My Quarterly Update: Q1 2024
For the last decade, I have been of the belief that there is immense value in creating a personal brand. A strong personal brand allows you to meet interesting people, develop long-term business relationships, and make a positive impact on people around the world. In some ways, I have been successful at this. But I have also always struggled to find the right medium. I’ve tried writing business books, creating YouTube videos, doing a podcast, and writing on my blog consistently. None of them ever quite felt natural to me, which led me to set aside each of these efforts.
After getting active on Twitter/X again early last year, I realized that short-form written content is what comes most naturally to me. It doesn’t take me much time to write a 100-to-500-word piece, and it’s easy to distribute my content via Twitter, LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent, Facebook. People have responded, too. My Twitter account has grown to nearly 71,000 followers (although some of these came from a paid advertising campaign.) One of my tweets was seen more than 350,000 times last month (see the tweet), and I even got a reply on one of my Tweets from Elon Musk (see the reply). I’ll continue to do my quarterly written updates, but if you want to always get my latest content, consider following me on Twitter or connecting with me on LinkedIn. I’ll also be doing more with my personal email list this year, but stay tuned for more on that.
Anyway, here’s the rest of my quarterly update to wrap up 2023:
MarketBeat’s New Office
After two and a half years of planning, design, and construction, we are finally working out of our new office in the Cherapa II building in downtown Sioux Falls. We have approximately 10,000 square feet of office space, including 8 private offices, 3 meeting rooms, a full kitchen, a small gym, a wellness/mother’s room, and a private bathroom with a shower. Our 500-gallon saltwater fish tank made the move as well. We also have some fun amenities, including an espresso bar, a garden room, a large scrolling stock ticker, a speakeasy, and local art from several local artists. We also have a great view of downtown Sioux Falls. There are a few things left that the construction company needs to finish up, but we are close. It goes without saying that our team loves the new space.
My belief is that if you want white-collar workers to want to work from the office, you must give them a better environment to work in than they have at home. Yes, you can tell them they must come into the office to keep their job, but that doesn’t engender job satisfaction or company loyalty. We think if we give them a great office to work from, they will want to come in and be with their coworkers most days and we will reap the rewards of in-person collaboration. We’ve seen this play out with some employees who used to primarily work from home, choosing to come into the office nearly every day.
If you would like to come see the new office, we will be having an open house and a ribbon cutting on February 27th from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM. We would love to see you there!
MarketBeat Business Update
MarketBeat had a good year from a business perspective. Our top-line revenue grew by about 30%, but our profit stayed relatively flat because we made substantial investments in advertising, technology infrastructure, and our new office. We hired two new employees this year: Alix Andal, a graphic designer, and Michael Hixson, a digital media buyer. We will be posting a position for an office manager in January and possibly some additional positions throughout the course of 2024.
One of our big strategies for 2023 was launching partner lists, where we developed a “house mailing list” for investing advertising agencies with extra ad inventory. The idea is that they do the advertising for the email list, and we manage the email list, including branding, content creation, list management, technical infrastructure, advertising sales, and billing. We then split the revenue generated with our partners 50-50. The beauty of these deals is that they bring our advertising costs down to zero and generate a new revenue stream for both us and our ad network partners. We currently have three of these deals in place and they have added more than 200,000 new subscribers into our universe. You can see an example of these partner newsletters at www.tickertalk.com.
Moving into 2024, we will take on the big project of redesigning MarketBeat.com. MarketBeat last got a significant design update in 2019 and we’re ready to give it a facelift. We also plan on launching an earnings-focused newsletter and spinning out our cryptocurrency newsletter into a separate brand. We will likely significantly revamp our proprietary ad-serving technology to better show the best-performing ads to our audience. Finally, we are working on a big SEO project for MarketBeat.com to hopefully reverse the downtrend in search traffic we have seen during the last 24 months.
In December 2022, MarketBeat purchased a private jet (a Cessna Citation Excel, if you’re wondering) and had it refurbished. I don’t talk about it much because people get weird about it. One of my goals for 2023 was to use the company plane once per month throughout the year. Private jets are like time machines in that they make travel quicker and regional day trips viable. They allow me to go to events and speak at conferences that would otherwise mean too much time away from my wife and kids.
This fall, I took two one-day trips to speak at conferences. I spoke at Innovation Expo in Rapid City in October and spoke at Prairie Capital Summit up in Fargo. I flew down to Las Vegas for Rhodium Weekend, a mastermind event that I have been going to for the last ten years. I also went to Austin in December for the Four Rooms mastermind, where I met a bunch of new and interesting people. I also got to meet one of my internet business heroes, Ryan Deiss, in person after the event.
