Benjamin Curtis

Speculations on Web Development

Selling a Web-based Business

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Since I transferred ownership of the domain this morning, it’s now official: I’ve flipped my first business. Confabb is the proud new owner of the domain and the Rails application. Doing this kind of a transaction has actually been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but without a definite plan or timeline. Having done it, though, I can look back and pull out a few lessons learned for those wanting to do the same.

  1. Scratch your own itch: It’s much easier to build a useful product if you are the target customer than if you aren’t. In the case of ConferenceMeetup, the idea came to me as I attended conferences and realized it would be nice to have a tool to help me connect with people at the conference. In fact, that’s similar to how Confabb got started.
  2. Build to thrive, not to flip: Though I’d wanted to flip a business (someday), that wasn’t the goal for ConferenceMeetup. Instead, the plan was to build an application that would pull in revenue to support a team of one. You build a better product when you’re always thinking, “how am I going to convince people to pay me money to use this?” rather than day-dreaming about Yahoo or Google dropping bags of cash in your lap.
  3. Be aware of what’s going on around you: While I was toiling away in relative obscurity, Confabb got coverage on TechCrunch. Realizing that I had a chance to do a little coat-tail riding, I quickly blogged about ConferenceMeetup in comparison to Confabb and pinged back to the TechCrunch post. That led to the guys at Confabb becoming aware of me and getting in contact with me, which eventually led to the result that is the subject of this blog post.
  4. Be flexible: When I first heard about Confabb I realized I had some competition (beyond the meager competition that existed when I started the project). My first response wasn’t, “can I get them to buy my app”, but rather, “how can I make sure I beat them at this niche”. It took a little time, but I came around to the idea of selling to Confabb being the optimal path towards long-term success.

In the end, it has proven to be a fun experience. The team at Confabb is excellent, and I’ve enjoyed working with them on moving the social networking functions from ConferenceMeetup to Confabb.

Now I’ll just need to keep these lessons in mind while working on my next big idea. :)