Today we chat with experienced web entrepreneur, Mark Alford, who acquired PetTravelCenter.com for $31,500 on Flippa. Mark shares fascinating insights into his online career, which has included owning more than 1,000 websites and selling more than 50 businesses – don’t miss it!
Tell us about your background as web entrepreneur
My undergraduate educational interests ultimately led me down the path of engineering. After graduating with honors and becoming more familiar with the business world, I learned there were lots of ways to make money outside of the traditional corporate agenda. I started a few websites as side projects, and through self-taught SEO and some sweat equity they exploded. Within a few years I had grown a portfolio of online enterprises and was regularly buying and selling digital assets.
When did you begin building/buying web businesses?
My digital career began in 2004. I’ve owned more than 1,000 websites, founded over 25 online enterprises and bought and sold more than 50 different companies. It’s been a busy decade to say the least! My portfolio and experience covers a swath of industries and revenue models. Including ecommerce, lead gen, advertising and non-profits with a full range of size and scope.
Any special skills that you bring to the table?
I think my engineering background provides me with not just the technical skills to excel in the industry but also I think it desensitizes me from the emotional entanglements of an endeavor. The digital landscape is a dynamic category, one that is surprisingly less glamorous than many believe. Consequently, looking back, I have a lot of gratitude for the pragmatism (slow and steady growth vs. high risk fame and fortune) that has generally helped me evade bad decisions and kept my business growing over the years.
What brought you to Flippa, and why do you continue to use it?
I’ve been using Flippa for over 5 years. Other marketplaces often suffer from dysfunctional transaction processes. Interactions and communication between buyer and seller on those platforms is notoriously cumbersome and muddied. I’ve always liked Flippa because it has a reliable buy and sell process. I can expect a similar experience with buyers and sellers alike, and repeatedly. All in all, my experience on Flippa has been good. Not only have the staff at Flippa served as a great resource, but the Flippa members I have engaged with have also benefited my profession.
What kind of opportunities are you on the hunt for?
Due to my stringent acquisition modeling, I tend to pursue a very narrow range of opportunities. They are commonly characterized by deep industry marketing pillars, robust balance sheets and industry longevity. I avoid any asset that isn’t well seasoned.
You acquired PetTravelCenter.com on Flippa for $31,500, what is the site about?
PetTravelCenter.com is a 10+ year old blog which emphasizes intuitive travel tips for pet owners. It also has elements ecommerce and lead gen activity. Over the years it has served thousands upon thousands of customers. Most importantly, the seller invested his heart and soul into the website and it shows.
From a business perspective, why did you ultimately decide to place a bid?
I was alerted to the listing because of the high amount of bidding activity. Upon review, I found the offering of interest because the website had a reliable seller, verifiable financials, and a strong foundation. I was particularly impressed with the investments the Seller had made in the business while he owned it. Additionally, it was immediately apparent that the business synergized well with other websites I have in my portfolio.
Have you faced any major challenges or had any major achievements since you acquired the business?
I think one of the greatest challenges was dealing with the custom programmed software the site was built on. This is a common problem with older sites and we’ve encountered it before. There are always SEO implications with migrating a website to a different platform and a myriad of pitfalls to avoid as well. On the other hand, working with the seller has been a true pleasure. Throughout the transition of the business he provided invaluable historical details and some very insightful strategies for the business going forward. The site has performed in accordance with what the seller represented. He was very transparent and a pleasure to work with.
What are your plans for PetTravelCenter.com moving forward?
We have some great plans for the site! First and foremost, we plan to migrate the website to an updated platform, rebrand and relaunch the business. New UI, new revenue channels, new marketing channels and many other improvements are coming. Long term, we have plans to engage in an impactful b2b growth strategy. A commonly overlooked growth path for an enterprise involves synergies with other businesses in your space. We believe the business has a lot of capacity for vertical growth and there is definitely unexploited potential in that regard.
Longtime visitors of the site can expect a much improved experience. One that includes a significantly improved website with better content, larger product selection, enhanced search functionality, and vastly larger customer resources. We seek to be the internet’s #1 resource for pet travel products and information. With so many people traveling with their pets these days, we expect to see this industry growing over the years and look forward to a very bright future serving our customers, organizations, businesses and furry friends alike!
Any advice for other web entrepreneurs looking buy websites on Flippa?
The interesting thing about due diligence, is that the vast majority of sellers don’t know what’s needed to close a sale. To make matters worse, many buyers don’t know how to evaluate a DD packet much less request the appropriate items for an evaluation. Combine these factors and you’ve got a classic case of the blind leading the blind. I truly do believe that 9 out of 10 internet businesses for sale on the open market are legitimately represented. Many business brokers like to represent the industry as a ‘wild west’ category using ‘buyer beware’ scare tactics that are intended to provide the broker with nothing more than job security. My best due diligence tip would have to be: call the seller. You can resolve so many questions quickly and easily with a phone call.