So now that I’ve officially announced the closing of Falicon Programming Inc.
I’m finally free and ready to announce the official formation of my new company, Dig Down Labs LLC.
This new company is what I’ll be building, releasing, and running all my projects from over the next few years (at least), and it will also be the vehicle that I do any/all freelance under.
It’s set up to be a basic passthrough LLC, and I’m currently the sole member of the company. So the taxes and paperwork issues that I mentioned for the previous company should not be as big an issue for this new one.
Additionally, the goals and focus of this company are much more in-line with my current thinking, interest, and approach to the work that I am doing and love.
Actually the core mission statement itself is pretty simple, and I think says it all:
“Building fun & useful stuff for a profit.”
In some ways, it’s all about getting back to my roots and just trying to build great and useful products. Products that start as very simple ideas. Products that are given time to evolve and grow naturally. Products that are supported by profits earned through traditional bootstrapping methods and efforts.
Simply, products that *have* to be good enough day-in and day-out to survive.
With that in mind the primary focus of the company will be building each of it’s products into a high-quality, subscription-based, service.
Occasionally I may explore other revenue models for a given product if and when it makes sense, but ‘subscription’ is what I currently believe makes the most sense and is the most interesting to me in the things I am building right now.
In fact, I’m starting off the company with a handful (12!) of products already somewhat live and you can get a list of them as well as a few details about each from the new company site -> http://digdownlabs.com
I believe to be really successful, you have to have determination and persistence. You have to practice, work, and continuously expand your knowledge base. You need to have a strong sense of direction and goals. A sense of purpose.
An idea not of just what you want, but what you don’t want and what you are are willing to give up, to sacrifice along the way towards your goals.
With that in mind, here is a basic quick list of personal goals for the new company:
1. Build small and focused products/brands that have personality, are useful, and do very few things but do them exceptionally well.
2. Always build towards the intent of long term and perpetual profit.
3. Solve my own problems and scratch my own itches first.
4. Strategically outsource and partner with experts to cover weaker areas and grow each product. Avoid adding in-house, salaried, staff for as long as possible.
5. Keep the resources for each product as lean and limited for as long as possible. Ideally start, test, and evolve each idea for less than 5k it’s first year.
6. Initially target 100k annual revenue goal for each product. Test, evolve, and tweak each product until the roadmap for getting to that initial goal is clear and well defined. Then move all project resources into executing on that plan.
And here are a few things I’m knowingly giving up and/or very willing to sacrifice as I begin this journey:
1. Outside, non-customer, funding. To be successful we will be operating at a small scale and much more like an agency or a client-services business. It is not the type of business that generally lands outside help or funding and so we will not waste any energy or thought on that route. The customers will tell us which products should survive and which need to evolve.
2. Speed to scale, growth, and overall rapid traction. We are not going to build the next Twitter, Tumblr, or Instragram. Our products are generally going to focus on revenue and profits to start above all else - and that means each will have a larger uphill battle to gaining traction. It will take serious time and effort just to get each to the 100k annual goal. Our product’s stories will likely not be sexy or overnight hits.
3. Free time. There will be no funding, and it will take time to get to any level of serious revenue, so this company will likely not be able to be my full time job for at least a couple of years, if ever. This will add to the uphill battle towards overall success.
So anyway…that’s the plan and new direction at the moment. I’m glossing over a lot here as usual, so if you’ve got any feedback, thoughts, or ideas, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
I have officially closed Falicon Programming Inc.
I started Falicon Programming Inc. Dec. 12th 2001 as a Delaware class C corp. At the time I was running Supermug, Draftwizard, and had also just started putting together the Statsfeed service. I was also working a full time job as head-of-tech. at reviews.com, doing a bit of freelance for a variety of sports-related companies, and had just recently gotten married.
Though the taxes and paperwork are a bit more complex, I chose to go the route of a class C corporation because I was already building a handful of products (and intended to build at least a few more). Each one, I thought had potential to eventually be sold or acquired, and so I thought it would be easier to do that as a class C corp.
I also had visions of eventually growing the company into a large entity that employed lots of people (with each product having it’s own team until it reached a tipping point on selling it). And again, I thought at the time if I was going to have employees, a class C corp. would eventually be required.
It’s true that I was doing freelance work at the time, but it was never really my plan (or dream) to operate a consulting company (probably a topic for it’s own post some day). But it helped cover the hardware and advertising costs for the company products, and gave us some breathing room to play with more ideas over time.
Also I had been living and working in the NYC area since the fall of 1999, but wasn’t really plugged into the NYC tech. or startup community at all…and I especially had no contacts or knowledge of the Angel or VC world at the time. So I was purely focused on bootstrapping and slow-growing my products - attempting to raise outside money was never in my mind.
