Just a short while ago, we accomplished something that I never imagined possible when I created BiggerPockets — we crossed the 100,000 member milestone! As I mentioned in my article last week about the early days of BiggerPockets, I initially created this site to help me with my own investments, and didn’t have my sights on anything even remotely close to this amazing until I realized that the site was making a difference in the lives of other investors like me. I had to push on to transform the site into something even more special, and I can say without a doubt that we’ve accomplished that!
Before we talk about what we’ve accomplished, lets talk a little more about how we got here.
The First Attempt at a Social Network: An Unmitigated Disaster
As I mentioned previously, I saw MySpace as an inspiration for what our real estate forum could evolve to become. People could not only connect with one another as they could on our site, but they could build rich profiles that would allow them to share more information about themselves. I knew the positive impact this could have and set out to build the new social network that BiggerPockets was to become.
I had never hired a developer before, and I’ll say up front that I made some HUGE mistakes. I don’t recall where I found the firm, but I ended up hiring a company to outsource the development of the new site. I first put together specs and designed layouts, and after spending hours with my contact, covering everything from A to Z, I knew we’d have a great site completed in the next few months. My contact was local and his team was based in India — I’d be able to communicate directly with their lead overseas, and the project seemed like it would be off to a great start.
Unfortunately, the result was a catastrophe. I learned the dangers of outsourcing for someone with not-enough technical skill to oversee the process, and realized that a project of that size and magnitude really needed to be done more gradually. I had overshot and ended up months later with a visually appealing site that didn’t work, and the cost to fix it just didn’t make any sense.
It was a stunning blow that rid me of far too many thousands of dollars, and almost made me give up on the site completely.
Slow And Steady: Back on Course
The setback that came with my first attempt at building our social network demonstrated to me that I would need to take a different approach. I decided that we’d start with the feature that I felt was most important – the development of user profiles – and create them first. Then, little by little, we’d add new features to the platform.
After doing some research, I noted that many of the hot startups were using Ruby on Rails to build their sites and felt that we should do the same for the new features on BiggerPockets. This presented some technical challenges, as we’d need to tie our PHP forums with our soon-to-be developed Ruby on Rails profiles, but I felt like it would lay the groundwork for us to transition the entire site to Rails. I found a site called ODesk, which would not only let me hire and manage my developer, but I could also see screenshots of them at work, something I thought would bring some accountability to the process. I hired my first Rails developer and we got to work building the profiles for our users. When complete, I was extremely pleased, and knew that my decision to transform the site would be worth the time, money, effort, and struggles.
Eventually, we’d transition our forums to the new language, and we’d follow that with our blogging platform, property directory, and the many other features that can be found on the site today. Over the course of the next few years, we’d build an incredible social network that was scalable, user-friendly, and which I believe was (and still is) technically superior to our competitors. BiggerPockets gave our users the tools they needed to connect, learn, do business, market, and excel in their real estate investing endeavors.
On March 13, 2005 I wrote the first post ever on our newly created “Real Estate Investing for Real” blog, which is today known simply as The BiggerPockets Blog. Like the few others in the real estate space who had taken up to blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I shared news stories, good forum posts (there were few sharing tools back then), and from time to time, I would add a little commentary. Over time, I began to get a better grasp of how to blog and what people were looking to read on this relatively new medium.
My goal with our blog in the early days was relatively non-existent. There was no posting schedule, no strategy, and ultimately, where would have been no hope of gaining any traction if I didn’t set out to learn the craft of blogging and running our blog like a real publication. That was one of the best moves I’ve made, and it has brought us an incredible amount of credibility, traffic, and new users.
We’ve had 98 individuals contribute to the wealth of knowledge that comprises this amazing publication, which includes 3,463 articles and 21,338 comments.
The goal of the BiggerPockets Blog is to serve as a destination where readers can learn from experts from any niche in the real estate space, where they can get insight into important events and news, and where, like on the rest of our site, they can let down their guard. We’ve established an incredible amount of credibility on our blog, and as a result, have had our content syndicated on sites including BusinessInsider.com, AOL.com, and Realtor.com. Our blog has helped countless readers, and we even had Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Respond to a BiggerPockets Article About a National GO Zone.
The Path To Tomorrow
BiggerPockets has just begun to make an impact on the real estate space. While we’ve come a long way, we still have very far to go. There are many more resources we want to share, many more tools that we want to make available, and many more investors whose lives we can affect.
As we start the next stage in our development, not only are we planning on building up the website, but we are also looking to grow the company. Bootstrapping a startup takes passion and perseverance, but at some point you need to develop your team; now is that time.
Our goal is to not only give our users the network they have found to be so valuable, but also to provide them with the tools that they have asked us to build, and the valuable data that is just not available today. In the coming weeks we’ll be announcing the first new tools and data of this new era, and both will have a real impact for our users and investors nationally.
We’re looking towards tomorrow knowing that as we continue to provide value to our members, and as we stay true to the principles that have guided the site since its inception, that we’ll be talking about many more large milestones to come.
There is just no way we could have gotten here without the support of my friends and family. My wife and children have been so supportive and patient with me, and are the ones that I get up every morning to work for. For 2,135 consecutive days I’ve come to work for their futures.
I want to thank all of our moderators over the years, especially Jon Holdman, who has been a steady hand and incredible source of wisdom for thousands who come through our site each day. I want to thank all of our amazing blog contributors, and the developers who have helped to make an impact over the years by helping me see my vision to fruition; thank you to Edd Morgan in particular. Our partners and advertisers allow us to grow the site, and I want to thank them for placing their faith in our site; it is pretty incredible to have so many of these businesses stick by us for the long term . . . we must be doing something right! We also rely on various other companies that provide services and tools — our accountants and lawyers, the consultants and service providers all play an important role in our ongoing business. Otherwise, I want to thank those friends who have helped when I needed it, those acquaintances who have gone on a limb for me, and everyone else who has taken the time to give their feedback . . . we listen to all of it — even if you don’t think so.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank the millions of visitors who have come to BiggerPockets and the 100,000 individuals who have created accounts on our network. This is for you. This community is your community. This site is your site. Use it, learn from it, connect with it, do business via it, and of course, share it. With your help, we can all become more successful in our real estate endeavors.
Unique Visitors: 10,000,000+
Page Views: 55,000,000
Forum Posts: 433,000+
Articles & Blog Posts: 25,000+
Value of Property Listings: $4.9 billion
Join today and be a part of this incredible community!