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Threewords.me sold (threewords.me)
85 points by jacquesm on Jan 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 47 comments

There's something about how the progression from the original post by Mark on here a few weeks ago (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2051288) to the post that the site was for private auction (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2113064) to the post yesterday that threewords had been sold (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2122604) that gives it a 'used car salesman' feeling.

Maybe it's the fact that in the end it was sold to Kevin Ham; (taking absolutely nothing away from what Kevin has done). Maybe it's that the site had such a quick flame out.

Having been on this site for quite some time now and having the shared passion of others on here to scratch an itch, I'm both inspired by and wanting to turn the other cheek at the same time w/r/t the adventures of threewords.me.

Congrats on the sale, but I hope it's not a sign of a trend to come on here.

I'm sorry that it came across with that notion.

Bottom line is: I really want to focus on my projects that have high revenue viability. I'm not experienced with monetizing free products, but someone else is. Until then, having threewords.me on my back is extra baggage that I'd rather let someone take care of, so I can focus back on what's important for me: creating profitable startups.

I had the opportunity to take six-figure funding amounts from big firms and individuals, but I said no to that. I'm passionate about building better support systems for startups. I'm passionate about building an OpenTable competitor. I don't feel the same passion with threewords.me, and since I never take capital on something I don't really think my soul has a connection with (to go all zen on you), the other option was to sell it.

I really appreciate the kindness of the Hacker News folks for taking an interest in the threewords.me 'saga' (thank you!) but I'm admittedly a little embarrassed because the image that all this coverage is putting out for me isn't something that I actively pursue. I secretly hoped that the threewords.me sale wouldn't hit HN, and was satisfied (until now :P). It's just a side project that went big.

> It's just a side project that went big.

I thought you handled it extraordinarily well, and this should be a case study on what to do when you've got a successful project on your hands that you aren't inspired by... a number of people fall into this circumstance, and usually they just let the project languish and die a slow death. I think you handled this really well and I'm inspired by it.

Congratulations and I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come when people have side projects go big.

I thought you handled it extraordinarily well, and this should be a case study on what to do when you've got a successful project on your hands that you aren't inspired by

And once I find out some kind of number for the sale amount, that's exactly how it will get written up on swombat.com.

Edit: apparently, the figure will not be forthcoming. Oh well.

Thanks man! I really appreciate your kind words. If this helps people derive more value from their side projects, that would be awesome.

Congratulations. are you going to share who bought it? is it public ?

You don't have to apologize, explain, or be accountable to anybody but yourself. Entrepreneurs take on all the risks and sacrifice for being "in the game" and the win to loss ratio has always been (and will likely always be) painfully small on the win side; that IMO should afford the risk taker the freedom to do things as they see fit. Just as you don't have to ask approval to fail, you don't have to ask approval to succeed.

> that IMO should afford the risk taker to do things as they see fit.

Quote of the month.

Thank you. You're totally right. In addition — I think side projects are the new way that developers learn. It's like learning chemistry from reading a textbook vs. actually mixing the baking soda and vinegar. Trying more side projects helps us improve the chance on getting on the win side.

I hope, though, my explanation will also help others in the same situation!

I completely understand why you flipped the site, and you should be proud of the fact that you were able to take a side project that started as an itch and have it become viral so quickly, no matter how short-lived that was. My used car salesman comment was a reflection on 'the process' and in no way a reflection on you or the way you conduct yourself.

edit I also didn't explicitly say what @jeromec did, but I definitely share his sentiment. You owe nobody an apology for the success that you had and will hopefully have in the future.

Thank you! Yes, the whole thing could have been run better, but that's why I usually try to not do things I don't know how to do well (like threewords.me), though sometimes things slip through the cracks. And my other option was Flippa, so, yeah. My other (minor) acquisitions all consisted of a buyer approaching. This was different.

Mark, you've done the best thing you possibly could have done short of dropping out of college and giving it all you've got but honestly - and not to diminish threewords.me - I think that would have been a very dicey decision at best and possibly a wrong one.

Playing it safe is one way to get ahead in a sure and steady way and I'm quite sure that the way you've positioned this project and how you handled yourself in the execution of the project and the subsequent sale does nothing but confirm the fact that you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur under his own power.

Thank you, man. That means a lot. I definitely think it's the right decision — since then I've gotten back on track with my major projects and focuses. It's a hard thing to do, but a necessary one.

Don't forget yourself either, though. People like you are the guys behind every success that happens. You've always been there to help. So thank you :)

> It's just a side project that went big.

Oh, sounds like you built an app and not a business! http://sahillavingia.com/blog/build-apps-not-businesses/

I'd be most impressed if this was a 'trend to come on here'.

