Selling Your Baby

The first redesign of many - circa 2010.

The first redesign of many – circa 2010.

About a week or so ago something significant happened as one of my previous startups was sold for an undisclosed amount in an acquisition.

This was more than just a blog – it was, at one point in my life, the place where I poured nearly 100% of my time and my entire heart and soul. On September 28th, 2008 I “split” my personal blog into two pieces, the first being the same personal blog which was once called “Human3rror” and then a non-profit technology blog affectionately called “ChurchCrunch.”

Four days earlier I had posted the first blog post on that new property which would be the first post of 10’s of thousands.

Fast forward 5 years and you would find over 100 contributing authors, an extremely profitably property, traffic that could have only dreamed about, and a passionate community that continues to grow every single day.

I launched that blog at an interesting point in my life – I had just rolled out of being an executive at a Fortune 50 and was looking to do something dramatically different with my life. Although I had started down the path of becoming a full-time entrepreneur I wasn’t there yet and so in the meantime I became a technology leader at a large non-profit. I had years of software and product development experience that I wanted to import into this new organization and thought there was enough for a distinct blog property.

It was a gamble, a hunch, and the site launched to the sound of crickets and my mom’s email chains to my family (which she still does, btw). But it picked up steam at an alarming rate and 2 years later in 2010 I would blog a total of 3,248 times in one calendar year – that’s nearly 9 blog posts a day. That year I also posted the highest personal profit from a blog that closed in around $44,000 for that year. I was, in many respects, a full time blogger.

The site evolved and I expanded it into 7 distinct properties aimed at niche targets within the space. It was successful, for a time,  but was not sustainable long-term. It all then folded back into one cohesive property with a name change to ChurchM.ag. It was around this time that the new owner showed up and became the executive editor and the rest, they say, is history.

But, it was my baby. I birthed it, brought it to life, and gave it the very best start that I could possibly give it given my circumstances and time. I spent not just my time but a fairly significant amount of capital to get it off the ground. One domain cost me $12,000 to acquire when we did the channel split and thank goodness it eventually was capitalized.

It was, as far as I can tell, a success and when I started 8BIT it was the first money-making business unit that we had – I donated the property to the founding team and company and we continued to grow it as well as solidify our venture into product territory with Standard Theme, which I released in Beta in January of 2010. ChurchMag was a living study on the use of the core code for a long time and continues to be one to this day.

But the original vision of 8BIT started with ChurchMag – I believed in a revolutionary new media company and I can remember sitting down in Starbucks with 2 of my partners, Chris and Jared, and telling them that this was going to be it. We would call it The 8BIT Network which was launched just a few weeks after Standard Theme’s first sneak peek.

In short, I was wrong about the vision, at least practically speaking, but philosophically I was dead-on. Chris and Jared stuck with me every single step of the way and Tom was added shortly thereafter, after I asked him to trade in his badge at a leading technology company for a bowl of rice and Thai food.

Since early 2010 everything has been going up and to the right. We have grown as a company and our focus is as clear and as razor sharp as it’s ever been. We even started a new blog late last year, WP Daily, and it’s funny for two reasons: First, it’s clearly within our blood to be doing online publishing and editorial and it’s like we, as a company, are coming back to square one and our original roots – we are positioned to do online journalism and editorial publishing unlike any of the other WordPress-centric news sites. Two, because we’ve experienced incredible resistance and doubt that we could actually “pull it off” and “make it work.”

Instead of silencing the haters and attempting to douse the online flames I’ve simply stayed quiet, as best as I can, but it’s tough because everything in me has wanted to point at ChurchMag and say:

Look. We’ve done this before. We made it work. We’re going to do it again, but even better. We know the online publishing industry incredibly well, so please, just shut up.

But I don’t, at least not directly (and now I get to at least share it here! Teehee. I’m such a cheater!) I hope that our work at WP Daily just simply speaks for itself. There is a long road to travel but the site is already trending way past the start that ChurchCrunch had in a comparable time-frame.

But it was my baby. That blog taught me what it’s like to put in the needed hours for incredible reporting and online journalism. It taught me how to be a great editor and an even better content curator. It showed me first-hand what it meant to run a profitable blog and the margins that were possible with great fiduciary management. It showed me what it meant to be hated online and how to manage expectations from both an adoring crowd and the blood-thirsty.

Most importantly, that blog taught me how to be a better entrepreneur, a better leader, a better manager, a better friend, and even a better father and husband.

And now, she’s gone. She’s in a much better place mind you – Eric, the new CEO, is a far better editor than I ever was, and is a personal friend who was an exceptional steward of the property for a long time. Selling it to him was merely a formality and exchange of dollars – the community had already chosen him to be their benevolent care-taker and I and our company had already moved on a long time ago.

But it was my baby – it was time to let go.