Okay ready for the ultimate underdog story?
Let's start with some context. It's the Year 2000 and The Internet is an awkward, capricious teenager. Let's say you want to learn about a niche topic, like real estate investing to achieve financial freedom. Back in 2000, The Internet was full of non-information and get-rich-quick schemes.
Enter our underdog, Josh Dorkin. With a background in acting, he fought the good fight in NYC. Then LA. It was as rough as you'd imagine. After taking jobs he wasn't ecstatic about, Josh got a substitute teaching credential to help pay the bills. Part-time teaching became full-time and acting dropped into his rear-view mirror. "Although I loved teaching, I had other ideas."
While teaching, he put his savings into some multi-family investment properties, which proved to be difficult to manage thousands of miles away, and they started to go sideways. "I had no one to ask for help or advice on how to improve my situation." That's when he got the idea of BiggerPockets: an education platform where investors could help other investors.
Takeaway 1. "A great way to build [a company] is to start out by solving your own problems. You'll be the target audience and you'll know what's important and what's not." - Jason Fried.
Josh launched BiggerPockets in 2004. "I did everything." When he says everything, he means everything: writing code, designing the site, chatting with members of the forum to keep conversations going, and moderating trolls. Aside from contract developers that helped him write code, he didn't hire his first employee for eight years.
The work was lonely and grueling. Growth was organic and slow. "We had just had a baby, I quit my teaching job, and I'd be at home in my boxers with my laptop every day. That was a low point. I thought about quitting one thousand times," Josh confessed.
"I met a VC and he told me, there's no viable path for this business. You should stop."
That meeting was depressing but instead of quitting, he used that negative energy to build his resolve. "I just wanted to prove to him, "F$!& you, I got this."
Takeaway 2. "Let the haters motivate you. Everybody has that in their life, people who doubt them or make them feel less than they are. It just takes faith and belief in yourself. That has to come from you - nobody's going to give you that." Jennifer Lopez. (Who knew J-Lo was so profound?)
Eventually, BiggerPockets built enough audience to generate ad sales and begin hiring. Now the growth started to hockey-stick and BiggerPockets platform launched an educational blog, podcast, and print publishing company with topics like house flipping and rental properties.
Today, they have 26 employees, 900,000 registered members, 40 million podcast downloads with top authors like Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, and Hal Elrod. All this growth has happened with zero dollars from investors.
"We're helping people," says Josh. "We're helping a guy save his property from foreclosure. We're helping a lady working in a pizza shop buy her first duplex, get roommates, and live rent-free. And I know there are more people to help."
Takeaway 3. "Make your vision so clear that your fears become irrelevant." - The Internet1
Was Josh scared along the way? He must've been. But he set a simple, clear vision and never wavered. BiggerPockets is a community where investors help educate other investors.
As an entrepreneur, you'll hit brick walls and low points. Think of this actor-high-school teacher's unwavering vision and unbreakable grit to help you power through the challenges, obstacles, and haters.
1: Would love to give credit for this awesome quote I found on the Internet but I can't find it's origin.