Marketplace Takes 40% To Create High End Websites At Little Cost

Mike Wilner

In Episode #352, Nathan interviews Mike Wilner, the co-founder and CEO of Compass, a web design marketplace for small businesses. Mike’s a Venture For America fellow and has secured funding for his startup – a platform which handles marketing and project management for web designers and connects them to small business clients. Listen in to find out why you should forget the startup hype and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.



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Famous 5:

  • Favorite Business Book? – The Servant
  • What CEO do you follow? — None. I prefer following athletes.
  • Favorite online tool? — Asana
  • Do you get 8 hours of sleep?— Close
  • If you could let your 20 year old self know one thing, what would it be? —Don’t believe all the hype in the startup world. There are just as many falls as there are success stories.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:18 – Nathan’s introduction
  • 01:50 – Compass works with network of freelance web designers – they connect small businesses to designers, manage projects, and take a cut
  • 03:23 – Compass takes a 40% cut of everything that comes through
  • 04:07 – People who need a project completed come to Compass – they take the details and then invite designers to the project
  • 05:15 – Designers make around $40-60 per hour, after the 40% cut
  • 06:24 – Started in late 2014 and have been launched full-time for just over 1 year
  • 06:46 – First-year revenue in 2014 was $4k
  • 07:40 – Total 2015 revenue was $40k
  • 08:00 – 4 people in the core team, plus 40 designers on contract
  • 08:30 – Around $250k worth of projects processed
  • 09:15 – Designers have a lot of flexibility on how many projects they take on
  • 09:43 – Growing 40% month over month
  • 10:30 – Compass manages standardized rounds of revision to prevent scope creep
  • 11:10 – “The technology is the easy part – the harder part is managing humans and expectations”
  • 12:08 – Raised a $300k angel round via convertible note last year
  • 13:20 – “There’s still a huge need in the marketplace for people who need a professional web designer”
  • 13:40 – Connect with Mike on Twitter or at Compass
  • 15:38 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Don’t believe the startup hype
  2. The hard part of startups is managing humans and expectations: work on having great soft skills
  3. Leadership is about service

Resources Mentioned:

  • Host Gator – The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for cheapest price possible.
  • Freshbooks – The site Nathan uses to manage his invoices and accounts.
  • 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.