A lot of times I like to remember my humble beginnings. I feel that it’s important for me to do that. They help me remember the original lean startup vision. When your resources are limited, you can naturally grow your business the lean way. But as your business grows, you generally forget a lot of lean principles because you can afford to live without optimizations. A reminder of some of the principles could be great to continue to keep the structure lean wherever possible but most importantly for your future businesses.
This blog is about two humble beginnings, the other one involving Aamir Attaa, founder of ProPakistani, whom I learnt a great deal from. He ended up being one of the most successful and celebrated bloggers who curated content for Pakistani audience. But in 2010, we discussed completely different things. One of them involved how we could save $60 each every month. And here’s an excerpt of that conversation.
His thesis was that since my blog SmashingLists which served the US audience gets majority of it’s traffic at a completely different timezone (9-12 hour difference) than ProPakistani which was targeting Pakistani audience, we could actually upgrade our servers, have higher resources each, host both sites together, and still save $60 each per month.
We went ahead and did that (and continued doing it while it worked). This was a great lesson back then, and a great reminder today.
In 2010, I received an email from BBC about a possible collaboration with my blog SmashingLists. My blog was uniquely positioned in the industry as far as the branding was concerned because it frequently made it to the then front-page of the internet; Digg’s frontpage. Because of that, I started to receive brand inquiries that were way above my pay-scale.
BBC had just launched BBC Earth and were looking for partners for distribution of their content to get visibility. They got in touch so I could publish their stories on my blog as they didn’t have a blog at that time and were just looking for ways to build their brand.
They were hoping that I would then push this story on Digg and get their brand eye-balls.
Guess what did I bill them for this?
Nothing. Yeap. I thought that I’m getting free content from BBC and that probably is great in itself.
I also completely failed to capitalize my future relationship with them.
This is what happens when you give influence to a Pakistani boy who has no idea whatsoever about the billing structure of the west and is happy to take home; nothing.
In 2010, when I was focusing all my energies on a top 10 lists blog, I met someone on the internet who was very good with viral content creation. He lived in the bay area and ran many high volume sites.
While he didn’t really have any interest in wanting to work with me because he was doing quite well, he agreed to write a few posts for my blog on a rev-share basis because of our friendship. I assured him that I will make my best efforts to market the posts on digg and reddit but failed to get his articles viral. In the end, I ended up owing him some pocket-change with no way to pay the money to him because of unavailability of PayPal.
I was up and coming in the business, still trying to learn my way through it. I didn’t know many people. I had a friend who would receive PayPal payments for me in the UK, but he maintained no balance for me at that time and I didn’t receive any payments in the following weeks either.
While my friend didn’t really need the pocket-change, he did mention once or twice that there’s still nothing in his PayPal.
After I was let down by the likes of Western Union which didn’t allow sending money to anyone with a non-Pakistani name, I concluded that the most cost effective way of sending $15 to US is by shipping him a T-Shirt from the US and paying for it with my debit card.