026: In late 1999, started a developer code sharing website from his bedroom, and 6 months later was acquired by internet.com – a NASDAQ listed company. From 1 to 15 FTE, grew from 3,000 to 3M active users per month to maximise his exit (Mark Fennell)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

June 22, 2020

In this episode, I interview Mark Fennell who in late 1999, from his bedroom in Sydney, started a developer code-sharing website and the now-defunct, Flash Animation Technology. Three months later, he approached Internet.com, a NASDAQ listed company asking if they would like to buy his one-person company. 

From their positive response, he scrambled to partner with a tech company in Tasmania to not only look bigger to his suitor but also bulk up the team and support the fast growth needed to maximize his exit. Only three months after that cheeky email and six months after his start, Internet.com acquired the business with a twelve-month earn-out paid on active users in twelve months’ time. 

Mark and his team of 15 full-time employees grew active users from 3,000 to 3 Million a month only a year later. Two months after the payout, the 2001 tech wreck happened. Mark was able to travel the world for a few years having sold his very fast-growing tech company within 18 months of starting it in his bedroom. He believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is managing time, and balancing with friends, partners, and your kids. The advice he would give himself on day one is legal advice, “Make sure you read contracts and understand them, and stay away from Crypto trading like Bitcoin” Stay tuned for more of his amazing small business journey.

This Cast Covers:

  • Starting a web design company and trying to teach people what the internet was.
  • How FlashKit came about and the value it offered to the market at the time.
  • Being in a growth mindset and the cheeky approach to Internet.com that worked out perfectly.
  • Starting with 3,000 unique visitors per month and growing to 3 Million unique visitors per month and 600,000 active users on their forum.
  • Seeing the monthly incremental growth of their traffic and the impact of having the opportunity to innovate.
  • Knowing when to exit the company just before the DotCom bubble burst.
  • What success looks like for Mark and how he enjoys working in the game development industry.
  • Funding the business through structured deals and the current opportunities in the tech space.
  • Being the idea person and the preference of working with people who are good at running a business.
  • The time consumption that comes with a business’s fast growth and how to deal with that.
  • Understanding how to work towards a successful exit
  • The importance of a small business owner learning how to maintain balance.
  • The mistake of hiring out of desperation and how to build a kick-ass culture by listening to the employees and leading by example.
  • Learning how to sell yourself as a business owner and some of the tools Mark uses to ensure he stays efficient and productive.
  • Reading and understanding contracts before you sign them and the importance of consulting a professional where you don’t understand.

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“Success just means enjoying what I do” – Mark Fennell

“By delegating something to somebody else, it’s not diminishing your value, it’s making them feel better and then you get to do other things and help in more ways” – Mark Fennell

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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