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105 Months Later…

The Squidoo Summer Team

Squidoo began for me the day I met Seth Godin – Father’s Day, 2005 to be exact. That day, Seth told me and three other people his idea and handed me a 19 pager about his vision for the site.

I spent the summer as the architect tasked with turning that idea into reality. It was only supposed to be a three-month summer project.

On August 1, 2005, Seth asked me to join Squidoo as the COO, and I didn’t hesitate for a second. I loved the promise of Squidoo, and I loved working with Seth. We started building right away with Viget Labs.

Seth said, “Let’s give it three months and see how it goes.”

On Friday we announced that HubPages is acquiring Squidoo. Nine years and 14 days later.

If my math is right, that’s 105 months longer than the “see how it goes” period. It is safe to say it exceeded all our expectations, by a lot.

Three things come to mind when I think of 9+ years on this project.

This is my record for a single project. It might stand for the rest of my life. I’ve never worked at a company for nine years. I’ve never worked on a project this long either.

The web changed. A lot. Think about this: when we started Squidoo, Facebook was a closed network of about 1 million college students (it has more than a billion members now). There was no Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram… I’m not even sure Youtube existed yet. So there were no like buttons, no selfies, no sharing articles. This was the dawn of β€œWeb 2.0” – the social web, and the web was all about searching (Google).

So many memories. Since Friday, I’ve found myself thinking back to all those months. There are so many good memories, I could fill a book. There were plenty of challenges too. While many of those weren’t fun, getting past them meant a lot.

Today I’ll share some of my favorite memories, in no particular order:

On our fifth anniversary, we donated a total of $275,000 to five charities. As we said then, “The primary goal of Squidoo’s founders is to make it easy for you to give little bits of money to charity every day…. without using anything from your wallet. Every Squidoo page earns money for charity or its creator, and once millions join in, that tiny drip turns into a torrent.” Those causes included Acumen, Juvenile Diabetes Research, Room to Read, charity: water and Wikimedia. Over the years, we gave millions to good causes. We built a school in Cambodia, funded scholarships for inner-city kids and helped with research on juvenile diabetes.

We generated millions of dollars for members too. Our member forums were full of success stories. Someone mentioned Squidoo generated enough money to pay their utilities each month, then later their rent, then later, both. Someone else said they could afford a new car and the payment that went with it. Many have said that Squidoo gave them the confidence to publish online for the first time, realizing they could make money with their passions and knowledge.

Laptop Bags. If there ever was an Exhibit A for what Squidoo was meant to be, it was “Funky, Chic and Cool Laptop Bags”, a lens by Kate Trgovac (AKA mynameiskate). Kate’s lens about laptop bags was wonderfully and beautifully curated, with lots of care going into her selection and her commentary. For quite some time (three years, I think), Kate’s lens was the #1 result in Google if you typed in “laptop bag”. That’s one valuable search term too, as evident by all the advertising around it. Kate became the laptop bag expert on the web. I heard all sorts of companies and people were reaching out to her to see if she might list one of their bags. We even heard from a boutique seller who said 38% of her sales came from Kate’s lens.

Squidoo's SXSW Web AwardWinning the SXSW Interactive 2007 Web Award for Community. Gil and I traveled to Austin for the 2007 SXSW show. Squidoo was nominated for the Community category. That year, Twitter won for the Blog category in SXSW’s annual Web Awards.

The day the 100,000th lens was created. In March, 2007, the 100,000th page was created on Squidoo, and we reached a mark of 50,000 users.

Building an albatross. People who know, know what this blog post is about. I laughed when reading it then, and I still laugh today. Brilliant.

We were profitable, early. We announced in 2007 that we had achieved profitability. We never took any VC funding either.

#35. Sometime in 2012 – I believe it was October – Squidoo achieved the rank of 35th on the web (based on U.S. traffic). I loved to say – “only 34 sites left to beat” (even though I knew moving up even one more slot would be a monumental move).

Building the team. The Squidoo team had a reputation with all our partners of being fast, smart and thoughtful. No project was slapped together, but they all went fast. I won’t say I’ll miss the team, because I don’t think this is the end for those relationships. I would be thrilled to see our paths cross again.

