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105 Months Later…

The Squidoo Summer Team

Squidoo began for me the day I met Seth Godin – Father’s Day, 2005 to be exact. That day, Seth told me and three other people his idea and handed me a 19 pager about his vision for the site.

I spent the summer as the architect tasked with turning that idea into reality. It was only supposed to be a three-month summer project.

On August 1, 2005, Seth asked me to join Squidoo as the COO, and I didn’t hesitate for a second. I loved the promise of Squidoo, and I loved working with Seth. We started building right away with Viget Labs.

Seth said, “Let’s give it three months and see how it goes.”

On Friday we announced that HubPages is acquiring Squidoo. Nine years and 14 days later.

If my math is right, that’s 105 months longer than the “see how it goes” period. It is safe to say it exceeded all our expectations, by a lot.

Three things come to mind when I think of 9+ years on this project.

This is my record for a single project. It might stand for the rest of my life. I’ve never worked at a company for nine years. I’ve never worked on a project this long either.

The web changed. A lot. Think about this: when we started Squidoo, Facebook was a closed network of about 1 million college students (it has more than a billion members now). There was no Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram… I’m not even sure Youtube existed yet. So there were no like buttons, no selfies, no sharing articles. This was the dawn of “Web 2.0” – the social web, and the web was all about searching (Google).

So many memories. Since Friday, I’ve found myself thinking back to all those months. There are so many good memories, I could fill a book. There were plenty of challenges too. While many of those weren’t fun, getting past them meant a lot.

Today I’ll share some of my favorite memories, in no particular order:

On our fifth anniversary, we donated a total of $275,000 to five charities. As we said then, “The primary goal of Squidoo’s founders is to make it easy for you to give little bits of money to charity every day…. without using anything from your wallet. Every Squidoo page earns money for charity or its creator, and once millions join in, that tiny drip turns into a torrent.” Those causes included Acumen, Juvenile Diabetes Research, Room to Read, charity: water and Wikimedia. Over the years, we gave millions to good causes. We built a school in Cambodia, funded scholarships for inner-city kids and helped with research on juvenile diabetes.

We generated millions of dollars for members too. Our member forums were full of success stories. Someone mentioned Squidoo generated enough money to pay their utilities each month, then later their rent, then later, both. Someone else said they could afford a new car and the payment that went with it. Many have said that Squidoo gave them the confidence to publish online for the first time, realizing they could make money with their passions and knowledge.

Laptop Bags. If there ever was an Exhibit A for what Squidoo was meant to be, it was “Funky, Chic and Cool Laptop Bags”, a lens by Kate Trgovac (AKA mynameiskate). Kate’s lens about laptop bags was wonderfully and beautifully curated, with lots of care going into her selection and her commentary. For quite some time (three years, I think), Kate’s lens was the #1 result in Google if you typed in “laptop bag”. That’s one valuable search term too, as evident by all the advertising around it. Kate became the laptop bag expert on the web. I heard all sorts of companies and people were reaching out to her to see if she might list one of their bags. We even heard from a boutique seller who said 38% of her sales came from Kate’s lens.

Squidoo SXSW AwardWinning the SXSW Interactive 2007 Web Award for Community. Gil and I traveled to Austin for the 2007 SXSW show. Squidoo was nominated for the Community category. That year, Twitter won for the Blog category in SXSW’s annual Web Awards.

The day the 100,000th lens was created. In March, 2007, the 100,000th page was created on Squidoo, and we reached a mark of 50,000 users.

Building an albatross. People who know, know what this blog post is about. I laughed when reading it then, and I still laugh today. Brilliant.

We were profitable, early. We announced in 2007 that we had achieved profitability. We never took any VC funding either.

#35. Sometime in 2012 – I believe it was October – Squidoo achieved the rank of 35th on the web (based on U.S. traffic). I loved to say – “only 34 sites left to beat” (even though I knew moving up even one more slot would be a monumental move).

Building the team. The Squidoo team had a reputation with all our partners of being fast, smart and thoughtful. No project was slapped together, but they all went fast. I won’t say I’ll miss the team, because I don’t think this is the end for those relationships. I would be thrilled to see our paths cross again.

Seth SquidLearning that Seth Godin is the real deal. When I got on the plane to visit Seth for the first time, I was nervous. Not in the starstruck sort of way though. Anyone who has known me since 1999, when Permission Marketing came out, knows I’m a huge Seth Godin fan. While I thought it was unlikely, I did think, “what if he’s not the person we think he is?” People have asked me variations on that very question ever since. I’m happy to report this guy is better than advertised. He established a culture based on three things: empowering our members and treating them well, giving as much money as possible to good causes and providing a place for employees and contractors to have a work/life balance that values family. When we were a tiny, tiny team of four people, I sprung the news to Seth, Megan and Gil that I wanted to go to New Orleans to do volunteer work, post-Katrina. This was in early 2007. Most CEOs wouldn’t have loved the idea of 25% of the team checking out for a week – especially with a few days notice. But Seth not only said “go go go”, he cheered me on in such a big way, it gave me more energy while I was there.

So while it isn’t easy to end a project – particularly one you love so much – I know this is a good time. I’ve now had the chance to get to know some of the HubPages team, and I’m super impressed. I know the people who will have their work transferred from Squidoo to HubPages will be in excellent hands. I’m sure I’ll be in touch with Paul and the HubPages team over the coming months. I look forward to watching the Squidoo lensmasters thrive as contributors there.

Squidoo was a 7-day-a-week labor of love for me, and I find myself needing to take a quick break to recharge. I didn’t notice it as much until the announcement was made.

But I made a list with no particular timeline for what I want to do next:

  1. Take a nap
  2. Hang out with Sara and Kayla and act like one of their gang for a bit
  3. Visit my family who live in various spots across the country
  4. See what happens when I spend more than 15 to 60 minutes a day on No Treble (which has grown to 400,000 monthly visits since we started it)
  5. Look at an idea list that just kept growing and see what’s interesting
  6. Play my basses a lot more. Piano too. Maybe even start composing again.
  7. Figure out my next project