Think about it, from idea to successful flip in a time this short, we can only hope that that becomes the norm. Of course there is plenty of room for every kind of start-up, so why not have a bunch of these, I can't see anything but good to come from that.

Sadly, I think that normality will re-assert itself and that this will be a very rare occurrence.

But for all those that might get discouraged by these words, please keep trying, some of you are bound to make it.

I think the point was successful short term flips don't add as much value as growing a business over a long time. Doesn't create jobs or likely new technologies. Not to take anything away from this- it's a neat idea, and always impressive to have such viral use. But, I guess OP just means this shouldn't be the final goal for HN users.

Everybody has different 'final goals', when you're in college and you hit a thing like this you can let it distract you and you might run after something that has limited life-span after all, and mess up your chances of completing your education.

If everybody that's in college today manages to score one like this I'd be one happy fellow.

Nobody forces anybody to flip, it's all up to the people involved.

OTOH, sometimes it may be better to offload something that isn't going anywhere to let someone better suited handle it.

For instance, I keep sitting on http://langpop.com because I've grown fond of it, but I think it'd be worth more in someone else's hands. Maybe it would have taken up less of my time if I'd sold it off immediately after it got popular.

Short term flips can create more jobs and new technologies in the hands of more passionate people.

This. In no way am I trying to take away from what Mark was able to accomplish in a short period of time. IMO there just needs to be some perspective kept w/r/t the overall theme on this site.

Why should people subscribe to your view on this site?

What Mark did is what 99% of the visitors here can only dream of, and if more of them manage to achieve it because of his example then that's the best possible outcome as far as I'm concerned.

I'm part of the 1% that believes that turning a profit (i.e. selling goods or services to customers) is not only a good business goal but a personal achievement.

Yes, and I agree with that too, and so does Mark (though I don't speak for him of course, but judging by the other stuff he's doing).

It's just that there are more ways than one to achieve that goal and essentially by selling threewords.me Mark just made pretty good profit by selling a 'good' (threewords.me + the work invested) to a customer.

> turning a profit (i.e. selling goods or services to customers)

Why does everyone on HN ignore advertising revenue? Or is it lumped in with the above?

In this case, I believe there was no advertising, or at least any advertising revenue. It 'wasn't monetized.' I don't think anyone ignores it, particularly in the case of something that people wouldn't readily pay for.

I hope it's not a sign of a trend to come on here.

Why not? This is exactly what startup incubators do. Instead of building companies that aim to go public after 7 years, they help to create startups that can exit after 2 years. Now you can build your product and exit in 30 days. What is the problem with that?

I too am jealous. Fair play.

I've met Mark (BarCam 4 and 5) and found him to be very intelligent and personable. I think he did the right thing (and smart thing) to flip this. If you look at his other work, it's more long standing and of bigger scope comparatively.

I've worked on short projects as well and then have my longer projects. For example http://www.Blabberize.com has been running for over 3 years now. We could have had a quick and early pay off by flipping the site but instead we took the long haul route to build it out. It feels completely different from a quick turn over project. As such, comparing a site like this to a much larger business with deep technology and IP does not make much sense.

Hey man! Thanks for your kind words :) definitely — I want to get back to work on the big scope projects.

How's the site going, btw? And are you going to BarCamp Boston 6?

soooo.... how much?

Who knows if we'll ever find out

Or if someone can give a reliable estimate

But here's my completely unreliable estimate, just for fun


and who?

Kevin Ham.

Interesting article about Kevin Ham for those who don't know who he is.


If you want to look at the old stuff, his company was called Vertical Axis. One of the biggest domainers around, competing with him was not fun. He is very savvy at domaining and easily one of the most creative, pulling off .cm was brilliant.

The .cm domain deal with Cameroon truly put him in a different league than most domainers.

Agreed. That league would include Yun Ye, Frank Schilling and him.

I would assume that Ham is in it for the domain name, not the site itself.

"Domain Czar"

Awesome job! Has the amount been disclosed?

yeah, what was the price range?

Based on your metrics, I'm curious to know what the market sentiment is for them.

Congrats to Mark. That looks to be a well executed business deal all around.

Congrats Mark!

Yet another sign that we are in the midst of a new tech bubble. Zippity doo dah! Bubbles are a lot of fun, except when apartment hunting in San Francisco. I can't wait for some social media startup in S.F to start throwing raves at their offices every week. You'll know there's only about a year left on the bubble when that starts happening.

Congrats on the sale Mark, if you disclose the price, please make sure you do that on HN :)

Good work! What are you doing next? :)

In case there are any buyers still interested in .me concepts, check out http://winklevoss.me

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