We didn’t take any family trips in Q4 because we were “traveled out” as a family. We will go somewhere over President’s Day Weekend (possibly Florida) but haven’t decided on an exact destination yet. I will be going to Jacksonville at the end of January for Financial Marketing Summit, but I haven’t booked any travel after Q1 yet.
Joining the Enterprise Institute Board
In addition to joining the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce board this fall, I have also agreed to join the board of the South Dakota Enterprise Institute, a non-profit organization setup by the founders of Daktronics that facilitates the creation of angel investment funds in the state. Having participated in three angel funds set up by Enterprise Institute (Falls Angel Fund I, II, and III), joining this board is a natural fit. I hope to help Tom Eitreim and his team create new sources of capital for startup businesses during my term on the board. I do not plan on joining any additional boards in 2024.
Homestead Living Investment
As the commercial real estate market has slowed down, I have been looking for investment opportunities in other private companies. I am generally looking for businesses with established revenue streams that are run by founders with a proven track record and have a strong opportunity for growth. I had an opportunity to invest in ConvertKit, an email marketing platform, last fall.
Now, I am happy to share that I have purchased a 25% stake in Homestead Living, a media company in the homesteading and survival space. This opportunity is exciting because there are immediate acquisition opportunities and there isn’t a dominant national player in the category. Tim Weelborg, my business partner at Homegrown Capital, will be serving on the board of the company on my behalf. This investment would have likely been a Homegrown Capital Fund 1 investment, but unfortunately it doesn’t meet the criteria that we told our investor group that we would follow (Midwest technology companies). Since it was out of scope for Homegrown’s fund, it was a great opportunity to invest in the company personally.
For the second year in a row, MarketBeat is teaming up with SiouxFalls.Business to host the Sioux Falls CEO Summit. At this event, we invite C-level leaders to hear from key leaders and executives from around the region. Last year was keynoted by Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari. This year’s event will tentatively be held on March 6th, but we can’t confirm the date yet because we are waiting to hear back from a potential keynote speaker. If you are a C-level executive and would like an invite to this event, drop a note to [email protected] and we’ll try to accommodate you. Along with the CEO summit, we will be doing our second annual “30 under 30” awards. Jodi Schwan has been a great partner for this annual event, and we look forward to growing and expanding it over time.
Expanding the MarketBeat Holiday Plaza
For the last three years, MarketBeat has sponsored a Holiday Plaza put on by DTSF at the courthouse square on Phillips Ave in downtown Sioux Falls. This year featured the addition of a singing tree, which had Christmas lights that reacted to music. We were also the presenting sponsor for “Winter Weekends” in downtown Sioux Falls, which featured ice bumper cars, photo ops, food trucks, live entertainment, and a visit from Santa. Between investments in Startup Sioux Falls, Levitt at the Falls, the Washington Pavilion, DTSF, the downtown parking ramp mural, it’s safe to say that we are all in on making downtown a great place to live and work.
MarketBeat’s philanthropic strategy will evolve as we move into 2024. Maureen Ohm is becoming our new director of community relations and will be the primary point of contact for MarketBeat’s philanthropic initiatives. We are also doubling the budget of our philanthropy committee to make a greater impact in the community. Any Sioux Falls-based non-profit (501c3) can apply for a grant on our website at https://mattpaulson.com/philanthropy/. Our team evaluates these requests once each quarter according to our established criteria.
At our most recent philanthropy meeting, we made contributions to Call to Freedom, Collision, Educator’s Rising, Harrisburg East Middle School’s Business Club, SD CEO East, the Toy Lending Library, Volunteers of America Dakotas, and the Washington Pavilion. We do have a larger sponsorship that will get announced sometime later this Spring, but not sure on the exact timing of that. Currently, we are full up on major sponsorships and big projects and will likely be so through the end of 2025.
For the last five years, our family has been attending Risen Hope Baptist Church, a church plant that was spun out from Faith Baptist Fellowship. The initial vision was “one church in two locations,” and the new vision is “two churches with a shared vision and mission.” We made the difficult decision this summer that our family would stay with Faith Baptist Fellowship after Risen Hope spun off to be a standalone church. We made this decision primarily because most of our church relationships are at Faith Baptist, and we are better aligned with the church’s future direction.
This concludes my quarterly update. If you are still reading, you may enjoy listening to a recent podcast interview I did with my good friend Tom Henderson for his “Giving Life” podcast. You can listen to it here.