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Drew Curtis, Fark and a curry recipe database

Drew Curtis is the founder of Fark news site/aggregator that focuses on the absurd in life. With 60 million page views a month, 4 million unique users, 3 employees, 1 book and not a drop of venture capital, Drew has proved you can build a tech start-up to success in Kentucky. (Fark is now 10 years old). What follows is our wide-ranging conversation over beers at Marikka's, a local watering hole.In part 1 we cover the start of Fark and ventire capital, start-ups etc. In part 2 we will talk about new features for fark and various other topics.

Why did you start Fark?

Really it was an accident. I had been spending some time each morning e-mailing weird stories I had found, this was in 1995, to my friends. The first story in fact was about a US fighter pilot who crashed his plane in the Arizona desert and the reason for the crash was he had been trying to remove his flightsuit so he could moon another pilot and lost control.

When did you put up the website?

In 1999, but just really as a hobby. I had two ideas for a business one was Fark, the other was for a curry recipe database. At the time their was only one really good curry recipe database, death by curry and I figured their was room for at least two more but I chose Fark.

When did you know you had a business?

In 2000 we had about 1000 page views a day but the AD market had crashed so we just continued to limp along and in 2002 we had about 10,000 page views a day but again the AD market was crap in 2002and 10k was still too small for ADsand the ISP I had been running also crashed so I had a little extra time on my hands. We didn't have any money so we didn't spend any so we learned to get by without it.

You mentioned your ISP, so fark wasn't your first business?

No, out of college I had beenhired by the state of Kentucky as a database analyst for the personnel cabinet. They had a consultant working and he had installed PC anywhere so he could log-in remotely but he had been using that tolog-in at different times and make it look like he had been working.I discovered that in 3 months he had written only 8 lines of code. So needless to say he was fired and I finished the project in six months and then asked for a raise and they said no so I left and started a ISP with a friend. He knew how to configure the servers and I had a credit card so we bought all the equipment on that. That was a stupid thing to do.You read all the time about peole starting businesses using their credit cards which is stupid. I was stupid for doing it.

I have heard you talk about the fact that start-ups should avoid venture capital?

Yes, In general you should avoid investors when they are buying 1% or 51% of your business you lose control the day you take the money. Because of minority shareholder rights even the 1% holder can mess up your business. VC's are going to argue every point and every expenditure that you make. A tech start-up can do a lot to scae-up without the need for investors.

Can you give me an example?

Build your audience. You can slowly test the market, see if you can get users and build your audience so that when you raise money you have leverage. You can do a lot with little cash, We didn't have cash so didn't spend it and in fact we still operate the same way today.

Posted in Newspaper Post Date 09/30/2017






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