It has been six months since I became CEO of ActiveRain, and as many of you know, it has been an eventful six months. I started as CEO of ActiveRain on April 11, 2011 with a commitment to invest in the underlying technology of ActiveRain, continue to foster a vibrant ActiveRain community, and make training investments to see greater success with our RainMaker premium blogging subscribers.
We have made good progress towards those goals. We have invested significantly in the ActiveRain technology, thanks to our technology lead Chris Paredes, Chris Beahm and Patrick Lesher from Market Leader and a team of consultants from around the country. The platform is much more stable now. We are not experiencing the outages that we have seen in the past. We have developed ActiveRain University with online training, webinars and guides to help both RainMakers and the community as a whole learn about real estate search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and social media. Now ActiveRain University conducts 10-15 webinars per week on a wide variety of topics, some associated with ActiveRain and others which are just great training in real estate.
We also transitioned RainCamp from an in-person event to an online webinar, complemented by local in-person MeetUps. This was a tough decision, but we were losing money on in-person RainCamps and needed 3-4 people full time to support the activity. The new RainCamp Online format has appealed to a broader community (rather than just the members living in one area like Dallas or Los Angeles) and the first round of ActiveRain MeetUps were more successful than hoped, with more than 300 people attending 45 MeetUps around the country. Watch for much more to come around RainCamp Online and MeetUps.
While we have made progress in many areas, we continue to face challenges.
ActiveRain as a platform is now stable, but we want and need ActiveRain.com to be faster from a page loading perspective and easier to develop upon. As I have blogged about previously, the ActiveRain software platform (Ruby on Rails) and database (PostgreSQL) have not been updated in 5 years. Imagine not changing the oil, sparkplugs or filter in your car for five years and then asking it to race the Indianapolis 500. Because of this, ActiveRain suffers from occasional stability problems, slower page loading speeds, and challenges in developing new technology. More investment and capital is needed in the technology and in the business overall to take ActiveRain to new heights.
Today, ActiveRain has two large shareholders: Market Leader who owns 51% of the company and the founder Jon Washburn who owns 45% of the company. Market Leader decided to make an additional investment into ActiveRain and offered Jon Washburn the opportunity to participate equally / pro rata alongside them. Having started a new company called Daily Ticket, Jon Washburn chose to sell his shares to Market Leader and focus on his new company and other activities, rather than investing additional capital into ActiveRain. Though I am sure this was a very hard decision for Jon to make, it is the right decision from an entrepreneur’s perspective. He was a minority shareholder in ActiveRain without day-to-day involvement in the business. Jon is also a savvy entrepreneur with great ambitions for Daily Ticket, so being asked to put more money into ActiveRain was a challenge.
Market Leader has owned 51% of ActiveRain for more than a year, since September of 2010, when two ActiveRain founders Matt Heaton and James Hillyerd sold their shares in ActiveRain. Market Leader has invested close to $4M (!) into ActiveRain to-date and believes in the vision of ActiveRain as an independent community of real estate professionals, with an editorial voice. In the past, Market Leader has been a great partner supporting ActiveRain in visible ways through our technology challenges and sponsoring our new business initiatives. Market Leader has also been very helpful in ways less visible to the community, but very important to the company like lending ActiveRain their HR department to help with employee benefits and recruiting.
Going forward, Market Leader will own 100% of ActiveRain and will continue to invest to make ActiveRain the leading blogging platform and social network in real estate. ActiveRain will operate independently from Market Leader just as it has been doing for the past five years, and I will continue as the CEO. ActiveRain has a separate office in a different location. Market Leader does not plan on integrating ActiveRain into Market Leader, though we at ActiveRain will have more access to assistance from Market Leader (like with technology and HR).
So, where does ActiveRain go from here? We continue to focus on building and fostering the ActiveRain community. We here at ActiveRain are excited by the opportunities to invest in and enhance the community and the website ActiveRain.com Over the next three months, you will see us improve the technology platform, re-design key pages on the site, and leverage the collective knowledge of the community to assist both real estate professionals and consumers through the home buying and selling process.
Watch for great things.
As most of you know, I am very available and will answer questions and comments posted as best I can.