Posted on February 2, 2009 - by Khaled
Matt Mickiewicz is the co-founder (along with Mark Harbottle) of the giant Australian online media company, SitePoint.com. SitePoint is growing quite fast since few years now and doesn’t seem to be affected by the recession. Matt, kindly accepted to accord this interview to talk about the huge success of his company and to reveal key points about how SitePoint has become what it is now. Some really great insights and advice to follow if you want your business to fully thrive! This interview will be really inspiring for most of you! Especially if you learn (and this is not a secret) that Matt started the whole thing in a very young age!
-.Hello Matt, Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of SitePoint and 99designs
-.How did it all start for you? What led the jump from Webmaster-Resources.com to sitepoint.com?
It started as a hobby for me. I started compiling useful links & resources related to web development and online marketing back in 1997 and I put it up as a one-page site on Geocities. It quickly gained traction and popularity.On April 1st, when the price of domain name registration at Network Solutions dropped from $100/2 years to $70/2 years, I decided to purchase the domain name Webmaster-Resources.com.Unfortunately, the choice of domain name came to haunt me, as another website occupied WebmasterResources.com (without the hyphen). When WINDOWS Magazine – with 1 million subscribers – did a write-up about my site, they left out the hyphen, which was a sign that it’s not a name for the long-term. We moved quickly to find a better alternative when Mark joined me in the Fall of 1999.
The name SitePoint was inspired by a billboard for Microsoft’s CarPoint that Mark Harbottle, my business partner, saw while driving in Melbourne. When he hopped online to find out the availability of SitePoint.com, we found ourselves in luck as the domain name had *just* expired. We relaunched as SitePoint in March of 2000 and opened our Melbourne office that summer.
-.Almost ten years after can you give us a brief timeline? And how SitePoint became what it is right now? What worked the best during the start? the forums? the articles?
There’s a great timeline of the company in the right hand sidebar at: http://sitepoint.com/about/
What really worked the best in the very early days was helping as many people as possible. I participated in forums and discussion lists related to online sales, marketing & web development. I critiqued websites for free and offered advice on improvements. I answered every email I got, and tried to help out everyone as much as I could.
-.Surviving and thriving after 10 years including the dot come crash, and without venture capital, is a huge achievement. How did you do it?
In the early days, we never turned down a dollar in revenue. Since we were seen as experts in Web Development, it wasn’t all that shocking when Melbourne companies approached us to do Web Design work for them – and we did.
We’ve also been very moderate in our growth. We only hire people when we have the revenue to support them, and we never took on too many financial obligations before we were ready for them.
In a way, we’ve always been ultra-conservative with expenses & hiring.
For example, we’ve had to move offices 3 times since 2000 as our staff has grown. That’s counter-intuitive for many Silicon Valley based companies which rent 20,000 sq feet on day 1, expecting that they will grow into it eventually.
Likewise, we’ve always been very in touch with what people are doing on our site. When we learned that they were printing our articles through the “print” feature so that they could follow-along with our programming tutorials, we decided to do it for them and as a result published our first every book.
The design contests, which morphed into 99designs, and the buying & selling of Websites forum that turned into a full-featured Marketplace were also all born out of the Community. We didn’t come up with the ideas, just realized their potential and invested manpower and resources into executing upon them.
-.A question I always had in mind: Why did you choose Australia over Canada for the HQ of SitePoint?
Mark was based in Melbourne, Australia as were the first people we hired who came from Sausage Software – makers of the Hotdog HTML editor. As an unexpected bonus, the 2:1 exchange rate between the USD and AUD dollar at the time allowed us to stretch our revenue lot further than we otherwise could have in North America.
-.When you visit the sitepoint forums, where do you go?
I read the SitePoint Feedback & suggestions, Marketplace Feedback and “Forum Help” areas the most.
-.What is your favorite book or kit from the SitePoint collection that you would recommend?
-. What about 99designs?
99designs was spun off as its own separate company in February of 2008. It now has its own brand name and the focus and resources that it deserves.
You can always follow Matt on Twitter.