Seth SquidLearning that Seth Godin is the real deal. When I got on the plane to visit Seth for the first time, I was nervous. Not in the starstruck sort of way though. Anyone who has known me since 1999, when Permission Marketing came out, knows I’m a huge Seth Godin fan. While I thought it was unlikely, I did think, β€œwhat if he’s not the person we think he is?” People have asked me variations on that very question ever since. I’m happy to report this guy is better than advertised. He established a culture based on three things: empowering our members and treating them well, giving as much money as possible to good causes and providing a place for employees and contractors to have a work/life balance that values family. When we were a tiny, tiny team of four people, I sprung the news to Seth, Megan and Gil that I wanted to go to New Orleans to do volunteer work, post-Katrina. This was in early 2007. Most CEOs wouldn’t have loved the idea of 25% of the team checking out for a week – especially with a few days notice. But Seth not only said “go go go”, he cheered me on in such a big way, it gave me more energy while I was there.

So while it isn’t easy to end a project – particularly one you love so much – I know this is a good time. I’ve now had the chance to get to know some of the HubPages team, and I’m super impressed. I know the people who will have their work transferred from Squidoo to HubPages will be in excellent hands. I’m sure I’ll be in touch with Paul and the HubPages team over the coming months. I look forward to watching the Squidoo lensmasters thrive as contributors there.

Squidoo was a 7-day-a-week labor of love for me, and I find myself needing to take a quick break to recharge. I didn’t notice it as much until the announcement was made.

But I made a list with no particular timeline for what I want to do next:

  1. Take a nap
  2. Hang out with Sara and Kayla and act like one of their gang for a bit
  3. Visit my family who live in various spots across the country
  4. See what happens when I spend more than 15 to 60 minutes a day on No Treble (which has grown to 400,000 monthly visits since we started it)
  5. Look at an idea list that just kept growing and see what’s interesting
  6. Play my basses a lot more. Piano too. Maybe even start composing again.
  7. Figure out my next project

20 Comments

  1. Kate Trgovac
    Kate Trgovac August 20, 2014

    Hi, Corey!

    Wow – I am completely honoured to be one of your top memories of Squidoo! I was surprised to get the email yesterday of the sale to HubPages, but I totally understand why it’s happening. I, like you, have so many fond memories of Squidoo – though I think I drifted away a little earlier πŸ™‚ But I am so glad the great content that was created is finding a new home. And that the team will be getting an opportunity to do amazing new things.

    Congrats on everything you accomplished at Squidoo! I can’t wait to see what you do next!

    Cheers .. Kate

    • Corey
      Corey August 20, 2014

      Thanks Kate! You’re forever in the Squidoo Hall of Fame.

  2. Margaret Schindel
    Margaret Schindel September 3, 2014

    Corey, I absolutely loved your personal retrospective and celebration of the remarkable achievement that was Squidoo. Both Squidoo and the visionary and incredibly dedicated team that built, nurtured and guided it will always hold a very special place in my heart. Thank you.

    • Corey
      Corey September 3, 2014

      Thank you Margaret. It is so touching to hear you say that. Your name, like many others, is so familiar to me – as if we were coworkers. It has been a pleasure watching you and the rest use the platform to do your thing. I wish you all the best in the future.

  3. charlino
    charlino September 3, 2014

    It has been an honor, and it still is an honor to be a part of internet history.

    • Corey
      Corey September 3, 2014

      Thank you charlino! It is internet history, isn’t it? I never thought about that really.

  4. Kathryn Grace
    Kathryn Grace September 3, 2014

    Corey, I wasn’t there from the beginning, having joined in October 2006, (I hate that I’ll just miss my eighth Squidoo birthday!), but I was there to celebrate 100,000 lenses and 50,000 users. I remember hitting the 1,000,000 lens mark too.

    I learned a lot while at Squidoo, and I already miss the bright, cheerful layout and colors, but I’m sure I’ll make my way on HubPages and elsewhere.

