Today we sit down with Alec Larson, a successful Flippa seller who has perfected a strategy for selling websites with no traffic or revenue. Alec gives us the scoop on what it takes to sell a startup valued primarily on potential, and how you can do the same thing.

Tell us about your background as a web entrepreneur

In the winter of 2010 my partner and I saw a need in the real estate market for aerial photographs. Over the next few months I was able to learn how to engineer, build, test and operate an 8-foot aerial helicopter drone that was able to successfully carry a DSLR camera, taking dozens of aerial pictures for local real estate agents. After the success of the drone project, I realized the need for a centralized source of qualified drone operators. Turning my efforts online, I built Aerial Connect, the first ever online drone-pilot directory.

What brought you to Flippa?

Just as Arial Connect got its legs off the ground, I hit a burnout. I was a single founder working on the site by myself, and I realized that it just wasn’t feasible without a team. Having made an account on Flippa a few months earlier, I was really curious to see how much I could get for Aerial Connect. I’d put a lot of hours into building the platform and designing the site, but it had almost no traffic and no revenue. Nonetheless, I decided to list it on Flippa, and the result exceeded my expectations. It ended with 11 bidders, 69 total bids, and sold for $2,050 after a two-week auction.

Now that you have sold, what’s next for you?

After the AerialConnect auction, I was inspired and decided to see if I could replicate what I’d just done with another listing. Since then I’ve had 6 more successful Flippa listings, below are examples of three of these:

  • I bought the domain on Flippa for $47! Within one week I built a really great night club directory on it. Within two weeks I sold it for $1,000 – a very big win. After the site sold, I even had one user contact me via PM and offer $2,500 for it.
  • I created this flight school directory and sold it a month later for $500 and interestingly enough I was contacted through that listing by an entrepreneur who wanted to build a veterinarian directory. He said he loved my design work and asked if I could build his idea. I did.
  • As a used drone marketplace, DroneTrades was special because I established it in April 2015 and did a little marketing. I was able to get 5 users on board and even established a partnership with a reputable drone dealer. Eventually I listed it on Flippa and it sold for $1550.

I’ve had a few people notice my listings and ask me how they can start doing something similar. Having people reach out and inquire about my success on Flippa made me realize that the experience and knowledge I’ve gained could be valuable to others. So I’ve put together an in-depth Flippa training course. The course covers everything from the initial domain setup, to the entire development phase, to the Flippa sale.

How has your business philosophy contributed to your success?

It seems like more and more the idea of building a startup and cashing in big has become a bit of a trend lately, especially with millennials. I read a great quote that I’ve essentially lived by over the last few months:

“In a gold rush don’t dig for gold, sell the shovels”

While I’m not saying creating the next Instagram or Google is impossible, I’ve found that as a one-man operation, selling web development services, themes, plugins, design services, email services, and marketing services has a much higher success rate and can be just as rewarding. I’m thankful that I found Flippa because it has given me the opportunity to “sell the shovels.”

Any advice for web entrepreneurs looking sell websites on Flippa?

From my experience, there are a few main elements that make a successful Flippa listing. The following advice is geared towards selling a website very little traffic or revenue, if any, but I would imagine most of the concepts hold true even if you’re selling an established website.

1. A good idea in a trending industry: If you want to successfully sell a new startup on Flippa, focus on creating a great idea. When I initially came up with the idea of Aerial Connect, I knew that if I didn’t build a drone pilot directory someone else would, it was only a matter of time. Drones are trending, the whole industry is growing at staggering rates and the technology is solving problems and providing tremendous value. I think this concept boils down to three main elements

  • Have a great idea
  • Target trending industries
  • Build products that work and solve real problems

2. The Pitch: Whenever I sell something on Flippa I spend a lot of time lot of time writing the listing description. It’s incredibly important to be transparent. If you’re doing something dodgy or trying to hide something material to the sale, someone will find out, and your reputation will be tarnished. That said, YOU SHOULD be passionate about what you’re selling. My passion for drones helped me go from just a basic developer selling a WordPress site to a guy who had a fundamental understanding of the drone industry and had built a really great startup for drone pilots.

3. No Reserve: Setting your Flippa auction to No Reserve is important for two reasons.

  1. It will sit in the reserve-met section on Flippa. At the time of this writing there are currently only 55 websites listed for sale in the reserve-met section and each one will get significant exposure. Getting onto this list greatly increases the number of views, watchers, and bids your listing will generate.
  2. It allows users to determine the actual value of your site. Having a reserve price or a buy it now price might filter out would be bidders. More bidders = higher activity on your listing. Higher activity on your listing = more views because it will be displayed in Flippa’s most active listings section.

So, that’s Alec’s story, and a glimpse into how he sells websites on Flippa with no traffic or revenue! What do you think? Drop in a comment below to let us know.

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