Moving into a larger home has enabled me to open boxes of books and magazines from years back. Doing so I stumbled across the November, 2003 edition of Business 2.0, the Fortune and Business Week magazine of the startup world.
You see, evolving from trial lawyer to legal tech entrepreneur I couldn’t read enough about startups. No idea why me, but my greatest fear was that the tech world would pass me by without my being on the front of the wave.
Jeff Bezos was on to something, and I needed to figure how to develop a startup for people looking for legal information and services.
My passion was all the more intense when LexisNexis aquired my first startup, a virtual legal community, launched in 1996. “I lost my baby and will never have another great idea,” I worried while working out my garage while playing out the last month of my non-compete in November of 2003.
Then it happened, seventeen years ago this month. Late one evening, I picked up the November edition of Business 2.0 off a stack of boxes along side my desk chair in my garage.
No idea why, but I stopped to read a half page (non-feature) story by Om Malik, under a heading, Startups, entitled “Blogging for Dollars” in a magazine 160 pages long.
“In August 2001, Ben and Mena Trott joined what was Silicon Valley’s fastest growing demographic: dotcommers without jobs. Laid off by an Internet design firm, the programmer and his Web designer wife began publishing a weblog to idle away their unemployment. Not satisfied with the available blogging sofware, the Trotts sat down to write a better program.
The result–an elegant content manager called Movable Type—became an instant hit. Posted in 2001, Movable Type powered more than 20,000 weblogs within a year. It has been downloded half a million times, and the roster of users includes publishers Primedia and Gruner & Jahr. “It’s the gold stabdard,” says Rafat Ali, editor of PaidContent.org, an online publication that tracks digital content.”
Not knowing what a program was, let alone what to do with a program if I downloaded one, it was not until I read on, about the Trott’s next product, that I took any interest in this weblog software thing.
“...Six Apart (the name refers to the six-day gap between Ben’s and Medan’s birth dates), expects the money [small amount of venture capital raised] to go a long way. By December, the company says, it will have 10,000 users of its latest product Typepad, each paying $10 a month for hosted weblog sofware. With just five full-time employees, including the Trotts, Six Apart is on track to have postive cash flow by year’s end.”
Like AOL, folks saw enough value to pay a monthly subscription. And more inspiring, getting the company in the black within sixty to ninety days.
Yes, my passion was acccess to legal services for the masses, but this AOL-like uptake of 10,000 paying subscribers within 90 days was way too interesting not to look further.
The monies from the LexisNexis sale would only last so long and if I was going to do a another startup, I didn’t want to raise venture capital this time. Getting in the black asap, or at least having an ongoing subscription revenue stream to tide me over was important.
Mind you, it was not weblog or blogging software that piqued my interest. I had never heard of a weblog, a blog or content management software.
I just wanted to look under the rock to see what it was that people valued enough to pay $10 a month. Enough people to get a company profitable in a few months.
It was only after swiping my credit card and cluelessy walking through the set up of my TypePad blog that I realized this weblog software had something to do with publishing one’s thoughts to the Internet.
Thoughts that when published to the Internet by me quickly attracted lawyers from across to the country to my corner of the world in a garage. Lawyers looking for help on how they, too, could use this weblog software to share what they knew with people looking for help.
So much has transpired in the last seventeen years, personally and professionally. But as I sit here in my den in the front of the house, about sixty feet from the garage, I can’t help but feel some of the excitment of startup as we roll out of this year and into the next.
New team members joining the company, new products, new partners, with the pandemic the increasing importance of our publishing software and a growing passion for reducing the growing chasm this country has in access to legal services.
Much the like the Trotts, I am an accidential entrepreneur. It was only after I was out of a job that I discovered something bigger than myself – blogging.
But had it not been for the Trotts and Malik, in penning his piece, there is no chance I would have found my way into blogging, nor would we have so many legal bloggers sharing what they know to help other people.