Fraternity Side Project Turned Into Multi-million dollar Media Business

Madison Wickham

In Episode #286, guest hosts Yuri and Jacob interview Madison Wickham, CEO and co-founder of Grandex – a media and content company that’s behind the sites Total Frat Move and Postgrad Problems. Madison’s also created two successful apparel companies, and is generating around $10 million in revenue a year. Listen in to hear Madison talk about the secrets of capturing an audience, quitting his job with a 10-day old baby, and how to turn content followers into customers.


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Famous 5

  • Favorite Book? – Zero To One
  • What CEO do you follow? — Jonah Peretti
  • What is your favorite online tool? — Slack
  • Do you get 8 hours of sleep?— No
  • If you could let your 20 year old self know one thing, what would it be? —That I didn’t have to have a definitive plan…I just had to be doing something productive and learning stuff

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:50 – Yuri’s introduction
  • 02:30 – Welcoming Madison to the show
  • 02:50 – Started Total Frat Move as a one-liner comedy website with a fraternity buddy
  • 03:40 – “Our business plan did not exist…we were trying to capture an audience”
  • 04:56 – Started with advertisements but starting experimenting with other revenue streams
  • 05:38 – T-Shirts worked extremely well – “We gravitated towards merchandise”
  • 06:25 – At what point did Madison realise his project was a legitimate business?
  • 07:20 – “In 4 months we had $2000 a month from ad revenue”
  • 08:32 – Quit their jobs and dived in full-time
  • 09:32 – Madison had a 10-day-old baby when he quit his job
  • 10:11 – Went full-time in October 2010
  • 11:20 – “It was the most liberating thing I’ve done in my life”
  • 13:10 – Financing? “We always made more money than we spent – we didn’t have experience of doing anything else”
  • 13:50 – About 3 years in, they formed a relationship with an angel investor in Austin
  • 15:15 – Learned from him about the process of raising money to develop a team
  • 16:25 – Raised $2.3 million over 12 months
  • 16:44 – $20 million pre-money valuation
  • 17:16 – 3.5x multiplier on topline revenue
  • 18:00 – Grandex currently runs 5 websites
  • 18:21 – Rowdy Gentleman designs, creates and sells apparel
  • 18:54 – Male Outfitters is a premium online menswear store
  • 19:40 – Grandex generated around $10 million revenue in 2015
  • 21:10 – Revenue from TFM and related sites is through advertising and promotions
  • 23:10 – “The media is the lifeblood of our business”
  • 23:45 – Promote apparel products to their media audience
  • 25:00 – What’s worked best for you when promoting online?
  • 27:40 – Things change constantly – it’s vital to be tapped into the social media landscape
  • 28:20 – What’s next for Grandex?
  • 30:30 – Releasing their first feature-length film this year
  • 31:20 – Connect with Madison at the Grandex website and the Inside TFM podcast
  • 34:42 – Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Capture an audience. Profit will grow out of having people that follow you.
  2. Be hyper-aware of what’s happening online: social media changes in an eyeblink
  3. You don’t have to know what your grand plan is. Just start doing something productive.

Resources Mentioned:

  • Freshbooks – The site Nathan uses to manage his invoices and accounts.
  • Host Gator – The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for cheapest price possible.
  • Leadpages – The drag and drop tool Nathan uses to quickly create his webinar landing pages which convert at 35%+
  • Audible – Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5 hour drive) to listen to audio books.

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