Over the last several weeks, I have been putting together a list of goals and projects that I hope to see come to fruition in the next year. As I look at the list, 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for both my career and the community organizations that I volunteer with. Some big ideas that I have been thinking about for years will finally come to fruition in 2022. It’s an exciting time. I discuss some of these developments in this update, but there are also a few projects that just aren’t quite ready for public discussion.
This quarterly update highlights the latest developments with my work at MarketBeat, real-estate and venture capital investing, community projects, and philanthropy. My quarterly update posts serve two distinct purposes. First, they provide a means for friends, family, and acquaintances to hear the latest about what I’m working on. Second, they help me understand the various roles that I serve in, how those roles have evolved over time, and where things are going. Without further ado, here’s my quarterly update for Q1 2022:
Startup Community Building
There were some major wins in 2021 for Sioux Falls’ startup ecosystem. Startup Sioux Falls had more than 50 companies go through its CO.STARTERS accelerator program and recruited a network of 40 entrepreneurial mentors to offer guidance to small business owners and startup founders in the community. Prismatic, a local startup technology company, raised $3.25 million entirely from local investors. Events such as 1 Million Cups, Hey Sioux Falls, and Innovation Expo had their best attendance in the last several years. Today, it’s hard to look at the startup community and find any remaining weak spots or areas that need significant improvement.
While 2021 was a big year, there’s so much more to come. I believe 2022 is going to be the biggest year for the Sioux Falls startup community in the last decade. Startup Sioux Falls will make its long-awaited downtown move and fully shift from being an accelerator facility to being a startup ecosystem organization (more exciting details coming very soon). Startup Sioux Falls also received a $1 million SBA grant that will allow it to offer business accelerator curriculum to underserved communities beginning in 2022. Two new venture capital efforts, Falls Angel Fund III and Homegrown Capital are launching in early 2022 giving founders looking for venture capital more options than ever. Up at DSU, the Paulson Center is launching its “Launch Lab” accelerator curriculum. South Dakota Biotech and USD have also received grants to provide funding and services to startup businesses.
There’s a lot to unpack with these important and exciting developments, and I hope to write about them in more detail as these projects come to fruition.
MarketBeat had a bit of a roller-coaster year in 2021. We had our best months ever when /r/WallStreetBets/ investors were pouring money into GameStop and AMC and trying to bankrupt a hedge fund. There were days when we had more than 1 million unique visitors hitting our website because we rank for the keyword “Gamestop Short Interest.” Unfortunately, the sugar high didn’t last. The financial publishing industry saw a stronger than usual summer slowdown, with revenue and traffic numbers dropping about 40% from their Spring peak. We did see a pickup in the fall, but it will take some time or another black swan event in the market for MarketBeat to return to its all-time monthly revenue high.
Overall, 2021 was an incredibly strong year for MarketBeat. We posted $25 million in top-line revenue. We now have 2.6 million email subscribers. We have nearly 90,000 people that receive SMS alerts from MarketBeat. Our website had more than 100 million unique visitors in 2022. We added four employees to the team. We launched two expansion brands – PriceTargets.com and InsiderTrades.com. We added a ton of new features to the website and have gotten better at what we do across the board.
We have several new projects we are working on for 2022. We are going to make it so that users can sync their stock watchlist and newsletter directly with their brokerage account. We are going to add a sustainability section to each of our company profile pages. We plan on launching a new referral program in 2022. We are in the early stages of planning what our new office in Cherapa II will look like. Finally, we plan to hire several new positions in 2022 to round out our team.
For the digital marketing nerds that may be reading this post, I want to share the results of an outstanding split test that we ran. Previously, we tried to get people to opt-in to our newsletter with a popup that offered a free report when they first visited the site. We tested eliminating the popup and simply requiring users to create a free account to use the website after they have visited 5 pages on the site. The switch to the “login wall” nearly doubled the number of daily opt-ins we are receiving, and it provides a better experience to new users on the website. To see how it works, visit www.marketbeat.com in an incognito window and click around a bit.
