’s a link to it in case you are curious).

So that’s my life in a nutshell. Sorry if you could care less about these things and just wasted a few minutes of your precious day 🙂

 

MANteresting by the numbers.

Exactly one month ago, Jesse and I launched MANteresting. While we believed in the potential behind the site, we weren’t sure others saw the same. Launch day (Feb 16th) was awesome. You guys helped us hit 5,000 unique visits on our very first day by spreading the word on FB and Twitter. Our stats tapered off for the next ten days, averaging closer to 400 visits a day.

But then something exciting happened. We got our first major media mention. Guy Kawasaki, a NYT best-selling author, tweeted about us multiple times and got the ball rolling. Since then, we’ve been mentioned on ABC, TechCrunch, Gawker, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, MSN, CNet, and dozens of smaller scale publications. We saw a crap ton of traffic in a very short period of time. 

Our site started crashing, our email notification system went down, and weird bugs that we’d never seen before were popping up left and right. These are all very good problems to have, frustrating, but good because it meant we were growing. We’ve managed to work out most of the kinks and bugs. We upgraded our servers. Hired on two more contractors (bringing us up to five now). We have an iPhone and Android app in the works. And we are just weeks away from releasing some really cool features that should only help fuel the MANteresting fire.

The development and of MANteresting is quickly becoming a “full-time” job. Responding to media requests, interacting with our users, managing our contractors, talking with potential investors, business incorporation, not to mention we still have to be awesome husbands, has definitely been exhausting. Fortunately for us, we are uber motivated and have no plans to slow down. Go big or go home right? 

Alright, so now is the time where I share our first month traffic breakdown. For those of you unfamiliar with the internet and website scaling this will mean nothing to you. But for those bloggers and internet junkies that track this kind of stuff, hopefully you find these numbers as impressive as we do. Here’s what we accomplished in our first 30 days…

We broke half a million page views in less than 30 days! That’s absolute insanity. As a frame of reference, It took PDITF 3 years to reach 900,000 pageviews. MANteresting will pass 900,000 pageviews before it turns two months old. Another encouraging stat is that we had over 124,000 unique visitors come to our site.The most “unique visitors” PDITF has ever had in a single month is about 9,000.

We wanted MANteresting to succeed. We had high expectations for the site. But we never could have anticipated just how quickly this thing would take off. The best part about this whole thing is that MANteresting is really only about 50% as cool as it is will be. If people are loving it as much as they are right now, I can’t wait to see how they’ll interact with it once we implement some of these super secret features we are working on.

As my boy Buzz Lightyear once said….

Favorite nail from yesterday: Welcome Back Chris Farley.