As I write this post, COVID-19 numbers are spiking across the Midwestern states and there are more active cases now than at any point during the pandemic. While COVID-19 numbers do not look great in South Dakota currently, there does still seem to be a sense that things are slowly returning to normal. Micah and Ady are back in school. My church is open every Sunday and is as full as ever. Business groups like Downtown Rotary are meeting in person again. 1 Million Cups is back as a hybrid event and the never-ending stream of meeting requests that I get has resumed as if COVID-19 had never happened.
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone but bringing some aspects of normal life back has been positive for my family and for me personally. 2020 has also brought the greatest amount of professional change to my life since I quit my day job to go full time with MarketBeat in 2012. It also marks the ten-year anniversary of launching MarketBeat (originally called Analyst Ratings Network), which I hope to write about in detail soon.
Now that we are solidly in the fourth quarter of 2020, I thought it would be a good time to write a new quarterly update post. I frequently get asked, “What’s new?” and this series provides an opportunity to think through the various things that I’m involved in, share some thoughts and provide an update to those that follow my work.
Here are some things that are going on that you might find interesting if you follow my work:
After four months of construction, our backyard pool project is finally nearing completion—just in time to close it down for the winter! We have had contractors in our back yard nearly every day since early June and I think pretty much everyone is ready to have this project finished and behind them. We built a 20’ by 44’ concrete pool in our back yard as well as a covered cabana. Our pool features a jump rock, Laminar jets, bubblers, LED lighting, a small waterfall and a slide. The Cabana is 20’ by 20’ and has an outdoor kitchen, some storage, a fireplace and an outdoor TV. Most of the rest of our yard is covered with pavers now to provide plenty of pool deck space. We also built a new deck on the back of our house that our hot tub sits under. We are thrilled with how it came out, but just wish the project had not been delayed by COVID and could be finished with some time to enjoy it this summer.
Faith Baptist Fellowship
Our fledgling congregation on the west side has been meeting for over two years now and attendance has recovered nearly to where it was pre-COVID. We are currently limited in the ministry that we can do because of the size of our facility, with just two classrooms, a nursery and a worship center that can accommodate about 150 people. After one year of study, prayer and evaluation of our options to expand, our congregation recently voted to work with our landlord to double the size of Faith Baptist West. Over the next year, we will be building a 4,500 square foot worship center, a new nursery and reconfiguring some of the existing space we have so that we can more classrooms and a small kitchen. This expansion will allow us to hold Sunday School, accommodate more worshippers and do other types of ministry that we just do not currently have room for.
2020 has been a year of rapid growth for MarketBeat. Between renewed interest in the stock market due to COVID-19 and continuing to execute on our strengths, MarketBeat will finish 2020 north of $10 million in annual revenue with just nine employees. Our Q3 2020 revenue is up more than 130% year-over-year compared to 2019, which is simply astonishing to me. Some of the biggest wins we had this year include replacing Google AdSense with display ads that are sold directly to advertisers, getting better at marketing our premium subscription products on our website, improving search optimization to get more traffic from Google search results and increased demand from our top advertisers.
Our team is currently working on developing goals for our company to accomplish in 2021. One of our areas of focus will be horizontal expansion. We are relaunching the website Analyst Ratings Network this fall. We will also be launching a dividend investing website and a website about insider transactions sometime in 2021. We will also be doing a lot more media buying in 2021 and hope to invest as much as $2.5 million into advertising next year. If strong interest continues in the stock market and we play our cards well, there’s a possibility we could reach $20 million in revenue in 2021.
Startup Community Leadership
I recently wrote about how COVID-19 has impacted the Sioux Falls Startup Community. Needless to say, COVID cancelled pretty much all our in-person events during the Spring and Summer. We have brought back 1 Million Cups as a hybrid event with Pinnacle Productions helping us do the streaming each week. Innovation Expo is going to happen this fall as a hybrid event and Hey Sioux Falls has been pushed back until 2021. Zeal has some new programming in the works, but I do not have any immediate plans to create new regular programming for Startup Sioux Falls until far more people are attending in-person events again.
My other big startup project this fall is helping reinvigorate the SCORE Network. SCORE is a network of volunteers that provides advice and mentoring to new and prospective business owners. SCORE’s South Dakota chapter is in a time of significant transition and Julie Johnson from Aberdeen has been named the new state director for the organization. I am helping recruit a volunteer team of business owners that have expertise with specific parts of business to become SCORE mentors. We had a recruitment event a couple of weeks ago and had several new volunteers sign up to be SCORE mentors at the event.
Falls Angel Fund II
After taking our May meeting off due to COVID-19, Falls Angel Fund II met in both July and September. Falls Angel Fund II raised a total of $1.45 million from local business owners, attorneys, doctors and other professionals. So far, we have put $500,000 of that money to work across four different companies. The portfolio of Falls Angel Fund II includes Cytotheryx, Omnia Fishing, JourneyTellr and Trigger Interactive. We continue to hear pitches from startup businesses every other month. Any company interested in pitching Falls Angel Fund II or its sister funds in Aberdeen, Brookings, Rapid City and Watertown can reach out to the South Dakota Enterprise Institute.
Most people know that I was heavily involved in Alex Jensen’s city council race this Spring, which resulted in a narrow victory. I took plenty of political arrows in the back over that election, so I decided to stay mostly on the sidelines for the November general election. While I’ve made a few contributions and helped a couple of candidates with strategy and data (most notably Taylor Rehfeldt in District 14), I’m not running point for anybody this cycle. With elections occurring in 2021, hopefully we will all get a much-needed break from constant partisanship and politics as usual.
I do not have any plans to run for city council or any other political office in 2022 but will likely help a city council candidate in the Spring 2022 municipal elections and a legislative candidate in the Fall 2022 midterm elections. I am also toying with the idea of creating a PAC that will provide me a bit more flexibility when making contributions to candidates.
Commercial Real Estate Investing
I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about commercial real estate investing this year thanks to Kevin Tupy and the team at Cresten Capital. I cannot say enough nice things about Kevin, Erica, Kay and Kelly at Cresten. Working with Cresten has allowed me to learn the ins and outs of investing in multi-family and retail properties by looking at and evaluating actual deals and has provided me with access to deals I would never find by myself. By the end of this month, I will have ownership in five multi-family properties across Sioux Falls. Kevin and I are also partnering on a new retail center near 69th and Louise that will house a Starbucks, a Capriotti’s and a to-be-determined third tenant. I’ve had a lot of fun learning about and investing in commercial properties in Sioux Falls and hope to identify a lot more deals to pursue in 2021.
I am humbled that both MarketBeat and myself personally have been given several business and professional achievement awards this year. MarketBeat made the Inc. 5000 list for the 5th year in a row. Prairie Business recognized MarketBeat as one of the “50 Best Places to Work” in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota this year. The South Dakota District Office of the Small Business Administration recognized me as their “Small Business Champion” of the year for my work with Startup Sioux Falls. I was selected for the 35th class of Leadership Sioux Falls. Finally, Dakota State University selected me as their “Outstanding Alumni for Professional Achievement.” I had a ton of fun participating in the homecoming activities at DSU and look forward to finding more ways to work with my alma matter in the future.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for another update in a few months.