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IPN Talk March 14, 2006

I was asked to speak at the following event tonight. I’ll post the questions and answers here so I have something to go off of at the speech. And so folks that can’t make it can plug-in later and see what I have to say. (if you care!)

The following questions are offered as guidelines to the panelists. So I answer them below.

1. Will you show us your Website?
Yer Baby! We gots tons of websites to show. In fact, I can email it to you later if you want. Better yet vist the BootsnAll Travel Network website. It lists almost all of our web properties. I wish I could say it is totally up-to-date – but it ain’t. About 90% of our websites are listed on the previous link.

2. What was one of of your main goals?
Our original mission statement, was/is: “To cultivate and organic community that encourages independent travel”. We have achieved that to a large degree. So we are working on what the new mission statement is now. From a personal perspective, our main goal is to develop an online travel community that is sustainable and that our users could get jacked up about. I traveled for about a year back in 1996/7. After I returned, I wanted to stay connected to the traveler spirit. My mate, Chris, who was on parts of the trip with me, wanted to as well. So we tried to figure out a way to connect with travelers, provide information and services, and make it a sustainable circle. (Sorry I used sustainable like 10 times!)

3. What was one of your main challenges?
There were so many challenges looking back at it. I had no idea what I was doing, we had very little business experience, the market for what we are doing was immature when we started, just to name a few. The big thing was that a way to monetize websites was dying as the dot com boom ended and 9-11 happened. Those, I would say were our biggest challenges.

4. How did you address it?
1) Never give up – act like a bull dog. Chris and I did a paper route for the Register Guard in Eugene from 3:45 am till 6 am everyday. That cash allowed us to eat and have shelter. The other 12+ waking hours were spent on BootsnAll. When you are so into what you are doing, you find a way.

2) After the events of September 11th, I knew we needed to invest more time and energy into what we were doing. Everyone in travel was pulling back, getting conservative etc. I suspected that this time of uncertainty would pass. So we kept busting arse and making great content and products while a lot of our competitors got scared and pulled back.

5. How is your venture is successful?
BnAIt depends on what you call successful. From a financial standpoint, I ain’t rich, nor are any of my colleagues. We do get to work in an extremely fun environment, building awesome relationships with travelers from all over the globe. But, we are profitable for the past 4 or 5 years and we do see substantial opportunities for the future.

It’s successful in so much as we are still doing it, have passion for the subject matter, and there are plenty of new goals to shoot for. Yahooooooooo.

6. What technology are you using?
– All of our Servers are Linux,
– We use a combination of Mysql, PHP, PERL
– We use MovableType and WordPress for some of our blogging software needs. We have hacked it to bits though i.e. a lot of what we do with it, can’t be done out of the box.
– We use a varitey of other Open Source Software as well

7. Who developed your site?
I did for the first 5 years, with my colleague. Today we have a small team of developers that build and maintain it. Of course, we are not just anymore. We build and manage about 25 websites focused on different parts of travel and sports (like World Cup Blog ) as mentioned above.

8. Revenues, growth rates, traffic, investments?
We are a private company so we don’t share our revenue figures. I will say this though, we are not google and are not trying to grow to that size. I am more concerned about building a sustainable model that our travelers/users can get super excited about.

Our web traffic about doubles every year or so. Our network of sites does about 1.5 million unique visitors and 5 million page views per month.

As for investments, I recommend doing a Roth IRA every year of your life. Tax deferred growth! 😉 Seriously, not sure what is meant by investments – but no one invested in us. We are totally private.

9. What advice do you have for the audience?
Depends on who you are, I may or may not have any advice. If you are a web publisher and our build sites for yourself and or others, I have a few bits of advice.

– Be honest, ethical and don’t spin/lie: This might seem obvious, but I do see a lot of folks not remember this basic premise and it almost always comes back to bite them in the arse. Be careful of trickery regarding anything. Tell the truth, een when it might hurt…your customers will respect you more than if you try to spin it. Anyone can read a spin.