The Short Version
I am Jonathan and my partner is Robert. We own a software and web development company here in Miami Beach. We build cool things for clients but mostly for ourselves. We have half a dozen successful online businesses and just as many failed online businesses. We have 5 children between the two of us. All of them are under 6 years old. We started Long Live the Internet to share our lessons and help people build their own online businesses. We strive to help people do it on their own. You shouldn’t be stuck in a job you hate with no control over your time. Join us and lets get you started down the path you really want today.
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The Long Version
Where to begin? About 8 years ago I was introduced to a brother of a girl who was dating one of my best friends from childhood. That’s a mouthful but essentially he was connected to me in no way. We met and hung out over the period of a long weekend, in a resort in the Bahamas. (That’s a different story) Anyhow, he had worked in distressed property sales for an asset management company and I had worked in real estate projects for many years. That’s right, neither of us were working with successful online businesses. We got to talking and between me, him, and one of my closest friends (now my partners brother in law), we started a real estate company. This hasty partnership was unconventional and not the right way to make decisions. In hindsight it worked out, but you really should consider what you want when finding a partner.
We built the business extremely quickly and it grew quickly as well. We were busy. The economy was in a tailspin. Unemployment was rapidly increasing and people were starting to lose their homes. It was a tough time and unfortunately that meant that our particular business was doing well. We sold bank owned property. We all loved real estate. The idea of leveraging other peoples money to make returns from the gross amount rather than the amount you invested is genius. Unfortunately the real estate business we had built was very systematized and procedural. It lacked some of the excitement of successful online businesses. We were robots performing documented tasks over and over.
The interesting part about that business is fine tuning your people skills and measuring your words. While it was a difficult time for many people losing their homes, there were an equal number of aggressive, trouble-making investors clamoring for these distressed home sales. It wasn’t uncommon for us to receive 10 to 20 offers on a property. Selling was never the problem. Navigating the mine field of trouble-makers was.
Let me digress for a little briefly. My partner and I live on Miami Beach and both grew up in Miami. We both left here to “greener pastures” to go up north for school. I got a degree in Economics and Bob a degree in Management but we both had a strong interest in successful online businesses. I had started an online auction site similar to eBay while in school which I ultimately sold and also worked for an internet startup at the time called Varsity Books.
They were a new online bookstore that sold textbooks at a steep discount to college book stores. I always had the entrepreneurial bug. Read more about my guerrilla marketing tactics on campus with VaristyBooks. Bob had also ventured into several entrepreneurial pursuits during high school and college. During high school Bob ventured into book sales as well, but not through traditional avenues. That’s a story for another time.
We both had knowledge and interest of the internet and successful online businesses but were not “Coders.” I had played with HTML but had more interest than knowledge. In hindsight I was learning marketing. I was learning product or service positioning. I was interested in the business part of successful online businesses. This was the time of the Internet boom. Stocks were soaring daily and teenagers were becoming overnight millionaires. I was captivated and wanted out of school immediately. The whole world was at my fingertips and I was stuck in school learning how to learn. I don’t regret any of it in hindsight. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know and I had a whole life in front of me.
When I graduated I went to work for a high flying internet company MyCity.com that ultimately went bust. There were smart people involved, but no direction and no clear path to profits. The funding dried up along with the rest of the world in the internet crash, and I went into real estate. Real Estate was my other passion and a passion of Bobs. Its all a numbers game and if you do your homework correctly you can be very successful with real estate. If you don’t do your homework, buy on a hunch and a prayer, you can get slaughtered. So years later, after multiple real estate jobs and ventures, we found ourselves partnering for this distressed property business. We didn’t know but we would eventually be going full circle into successful online businesses.
So as I get back to the actual story, we were rapidly building a multi-office real estate company focused on selling bank owned properties. We were successful and in our first full year of business ended up grossing over $1 million dollars. Things were great and the sky was the limit. The problem though was that our destiny and ultimately how we fed our families was tied to three clients. We had the three largest financial institutions at the time and each accounted for about 30% of our income.
And then the regulators came. The banks were bailed out and the larger institutions were quasi-controlled by the federal government. This meant that changes were taking place that were beyond our control. New policy and new regulations were being implemented, which in turn, started affecting us. Previously being allocated 500 properties from a specific client was now lowered to 250 and previously having 6 offices that could take their files, was reduced down to 2. All of these factors were beyond our control and non-negotiable. We realized it was time to divest and start planning a contingency. We didn’t know yet but it was going to be successful online businesses.
Now I circle back to the forms we had to use for our other business. We knew there had to be a better way to fill them out. The software that was the standard at the time was not web based. You had to download it to your computer and get a license and then use it only on the computer you installed it. We decided we were going to try and build something better. We weren’t so sure we could sell it though. After many months and tireless hours of revisions we launched in a haste. We had finished a small portion of the software and decided to give it as a free version. Be sure to read why we now think the freemium model sucks.
Our paid version came shortly after. We spent a lot of time thinking about pricing. In hindsight we should have doubled our SaaS pricing then.
Over the next couple of months we kept gaining more and more users and I was hooked. I remember thinking that this is the ultimate numbers game. If I could replicate this or increase the numbers, the snowball would slowly grow. Not only would it grow, but the companies income would not be tied to 1 or 2 or 3 individual clients. We could launch multiple successful online businesses and grow to 1000’s of customers across multiple products. We no longer needed to be beholden to any specific client. People could come and go but their affect on the bottom line would be marginal.
Over the course of the next year or two we continued to roll out upgrades to the initial system and rolled out 4 or 5 other successful online businesses. We used the same pdf form engine to build a form solution for a number of different states across the country. We created a tax software solution and an e-signature product. We increased our subscriber base and divested away from any one product. We started doing work for clients and built up a service business. Our operation and our headache grew exponentially. My partner Bob wrote a great story about this time in detail on Medium.
And here we are today. We have come full circle and have made a concerted effort to really work on the things we both love. More successful online businesses. We recently published a book on How to Start an Online Store on Amazon which made it to the top-sellers list the opening week we released. And now we have launched Long Live the Internet. We have helped countless people and made countless mistakes over the years. We want to spread the word and we hope to build a community of like minded entrepreneurs. We want to help you start your own successful online businesses.
The internet is a treasure trove of resources but sometimes you don’t know where to begin. Unfortunately you don’t know how much you don’t know. We will cover everything related to starting your own E commerce site. We will cover all sorts of successful online businesses and failures as well. Some posts will be more advanced but most of them will be targeted at people getting started for the first time. The internet doesn’t have to be a mystery. With a little knowledge and a lot of hard work you can start your own successful online businesses today and start making passive income immediately. You are not going to make fortunes overnight but you can start laying the groundwork to ultimately become your own boss. Sign up for our email list so we can help you avoid many of the pitfalls we have. If nothing else, we hope to keep you entertained while you learn how to build your successful online businesses from the ground up with limited resources.
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