Before we take flight on our very final chapter, I have a little song you might like to hear. My advice is to press play on the video, and let the song play as you read through the chapter. I’m sure the song will end before you finish reading; it’s only 12 minutes long, after all.
Despite all the bullshit I had to put up with, I did enjoy starting OnlineGrinds.ie and working on the project for nearly 3 years, even if I never received a cent payment. However, if I was to do it all again, my approach would be somewhat different, to say the least. If I had a few words of advice for any entrepreneur starting up their own business, it would be the following:
If you are going to take on a team on an equity share basis, research all team members well before you take anybody on. Use a fine tooth comb during this process. Don’t rush into things. Don’t take on a web developer ‘because you know him’. Take a look at projects they have worked on before, check the number of fans they have on social media sites etc. If you see that the large majority of their work falls into the vintage website category, you can assume that this project will follow suit. If the vintage style of website isn’t something you are too keen on, keep looking.
If they say they will develop and design a website from scratch, with all the capability of broadcasting live and interactive online grinds, this does not mean they should simply purchase third party plugins and insert them into their very basic site structure. That’s cheating. All the code should be indigenous. Otherwise the company will have very little IP, which means in the event of sale, it will have very little value. Besides, a blind ape with no arms could develop a website if it was simply based on third party plugins and no indigenous code, and you wouldn’t have to give him any equity at all.
A friend of mine said to me yesterday, “I’m sure it must kill you to wonder how OLG might have taken off with the right team”. She is dead right (thanks again T.).
Never yield too much power. Always retain more control than anybody else. Otherwise they’ll walk all over you like a race horse on a fallen jockey. Never give away more than 49% equity. Always retain 51% for your good self. More power to you.
Don’t Take Bullshit
If your tech partner decides to drop a bomb 2 days before your official launch, stating that the majority of the source code of the site belongs to HIS Company, not your joint company, and that there is no value in the site he was commissioned to develop, tell him to fuck off. Threaten to pull the plug on the project if he doesn’t cop the fuck on. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of bullshit like this. It’s infinitely better to delay your launch, and find a proper developer, than to launch with a cunt like this. In the long run you will be far better off.
If your tech partner starts acting like a contractor, rather than an owner, get rid of him. He is a liability to the company. There is something wrong when your tech partner, who has the same equity stake as you, starts putting time limits on his work output, and spends more time writing emails about how much work he won’t do, rather than actually doing any work on the project itself. He needs to go. Simple as.
For some reason I envisaged BS to be a hoody-wearing, idea-generating, Mark Zuckerberg type who would rock in to me in the office at 7am saying “Paul I was up till 3am working on this new page, I’ve had this awesome new idea”. But no, BS didn’t come up with 1 idea for OnlineGrinds.ie. That was up to the rest of the team. And whenever we brought up an idea, and asked him to implement it, he would reply with 2 words, “Phase 2”.
I firmly believe (and I could be very wrong) that Sean often wonders if I was the right person to go, and that maybe it should have been BS who was ousted. I guess I will never know the answer to that question.
Consider What You Say To Others
If you receive love letters from Arthur’s Cock and Everyone Shites, choose wisely who you share them with. One of my biggest regrets is showing MBB AKA CUNT the second love letter from Everyone Shites. Who’s to say that Learnology wouldn’t still be still going, if I had kept the letter to myself.
Always employ a group of dwarves, they are indispensable.
If you notice that the amount of cash coming in to the business represents a mere fifth of the amount going out (a ratio of 1:4), take a step back and question your business model. Call a halt to the dwarves; tell them to take a seat and have some tea and cakes, or a round of Jägerbombs and a few lines (whatever they’re into). You need to seriously review what you are doing.
They say that it’s good to locate your desk near a window so that you can take momentary breaks from the computer screen and give your eyes a rest by looking out at the beautiful views in front of you. This principle works particularly well when you have an art workshop across the road with life drawing classes every evening. I wouldn’t recommend locating anywhere else.
Law and Lawyers
Read up on company law. Know your rights. Always be able to distinguish a real threat from a shot across the bow. My rule of thumb: if a love letter is signed with the company name, rather than an individual lawyer’s name, it’s an idle threat.
Be able to differentiate company lawyers from litigators (Daniel O’Donnell vs. Vince Vaughan). This tacit knowledge could save your life, one day.