    Thank you for all you did for us through the years. May your rest be long enough to rejuvenate and short enough you don’t fall into boredom. Take care.

    • Corey
      Corey September 3, 2014

      Thank you, Kathryn! Your comment means more to me than you can imagine. I’m sure HubPages will take great care of you. Best of luck!

  5. Gil Hildebrand
    Gil Hildebrand September 4, 2014

    Corey, you are one of the smartest, loyal, and most hard working people I have ever met. I will forever evaluate other business folks based on what fraction of productivity they demonstrate compared to you. I have no doubt that your next venture will be a success, and if you are joining a team then they will be really lucky to have you.

    I’m touched by all of the memories you shared here. I can think of so many more: the flood of bug reports when we first launched, the purple cow that pushed the button, the trips to Winchester, the new feature discussions that went on for hours until our brains melted. What I’ll remember above all else is the way we worked in harmony as a single unit to create something great.

    Like you, until the time came I hadn’t realized how badly I was in need of a recharge. My todo list looks awfully similar to yours. I do hope that you are able to spend some time on No Treble, as I think it has a ton of potential.

    I look forward to keeping in touch and to watching what you’re up to next. Cheers to you Corey!

    • Corey
      Corey September 5, 2014

      Wow Gil, thanks for that. You know I’ve said it a lot in private, but let me say it publicly — you have taught me a wealth of valuable stuff with performance and more. I’ve always admired too how much you cared about the community on Squidoo, and I know they appreciated it.

      And we can’t forget one of the most epic stories of them all: the day I called you to fix something on Squidoo when you were on vacation. You were actually on the top of a mountain and snowboarded down to correct the problem. Gil to the Rescue!

  6. thefluffanutta
    thefluffanutta September 4, 2014

    Thanks for letting me contribute to Squidoo; it was great working with you guys.

    Good luck with your next projects, and enjoy your break. Make the most of it!

    • Corey
      Corey September 5, 2014

      Thanks Tim. It was great to watch you build all the things lensmasters loved on top of our platform.

  7. Paula Atwell
    Paula Atwell September 5, 2014

    I learned a lot from being part of Squidoo and it was my introduction to writing on the web. My favorite part is all the people I have met over the years and still communicate with. Good luck Corey in your future work and take a good, long break. You and the rest of the team deserve it.

  8. BadMsM
    BadMsM September 5, 2014

    Squidoo was one of the best things that happened in my online world so far. I was glad of the chance to meet so many interesting, wonderful people. I will miss the community.

  9. June Parker (Kona Girl)
    June Parker (Kona Girl) September 15, 2014

    Het Corey

    Squidoo and the team (you guys) will be sorely missed. Since 2007 this wonderful platform allowed me to make my living online with very little experience and no coding knowledge. Over the years I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, looked forward to “work” every day and met some of the most awesome people on the planet.

    Thank you so much for all that you contributed!! I do give you my very best wishes for your future with No Treble and any other venture you join.

    Aloha,
    June

    • Corey
      Corey September 15, 2014

      Thank you, June! We will miss you too. Best of luck to you.

  10. Stefan Redtenbacher
    Stefan Redtenbacher February 21, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this – hugely insightful and inspiring! Bassists do make for some very nice people whose goal is not only to connect frequencies, musicians, instruments, etc. but also all the myriad of things around us – family, friends, ideas, inspiration…Very curious to know what your next project is going to be! Kind regards, Stefan

  11. Hashim Warren
    Hashim Warren March 2, 2015

    I remember that albatross post! I laughed at how insider-y it was.

  12. Ed Austin
    Ed Austin June 27, 2016

    Congratulations Cory. It sounds like you did a good job well.
    What’s next for you?
    It’s a tough one, but if you or your associates would like to participate in plugging a huge gap in humanitarian progress and development, that would benefit vast numbers of people, particularly women and children living in subsistence conditions of poverty and drudgery – Let me know.

    Ed.

  13. Ariane
    Ariane August 20, 2016

    Awesome read! Thanks for the insights and laughs. That’s amazing and visionary work! You sure have kept up on your notreble intent too. πŸ™‚

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