This is an extract from the book I am currently writing, the Resident Miracle Worker and his downfall
When I joined Talossa, I was a bored C++ developer who was making a good salary for a job which under-utilized my talents, as well as a Perl website developer who had built a few websites for clients and for myself.
I had just sold my first website for 5000$, which I had run at a profit since 1998. I had been a DJ consultant in college (from 1995 until I graduated in 1998) and I helped DJs get in touch with the dance floor.
You have to understand that most of the small bars have amateur DJs and many of them don’t understand what the clients want or, they do and are not able to balance the act between making the patrons dance and making them drink.
My future wife and I really enjoyed going out clubbing to dance, certainly a lot more than to drink.
We thus tended to prefer clubs which served food such as fries in addition to having a great dance floor.
These clubs sadly tended to have bad DJs since the music wasn’t their primary focus. I saw an opportunity and offered a few of them near my college to guide their DJs into having amazing music while increasing their revenue.
To be honest, at first, I was the DJ consultant for only 1 bar, the Crazy Jack, a restaurant with a dance floor for the evenings that was then located less than 3 blocks from our college, located in a small suburb North of Montreal, Ste-Thérèse. We call these resto-Bar and is the most popular format in the suburb, with Ste-Thérèse and its suburbs having perhaps 6 or 7 of these in the mid-90s surviving from college students.
This one was the most beautifully decorated dance floor of the city with the most amazing lights and the best sound system.
When it opened, it offered amazing specials and a wonderful guest DJ which had the place packed week-end after week-end, usually with the classiest students who, in general, had the most disposable income.
But soon, the specials stopped and their regular DJ, one of the owners, stepped up.
He was awful and would chase away people from his bar by playing boring song after boring song, usually 70s hard rock which really didn’t work with hip students in the 90s
The worst, was that every resto-bar, including this one, usually opened their dance floor around 10h30 pm, but the most important dance period in Québec is only between midnight and 1 am (from 1am until closing time at 3am, it’s drinking time…).
But for Students, this DJ had his best music between 10h30 and 11h30 pm when he played the biggest eurodance hits of the week, because to him, it was just filler. This was music he didn’t like (but which the students loved).
Meanwhile, the most popular dance floor of the town, the BST (Brasserie Ste-Thérèse, now closed too), served amazing charcoal broiled Pizza and cheap-ass drinks with beers under a dollar before midnight.
But their restaurant half was open until 11h00 pm and they only played classic rock until midnight, when they switched to dance music with a proper DJ (not amazing, just proper).
So, clients from the Crazy Jack would dance until the classic rock started, and would walk to the BST in time for cheap-ass drinks and the beginning of the eurodance at the BST.
The hostess of the Crazy Jack seemed depressed and would offer free drinks to those who stayed, so I decided to go talk to her to explain what was happening.
The next week-end, I was at 11h00 pm in the DJ booth telling the DJ what to play. That evening, I simply gave him a playlist and returned to the dance floor to tell the clients to stay for once.
It worked, at least, until the playlist ran out of songs, and people ran out of the bar.
Still, they had sold a lot more drinks than during previous weeks, and I had proven my value.
All of our drinks were comped and we received free fries.
But it was just the beginning…
On the next few weeks, I ended up choosing more and more of the songs, perfecting my technique for keeping the clients happy, while telling them while to drink.
I even had access to the microphone to act as an occasional MC.
I began receiving a consultant fee in cash and bar credit which was either used to get free food or to give free drinks to my friends and college buddies. I often used them to give free drinks to people about to leave like the hostess had done, but those drinks were part of my salary so they didn’t mind.
The bar was working, but the restaurant during the day, wasn’t and sadly, a few months later, the bar closed.
I was out of a gig… so, I repeated it at other bars in the area, charging at first 50 dollars per evening for my services, and then, 100 dollars.
For a student, this was amazing money!
And before you start thinking this was tax evasion, in Québec, the first 8000$ you make isn’t even taxed, and students get tax deductions on top of that.
Still, when I graduated in 1998, I both stopped being able to go out every week-end and, at the same time, no longer made enough money to be worth it.
So, I built a website instead. Yes, in 1998, there weren’t a lot of websites, and my first version of my site was on a Geocities clone called Xoom if I remember well which notably allowed cgi scripts to run and, more amazingly, allowed to pay a small fee to remove banners.
This led me to learn Perl, to make a subscription website for my clients (DJs) to login and exchange tips with other djs and I, in exchange for just 100$ per year.
In the front-end, regular clients could see a list of bars which applied my method and as such, knew where to go.
I would recruit the bars directly by visiting them and explaining that for the 100$ per year, they could get advertisement on the Internet and access to the private section. In exchange, they would plug my website using my business cards left in their bars.
It didn’t always work, but I managed to get two dozen bars subscribed for an annual revenue of 1200$ per year (which were all declared as revenue, in case you are still asking).
I also had targeted banner ads which gave an additional 600$ per year or so.
In mid-1999, I added a match making tool for visitors to register after I bought a match making website for 500$ which was closing. I kept their 5$ per year registration fee model and inherited of their 600 clients, of which, perhaps a fifth later renewed.
So, I kept their existing members in my system and even inherited of their domain name which became the new platform for my site which was now not just about finding the right club, but also the right person to go clubbing with.
In early 2000, right after banner ads stopped bringing revenue because of the dot-com crash, I received an offer to sell the site for 5000$. I had been making perhaps half of that annually, but it required a lot of maintenance especially with the arrival of other match making sites and without the banner ads revenue, I didn’t feel like it was worth it anymore.
To top it off, my wife and I were trying to have a baby and the clubbing scene wasn’t as interesting for the moment.
Finally, music was changing and eurodance was gone putting me out of touch of what the bar scene really was.
But the cherry on top was the match making software. It was written in Perl and I had more and more problems with it as I patched it and improved it to make it unique.
Even worse, I had made it bilingual when the original software didn’t support it at all.
I no longer could install updates because of my tweaks and I didn’t really have the courage anymore to update it.
And so, I sold it. The buyer made it run for a year and then, closed it for good. Today, the .qc.ca domain name is no longer registered and it is no longer possible to register 3rd level .ca domain names (like .qc.ca).
I still wonder if I could have received more money or if I could have kept it running for longer, getting less and less revenue as time went on.
But that 5000$ dollars helped buy a lot of my daughter’s furniture and clothes and I am doubtful that by then, the site would have had 5000$ in revenue in that short time frame or even, ever…
And more importantly, it showed me that I was able to start a website from scratch and make it prosper.
I quickly turned to my other burgeoning websites, such as the one I had created for my favorite RPG, KULT (whose first edition was edited by our own Ian Aglaratza!), but that field was already saturated.
This left me with a sense of emptiness: I was still building websites for my clients, but nothing for me, for my own fun, for experience and to push the limits of my capacities.
This is why I ended up doing the offer to the Kingdom [to create the database system]. To fill that void left when I sold my DJ website.