Sramana Mitra: What was the business model?
Shane Neman: It was the traditional media model where we sold ads on our website. We also sold the photos and the print copies. It doesn’t seem like it, but we found a way to find a third-party printer and batch take them and then you sell them for a pretty expensive price. We started to do our own events because we had our own database.
Those were big money makers for us. Nights like New Year’s Eve and Halloween are nice, because everybody goes out. Since we had our own database, we leveraged the database of people who go out. We knew that they went out because we took pictures of them. We would ask them information like their age, sex, and all these demographic information so that we could slice and dice the data and target certain people.
We started getting clients like Johnny Walker who wanted to do a Johnny Walker tasting for people aged 24 to 42. We could accommodate those kinds of things. We started getting sponsors and advertisers. There is a whole ad revenue portion, and there is also a ticket sales portion. We then started selling these tools to other event promoters and venues. That was a little over 10 years of my life doing that.
Sramana Mitra: Of that 10-year journey, how much of that was a solo entrepreneur, and at what milestone did you switch?
Shane Neman: My girlfriend was a minor partner when we started. I’ll give one piece of advice. In my experience, if you want to ruin a romantic relationship, get into business with your partner. That is what happened to us. We were smart enough and civilized enough to not let that ruin our business relationship. We both wanted to salvage that and we were lucky enough that we were mature enough to do that.
Sramana Mitra: For the ten years that you ran this business, you were effectively a solo entrepreneur?
Shane Neman: I was. I was running the business with the help of my girlfriend. I had all the tech experience. When I started, I was programming all of it myself. It was quick and dirty. I got a $25 hosting account. There wasn’t even GoDaddy back then. I don’t remember what hosting company I used. I had to figure out how to get the photos off the camera. You take these things for granted now, but back then just getting them off the camera to the computer was a long and complicated process.
I started humbly. I built my own logo with the limited knowledge of Photoshop that I knew with a pirated copy that I had on my computer that I got from school. I did everything scrappy. I did everything as much as I could all by myself. That was an important experience for me, because when I hired other people to do things, I was able to understand whether or not they were doing it correctly. That was a real advantage that I had.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of revenue level did JoonBug get to?
Shane Neman: At the end, we were doing tens of millions of dollars in overall sales. That was a mix of both ticket sales and ad revenue.