Why The Fuck Did I Write This Blog?
There are a number of reasons why I decided to write my story:
(a) So many people ask me how OnlineGrinds.ie is going. To spare these people the 3 hour explanation that I usually have to give them (and to spare me the 3 hours each time someone asks), I wrote this blog. Now I can simply point them in the direction of www.paulstenson.com and, if they care enough, they can read it. If they don’t care, they can pretend to read it (and slyly have RedTube open in another window).
(b) To vent my frustration. I am sure you can appreciate that my mental health was pushed to its outer extremities while I was working with BS (note that the verb ‘working’ applies to me, rather than BS). This blog provided an outlet for me to vent my anger and extinguish the fire that has built up inside over the past 3 years. As I said in one chapter, it was far better than any form of conventional therapy.
(c) To try my luck at writing. Writing is something I have always wanted to try, and I actually fucking enjoyed it. It was almost (quite literally) a sexual experience at certain points. Most of the time, I had no preconception of what to write and it simply came to me as I was typing (as it is now).
I did try to get an editor or ten to glance over my work. Most editors took one look at the story and turned it down immediately on the basis that the content was far too risqué. One editor came back saying that she would have no issue working with me, as long as I toned it down slightly. This didn’t happen.
I am much happier to be able to tell my story (vitriolic as it may be) i.e. the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me dog (I’m an atheist), even at the expense of one or two grammatical errors and/or misspellings, than have an editor tone down my words.
Many thanks again to all my friends and family who were worried about me. I couldn’t count on 3 hands the number of people who asked me “are you sure you won’t get into legal hot water with this blog Paul?” to which I generally replied “oh I sincerely hope I do”.
(d) To see how many solicitor’s letters I could get. To date I haven’t received any SL’s which is a little disheartening, if I’m honest. I tried my best to make life easy for the solicitors; I even put the letters (SL) around the blog for their convenience. But alas, no letters at all. I am living in the hope that maybe they are waiting for me to publish my final chapter and then they can send one big letter containing all the offences throughout the blog, as opposed to hundreds of letters each containing one offence. This is not ideally how I would have liked it, but I guess it will have to do.
Please solicitors, I am pleading with you at this stage. Please please please send me at least one letter. You can ignore the instructions I gave you in Chapter 1 and use whatever kind of language you want. I promise I won’t give out. Pretty pretty please???
(e) Legal representation. Believe it or not, I have already received a number of offers of legal representation from blog readers. Having read the blog, they said that I may well have a case against Sean & Co., and that they would be willing to consider representing me on a no foal, no fee basis. My initial reaction to them was that of ‘meh’, but then when I thought about the suit-buying opportunity this would present, my opinion changed completely. I’m a little conflicted now however; if I did go to court and had to breathe the same air as BS in the courtroom, I think I might be traumatised for life. So, let’s just say ‘the jury is out’ on this option.
(f) Investment. One particular man who read the blog wants to have coffee with me about potentially getting Learnology back up and running. He said it “was too much of a great brand to let go”. While seeking investment funds was never an intention of writing the blog, I am going to meet him; for the craic, if nothing else (hi A. if you are reading this!). While this is not at the top of my priority list, it is exceedingly more probable than option (e).
(g) To draw a line under the nightmare that has been the last 3 years. The main objective of writing this blog was to put an end to the horror that was OnlineGrinds.ie. The lads have the company now, and as a matter of fact, I wish them well (even BS). I am not sure what their intentions are, and whether the cancellation of the May revision courses was an admission by Sean & Co. that “this is the end, beautiful friends, the end”. I guess we won’t know until their “full launch next Sept”, if it ever happens.
With the right changes, the company has potential to do well. Ashfield teachers are without a shadow of a doubt the best in the country, and the picture we have painted of OnlineGrinds.ie in the media means it is already a recognised brand (again, good enough to do a deal with Ashfield). If the lads can get the business right by creating a freemium model and tidying up things in the tech department, they could actually do very well for themselves.
They may even still have a chance of getting in there before Alison.com, as Alison are only running free maths grinds at the moment. If OnlineGrinds.ie can roll out all subjects, for free, this September, they may beat Alison to the mark, and have a chance of success.