Commercial Real Estate Projects
It’s been three years since I made my first commercial real estate investment in partnership with Kevin Tupy and Cresten Capital Holdings. We now own 25 commercial properties together, including apartment complexes, strip malls, and quick-serve restaurants. Last quarter, we announced that we are developing two new Starbucks in Sioux Falls located at 41st and Tea-Ellis and in front of the Northwest Wal-Mart. We are also working on building a new strip mall at Dawley Farm and several new apartment complexes across Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
With apartment occupancy well above 95% and inflation unlikely to subside, we think multi-family real estate continues to be a great investment opportunity. Two of our new development projects, City’s Edge and Edgewater III, are starting to come online and have brand new apartment units available to rent. If you or someone you know is looking for an apartment, checkout www.crestenproperties.com or call the Cresten office at 605-271-7893. When all the apartment projects we have in the hopper finish construction, we expect to own and operate more than 1,500 units between Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
Venture Capital and Angel Investing
Falls Angel Fund II wrapped up last summer, and Falls Angel Fund III has launched and will begin hearing pitches from startup companies this month. We have about $1.5 million raised for the third fund, which means Falls Angel Fund has now raised more than $5 million to invest in seed-stage startup companies.
Tim Weelborg and I are also launching a later-stage venture capital fund, called Homegrown Capital. He is running the firm’s day-to-day operations, and I’m helping identify and evaluate investment opportunities. We have been working on the fund since last summer in stealth mode, and we hope to make a formal launch announcement about the fund soon.
Community Projects and Philanthropy
MarketBeat, in partnership with DTSF, ended the year by creating a downtown Holiday Plaza designed to bring shoppers downtown during the Christmas season. The plaza was located next to the federal courthouse and included larger-than-life ornaments and decorations, a family photo spot, a mailbox for letters to Santa, and life-size holiday statues. We hope to work with DTSF to expand the holiday plaza next year, adding new elements and expanding it to other areas of downtown.
As a company, we are shifting our philanthropy strategy. While the MarketBeat Burger and MarketBrew projects were a ton of fun, they also took a ton of our staff time and resources. For future charitable community projects, we are likely to focus on projects where we can provide financial and marketing expertise with partner organizations taking the lead on implementation. That being said, we are working on a major community project that will positively impact the city for at least the next decade. If it comes together, we hope to be able to make an official announcement later this Spring.
Faith Baptist Fellowship West
Faith Baptist West has completed its expansion project, and we now have over 13,000 square feet of worship and meeting space to utilize on Sunday mornings. Karine put in many hours to decorate the newly expanded church for Christmas, and she did a fantastic job. She put up several Christmas trees, a nativity scene, and a photobooth. She also provided advent calendars for the Children and Christmas tree ornaments for the adults. I’m incredibly proud of her.
Our church also has now launched a Sunday School program for all ages called Faith Builders. This is an important next step for our congregation as we develop a plan to become a standalone church over the next eighteen months. There will be a lot more work to do to make this transition happen, but it’s work that’s worth doing. The mission of the church is to make disciples of all nations and one of the primary ways that happens in the modern era is the planting of new churches. I hope that our new church can one day plant a daughter church of its own.
The April 2022 Sioux Falls municipal election is just a few short months away. I am not an active member of any campaign team this cycle but have been helping a couple of city council campaigns and legislative campaigns at the periphery. My political action committee, Falls Community Growth PAC, has made contributions to a few candidates running for city council and the state legislature. Without a strong opponent for the mayor’s office or any very contentious city council races, I am expecting a somewhat quiet election in April. The June primary is likely to have more activity than normal, given this year’s legislative redistricting. I don’t see myself being a candidate for the foreseeable future given my other responsibilities, but I do plan on continuing to help good candidates get elected to state and local office.
That’s the update for this quarter. 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for many of the companies and community efforts I am involved with. I look forward to fully telling the story of each of these projects as they come to fruition.