From a 10,000 Start-up to 1 Million Dollars a Year: The Xomba Story
In 2004, Nick Veneris was your average college graduate with no direction in life. Who would’ve known that his $10,000 start-up would generate over one million dollars in revenue a year? And who would’ve predicted that it would lose its glory just several years later?
Nick’s Journey Before the Start-up World:
In the late nineties, Veneris took a break from college and got experience in the dot com world. He was an e-marketing specialist and claims it was the best job he ever had besides starting his own business. Unfortunately, according to Veneris, “this was the same time the tech bubble burst and the Internet declared a failure.” He was laid off in 2001, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. However, his experience in the Internet world would prove invaluable for his post college career. Once he graduated, Veneris, having experience with Internet companies, started researching online for business ideas. Eventually he “came across a website that implored an interesting feature; sharing ad revenue.”
In 2006, Veneris raised 10,000 dollars to work on a site that shared its ad revenue with contributing content creators. “I quit my job a few months later and took a part time job,” he said, “so I had more time to work on the site. That site became Xomba.”
Xomba experienced rapid growth in the first several years of existence. Content creators received revenue generated through the website’s ads. Xomba “went from zero to $100,000 in revenue over night,” Veneris said. “People made a lot of money. Period. We had people making thousands a month… we had people sending us pictures of new cars they bought with their Xomba money.” Veneris, a professed Star Wars fan, describes Xomba as akin to the “Millennium Falcon.” For him, “it was the best ad revenue platform on the internet.”
The Fall of Xomba:
But like every moment of glory in life, the good times eventually ended. The biggest problem Xomba faced, according to Veneris, was dealing with the extreme success. “It was overwhelming. We were getting 300-500 pieces of content a day, after about a year in.” When the Xomba first started, Veneris was personally sending welcome messages to new users and spent hours on email answering questions about the site. The website was rising fast, but Veneris was somehow managing. He was in his twenties and a cofounder of one of the biggest websites in Florida by 2008. Things were looking up and, for a while, it seemed like he was one of those lost graduates that finally hit it big.
Then Google changed their search algorithm with Google Panda. By 2012, 90 percent of Xomba’s traffic was gone.
Veneris recently deleted a large portion of Xomba’s content in the hopes of renovating the site. Regardless if he succeeds or not, he let us know that the experience was completely worth it. “You become the jack of all trades when you run your own business,” he said. “I taught myself how to hack code, negotiate, run an HR department, develop products, project manage and everything else.” The experience of running a start-up changed Nick’s outlook on life. After 8 years of running Xomba, there is no Internet project he fears being in charge of. It was a much better experience than any introductory job he could’ve landed out of college.
Veneris currently works on another website that produces content for parents, and he recently launched a Co-op game forum. His success with Xomba may have been short lived, but he continues to implement the knowledge he gained in his future projects. Veneris advises other entrepreneurs to not “measure your success by fortune and glory. It’s the journey. Not many people have it in them to strike out on their own. The whole point of starting a business shouldn’t be to become wealthy. It’s about finding happiness and challenging yourself to things you never thought you would do. Being alone with no 401k, no health insurance and no weekly paycheck is a lot like taking on the Death Star in an X-Wing starfighter. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. Next time you buy a car you won’t settle for the dealer price. In other situations, you’ll know how to be humble. Any kind of success or new skill acquisition will feel so rewarding that you’ll finally be proud of yourself.”
If that doesn’t speak to you’re your inner entrepreneurial spirit, then maybe his most important piece of advice will: “I have the most important advice that you can ever be given, take care of your back. Take a break, move around, stand up and sit down. Your back is the most important part of the human body next to a few vital organs.”