So fast forward to today and reflecting over the 12 plus year journey, I am very happy to able to say that I experienced and learned a massive amount of stuff.
Here are a three quick big learnings I had to experience to really understand:
First - I learned that employees are expensive, and as much as possible, I want to avoid having employees on the books for as long as possible. There are simply too many hidden costs (and paperwork) involved in carrying employees, and it’s emotional and messy to have the responsibility of adding or removing them through the ups and downs of a company.
The best result I’ve found is to develop a true and tested revenue path that can be directly mapped to adding new employees. Once you know what each new employee will cost (and how much they will add to the company’s bottom line), it becomes a lot easier to make the call.
Ultimately, you’re better off building for profits than growth.
Second - It’s really hard to sell a semi-successful project. Profits alone are not enough (especially if they aren’t massive profits). If you are going to start a project with the intent of eventually selling it to another company, your best bet is focus a lot on process and documentation (ie. make sure you provide a high-quality instruction manual from day one). Even then, it takes the right connections at the right time having the right conversation to be able to pull off a happy outcome for all.
Ultimately, you’re better off building for profits than a sale.
Third - If you are not careful hidden costs, paperwork, and taxes will simply drown you. Especially if you are a one-man show like I have been for most of the past 12 years. The problem is that there is simply just too much for one person to know and do right - let alone well.
To get something bootstrapped to a self-sustaining level, I’ve had to focus just about all my energy and efforts into building, marketing, and being proactive at all the customer touch points. This leaves very little time or energy for learning the proper tax codes/rules, or various State and Federal laws for properly ‘doing business’. In all honesty, they aren’t very difficult things, but they certainly aren’t as simple as ‘build X, get paid Y’.
Ultimately, focus on profits and find a good, affordable, and trust worthy lawyer and accountant that you can work with and trust for the long haul (two crucial positions that are *very* difficult to find/afford actually).
There are of course many many other things I’ve learned over the past 12 years in operating Falicon Programming Inc. but I won’t bore you with them all right now (probably over time I will though - so be warned). But these three big ones bring me to today’s overall topic, closing down Falicon Programming Inc.
Over the past few years, I’ve been doing more and more for a variety of startups around the NYC scene and I’ve had the luck of getting to know a lot more people around various investment circles as well.
I’ve also continued to play with building out my own various ideas, products, and projects (a few still in the sports space, though many are now also in the social/discovery/recommendation space).
Throughout that time, I’ve continued to go through the motions with Falicon Programming Inc. but I have not at all been focused on profits or even really bringing in money for the company at all. Which means as a whole, I’m mostly just spinning my wheels around Falicon Programming Inc. and had honestly lost the passion and reason behind my orig. goals for what and why I started it.
It was time to accept that and free myself up for the next thing (which of course I’ve already started as well and I’ll be talking a bit more about in the next, eventual, blog post).
So After twelve years, Falicon Programming Inc. is officially no more.
As sad as I should be about it, the real feeling I have at the moment is one more of relief and being refreshed than anything else. I also come away much more experienced and knowledgeable, having developed some great friendships and connections, and even more focused and clear on what I *really* want out of my career and my work.
All of which just means…stay tuned because this end is really just the beginning of something even better!
Gawk.it has been happily chugging along from day-to-day for about 10 months now.
And while it’s already installed on some of my personal favorite blogs — avc, continuations, cdixon, aweissman, and thisisgoingtobebig to name just a few — it has not yet reached a critical mass on the traction front.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to grow the install base for gawk.it.
When I step back and take an honest look at the product, as a whole I feel like gawk.it is really good, but it’s still not *great*.
I want to make it great.
So great that when people see it, use it, or learn about it, they say “I have to have this for my own site”.
The problem is that I’m just not sure what the missing element is to get to that yet.
So I’m left wondering, what’s missing?
I would love to hear your honest, unfiltered, thoughts and opinions around this question in the comments below…
Hi! I know you're working hard to make blogs better. I wanted to get your feedback on this 'universal' subscribe button: SubToMe. [Seems like I can't link from a question, but Google does a good job!] It's obviously inspired by Tumblr's follow feature. I'd love to gear your thoughts?
Asketh - superfeedr
Awesome - took a quick look through what you have on http://www.subtome.com
I really like the general concept of a universal subscription button…but I think it’s still a bit confusing for the average user on just what this does for them (and how they actually would use it).
Maybe a simple screen shot walk through from the user’s perspective would help?
I’ll dig a bit more into the publisher and developer details you have listed there and see if/what I can do to support it in my various projects as well.