John has built an online job portal specifically focused on the Philippines. Very interesting story of how one entrepreneur has held steady his priorities and built a terrific lifestyle business! Kudos!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
John Jonas: I grew up in Los Angeles. I grew up in a well-to-do area, but we were the poor kids in there. My dad always had a job and my uncle was rich. He was a lawyer. From a young age, I associated having a job with being poor.
That was a driving force for me. I didn’t have a business that I was running when I was graduating from college. I knew I wanted one. I got a job. My only goal while I had that job was to quit and run my own business. It took me 10 months to quit the job.
Sramana Mitra: That’s really quick.
John Jonas: I’m a terrible employee. If I finished my task, I worked on my own projects. I was terrible. I did good work. The incentive system of being an employee didn’t work for me. I do good work, you pay me the same. I do bad work, you pay me the same. It really doesn’t matter.
Let me give you a little bit of why it took 10 months. Every night when I went home, I was working my butt off, not knowing what I was doing. I was just chasing internet dreams. I had a consulting job on the side that I did a little bit of work for. Then these guys decided they were going to be serious. They hired me. They would pay me $10,000 for two months of work. This was 2004. It was awesome and I didn’t have any debt. Me and my wife owned a house but we had renters in the basement paying almost all of the mortgage.
The fact that there was very little commitment made a big difference on being able to say, “I have two months to make this other stuff work. I can take this risk.” That’s what we did. I quit. I did the two months of work for these guys.
Along with that, I was working hard doing other stuff online. Over the next couple of months, things started to make money, so I never went back and got a job.
Sramana Mitra: What did you start with?
John Jonas: This was the early days of the internet. I didn’t build a business. I just chased these random things that I heard people were making money doing. At that time, I didn’t think it was a get-rich-quick thing. I didn’t get rich.
There is some software that would build a website for you. You gave it a list of keywords and it would build the entire website. Within a couple of days, it was on Google and was getting traffic. You put ads on it and you would make money. I put it up. Three days later, I made $10.
Sramana Mitra: What year was this?
John Jonas: This was 2004 to 2005.
Sramana Mitra: People have not yet quite figured out the extent of Google’s effectiveness.
John Jonas: I did.
Sramana Mitra: You had, but the market at large hadn’t. The keyword prices were so much cheaper at that time.