Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

Cornell Alum Attempts to Make a Living on the Internet

This is a guest post from Walter Chen, BS '04, as part of an ongoing series of posts about his experiences as a Cornell startup founder in San Francisco. He is the co-founder of Leasely, which makes online tenant screening dead simple. Walter previously contributed to Lincoln on MetaEzra. He can be reached at @smalter or walter@leasely.com.

I saved about $100k working one year as a lawyer, but with $50k in educational debt and zero income over the past three months, I'm in a situation in which I really should try making money soon. At least, I feel that way. Leasely will only start generating revenue once we're able to sell our dead simple online tenant screening services. We're busy jumping through various regulatory hoops with respect to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and credit bureau rules. I freaked out a little bit the other day -- you know, lying in bed, late at night and far from home, thinking, man, I need to make money real soon now or the dream will be dead.

There's the far flung dream of immense and immediate startup success. Reading about dudes that are younger than you who just made a zillion bucks can make a guy impatient. But there's an even more basic question of whether you're capable of simply making a living in a situation of your own devising. It might be a sad fact to face that you can only survive off the largesse of someone else who knows how to create wealth.

In something of a manic fit, over the holidays, while some guys were hanging with their families, and maybe other guys were working feverishly on their startups, I kicked off a few new websites to start my media empire side business. The concept is that my media empire will pay my bills while I keep working to make that apartment rental application process happen online.

I started CaptchaTV.com with a friend. Basically, go there to read some thoughtful analysis on Community and Mad Men. It was easy for me to start a StarCraft fansite named after myself, because I'm pretty good at the game and I'm an egomaniac. With a different friend, I started MagicalMoFo.com, which makes it painless to submit your startup for coverage, reviews, mentions, and links. I helped a third friend, a law buddy, build JudgeFederal.com, which will become the comprehensive source of information on federal judges, their law clerks, and the judging process. And there's one last secret site that hasn't come out yet.

So far from all those sites I've made about $12 maybe $4 of which came from ads and $8 of which came from sales. All my fears have been allayed. In about a week's time, those valuable internet properties have received about 3,500 visitors. Right now, the math isn't looking great. I'm hoping that without expending much effort, I can have the three content sites each at about 10k visitors per month, which is 30k total monthly. That's about $40/month. Not pretty.

The $8 of sales came from MagicalMoFo.com, and probably represented the first time I've sold something I created to a stranger on the internet. The problem there is that I'm not sure the site is scalable. And I don't mean scalable to the gazillion dudes out there with fledgling startups -- I mean whether I can even handle 10 orders per day. I went to a website where you can pay a Filipino guy $.50 per hour to get carpel tunnel for you. The service MagicalMoFo provides involves me hiring "SEO consultants" in India to do some cutting, pasting, and clicking on my behalf. I guess the way to go if I get any kind of volume is to hire some Indian guys to supervise other Indian guys. I already trust Pankaj, so he's probably a good choice.

The other day my co-founder Rodrigo regretted screwing around in college when he could've been building valuable internet properties (like MagicalMoFo.com) without concern for this boring life stuff. I feel the better for it, in some ways, though. The compelled resourcefulness and the sense of scrappiness -- those motivate. First, apartment rental applications, StarCraft, startup SEO, television criticism, internet wiki law, and some other thing -- next, the world.

Walter Chen | Posted on December 30, 2010 (#)

blog comments powered by Disqus

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)