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A Start-up Story: Part 1

Our story is not unfamiliar. A couple of tech guys get together to create a media business. They start quietly, build a fair amount of momentum -- and then doubts set in. The business does not materialize at the pace we’d imagined. Our road map looks challenging. While we are growing and making money, neither of these things are happening quickly enough. Doubt is a dark place for anyone, but it’s especially disturbing for an entrepreneur. Our plan was simple: get to two million US unique visitors, and sell 40% of our US inventory at a $12CPM.

Ten months after we started, my fears were killing me. I had previously told myself that it would be the fear of failure that would keep me focused and ultimately see me through. But, never before had my body broken out in raspberry patches along my rib cage - our business was taking longer to develop, and the symptoms were taking a toll on my health

As they say, nothing ruins a good story like real data.

Now, five years later, Quantcast lists us as a top 50 website. We get 42 million unique visitors per month. Thank goodness for Adsense. Our business is thriving, costs are more than covered – the company is growing. But our goal had not been to just get traffic – we wanted to directly sell our ad inventory. Even now, our sell-through rate from direct sales is effectively zero. Our initial assumptions were wrong. We overestimated the effective CPMs and the percentage of inventory we are able to sell; we have been unable to build direct relationships with brand advertisers.

This blog is going to share our journey – to share how we started and to offer a picture of our strategy. We have come far, yet much lies ahead of us. I will share the trajectory of a company built on hard work, user adoption, staying frugal, and a great community of users. Together, we are profitable and nimble – thanks to Adsense, ad network revenues and our commitment to our community – an active, loyal user base. As an obligation to our community that has supported us, our challenge today is to build a direct relationship with brand advertisers to reward our awesome community. This is what I will detail. Stay tuned...

To be continued.

I am the co-founder and CEO of HubPages, a social content community.Paul was part of the executive team at MongoMusic, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2000. Paul held group management positions at MSN Entertainment over product management,...

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