What’s Next For Paulie Waulie
While I lost both OnlineGrinds.ie and Learnology, this doesn’t mean that I am exiting the grinds industry altogether. Despite the fact that the entire industry is worth only €40m per annum (a very limited pot) I do want to keep one egg in this basket. But I have no intention of devoting 100% of my time to a space where the maximum I could potentially make per year is €40m. You might think I am joking, I’m actually not.
Any website where there is a lot of human involvement upfront (like OnlineGrinds.ie) is costly, as you have to pay these humans. The only way you will make money on a website in the grinds industry (or any industry) is if the website generates passive income. Look at the likes of Adverts.ie, Boards.ie, Daft,ie (pretty much any of the Fallon Bros sites); these are all passive income generators. You don’t have gob shites acting the clown on camera, and being paid €110 per hour to do so, while you have 2 viewers watching them, each paying €10. Look at the likes of Cartell.ie or TripAdvisor.com. These are user generated content, database-driven websites, again with little if not no front-line labour. Again, more classic examples of passive income generators. This is where the money is at folks.
To that end, my next grinds related venture requires little or no front-line labour. It’s called GrindsAdvisor.ie and it’s launching in September. For fear of boring you, here is a quick low down on the new biz.
At the moment, if a student wants to do grinds, there is no independent website that reviews and advises on the grinds options available in their area. Students and parents have to do all the research themselves, which usually (and solely) involves checking out the individual grind provider websites. The mummy and student visit a grind school website where the school blows their own trumpet until the cows come home, saying how amazingly, awesomely, fantastically, outstanding they are. The mummy gives her credit card details and pays for a term of grinds, unaware as to the quality of teachers on offer and whether the exorbitant price being paid actually represents value for money, or not. Ditto for online grinds websites and, to some extent, one to one grinds.
Grindsadvisor.ie is a user generated content site (a bit like Tripadvisor; similar model) that will provide reviews and advice on the grinds options available to secondary students across Ireland in terms of price, teacher quality and convenience. It’s an independent advice platform for students and parents to voice their opinions, concerns and advice on grinds providers, so that students are well informed before they fork out anything between €2,000 and €4,000, which is the average amount a parent will pay on grinds in the exam year (Student Enrichment Services Survey, 2010).
In case the Kearns family from the Institute of Education and Sean & Co. from OnlineGrinds.ie (for example) are pooing their pants at the thought of Paul Stenson slating them on his new website. Please don’t worry guys. Paul won’t be doing any slating whatsoever; the students and parents will. However, if you get your act together guys i.e. stop ripping people off IOE, and get your business model right OLG, you won’t give them any reason to slate you; you may even give them reason to praise you. We know how damaging the likes of Patrick’s Tweets in yesterday’s chapter can be for your business. Don’t give students like Patrick any bait in the first place, and all will be well.
GrindsAdvisor.ie aside for a minute, in any of my future ventures, I am going to exercise extreme care and caution in relation to who I work with. The BS saga has certainly taught me a lesson I will never forget. I am increasingly thinking about working purely with animals going forward. I much prefer animals to humans. Certainly on my list of potential projects for the future is a 5 star hotel for pets. The animals will be treated like royalty; they will have ensuite bedrooms with plasma screens showing pet related movies (not Marley and me), and they will get their meals delivered by room service; sushi for cats, sirloin steak for dogs. If you are an investor and would like a slice of this pie, I am taking inquiries now.
That’s All Folks
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading my blog. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry again if some of the language seemed crude, and some of the themes seemed unsophisticated. But that’s me, and I make no apologies for being me.
If you want to contact me for any reason, maybe you are a lawyer who wants to represent me, or an investor who wants to make a massive return, you can get me at my email:
Before I go, I promised you I would revisit the cunt poll to see who has been the biggest cunt in this blog. Here are the updated results as of today 08/07/2014:
As you can see, BS is improving nicely, he has gone from 62.5% to 66%. Both MBB AKA CUNT and Sean are also gaining ground.
Rest assured that the poll will remain open for the foreseeable future. As long as the blog is live, the poll will be live. Also, if there is any movement on the SL front, or any more kind gestures from BS (like yesterday), I will make a point of sharing them here on the blog, so that you are kept in the loop. Just because you won’t have daily chapter updates, doesn’t mean the blog will wither on the vine.
Over and out.