“Off The Cuff” Internet Winners

You’ve got a room full of venture capitalists in Half Moon Bay, Ca., not too far from Silicon Valley.  What do you do?  Guy Kawasaki, tech marketer and a VC fund CEO himself, decided to torture them with the personal testimony of four hugely successful web entrepreneurs who did it all without any VC money! From Dean Takahashi’s blog on the San Jose Mercury News’ site:

The highlight of the AlwaysOn Venture Capital Summit was Guy Kawasaki’s panel, “Why Take Venture Capital At All.” It was hilarious from the get go as venture capitalists watched the young entrepreneurs on the panel inside the swanky Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay resort. Kawasaki rounded up four people who were at the right place with the right idea at the right time. By making money with virtually solo operations, they are the lucky ones who make it look so easy. So much so that they didn’t really need much funding at all. In other words, it’s the people everybody loves to hate because they make the rest of us look so bad and unlucky.

Kawasaki asked everyone at the outset how much traffic each of the young entreprenuers were getting. Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.com, said he has managed to get 52 million page views a month from four million unique visitors. I enjoy Fark myself. It’s basically news of the weird that makes you laugh. People submit ideas for funny stories to him and he and his crew put the best ones on the site. Curtis lives in Kentucky, drinks beer, and plays a lot of soccer so that he counteracts the effects of the beer.

He got the idea for Fark.com as a “complete accident” back in 1999. “I did it because I was annoying the people I was sending the stories to,” he said. Curtis said the site is just a single page that you click on to go to the stories. Once it gathered momentum, the bottom had fallen out of the dot-com market so Curtis didn’t raise any money.

“Still, it was basically my own personal web site,” he said. “It’s almost on auto pilot.”

They get about 2,000 stories a day and then sort through them. He notes that every single late-night talk show and comedy show uses stuff from Fark.com but they don’t credit it. He reads through them from 7 am until 5 pm, when his soccer game starts. He says he is usually so drunk at night that he signs off early, he said.

“I’m having trouble feeling sorry for you, hanging out in Kentucky,” Kawasaki said.

Curtis said that four friends help him do the sorting because they have the same kind of sense of humor that he has. Sometimes he disappears and no one notices. Acting the social critic, Kawasaki asked, “What does it mean that a lot of people get their news through Fark? It’s not exactly NPR.”

“It comes down to the way the younger generation reads the news,” he said. “Most males 18 to 35 get their TV news from the Daily Show. It’s a different filter.” He is worried that Fark has been around nine years and it will be “screwed” if the younger readers don’t adopt it. But he said the younger readers are still coming.

Also on the panel: Markus Frind, who runs a free online dating service that gets more page views than eHarmony; Ramu Yalamanchi, CEO of an international social network site called Hi5; and Blake Commagere, who invented the online game Zombies and Vampires that has become a viral phenomenon on Facebook.

In five months, there have been 20 million users. But there are about five million unique visitors who are active and the monthly page views are just shy of 500 million.

“How much?” Kawasaki asked in disbelief. “Half a billion,” Commagere replied. That means that the players of the game are addicted and they’re generating hundreds of pages views each.

All Commagere was trying to do was annoy and amuse his friends. They were annoyed with him when they found out he disappeared for two weeks to create a dumb game. “It was created as a joke, just to make me laugh,” he said. “As it took off, I said oh god I have to get resources into this.”

Commagere said it’s a very simple game that is designed to spread from person to person. The reward system gets users addicted so they can get to the next level and see new pictures of zombies. He figured he shouldn’t even try to ask for venture capital because he would get laughed out of the room.

“People would probably be terrified if I told them about how off-the-cuff everything was,” he said.

Explore posts in the same categories: Career, Internet, Marketing

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