Markus Frind works one hour a day and brings in $10 million a year. How does he do it? He keeps things simple.
It’s a short walk through downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, but somehow the trek feels arduous. This is not because Frind is lazy. Well, Frind is a bit lazy, but that’s another matter. The problem is that he is still getting used to the idea of a commute that involves traveling farther than the distance between the living room and the bedroom.
Frind’s online dating company, Plenty of Fish, is newly located on the 26th floor of a downtown skyscraper with a citas tailandesas revolving restaurant on the roof. The gleaming space could easily house 30 employees, but as Frind strides in, it is eerily quiet — just a room with new carpets, freshly painted walls, and eight flat-screen computer monitors. Frind drops his bag and plops himself down in front of one of them.
He looks down at his desk. There’s a $180,000 order waiting for his signature. It’s from VideoEgg, a San Francisco company that is paying Frind to run a series of Budweiser commercials in Canada. Like most of his advertising deals, this one found Frind. He hadn’t even heard of VideoEgg until a week ago. But then, you tend to attract advertisers’ attention when you are serving up 1.6 billion webpages each month.
That’s a lot of personal ads. “One-point-six ba-hillion,” Frind says slowly, smacking his lips on the hard b. “There are maybe 10 sites in the U.S. with more than that.” Five years ago, he started Plenty of Fish with no money, no plan, and scant knowledge of how to build a Web business. S. and quite possibly the world. Its traffic is four times that of dating pioneer Match, which has annual revenue of $350 million and a staff that numbers in the hundreds. Until 2007, Frind had a staff of exactly zero. Today, he employs just three customer service workers, who check for spam and delete nude images from the Plenty of Fish website while Frind handles everything else.
Amazingly, Frind has set up his company so that doing everything else amounts to doing almost nothing at all. “I usually accomplish everything in the first hour,” he says, before pausing for a moment to think this over. “Actually, in the first 10 or 15 minutes.”
And the Money Comes Rolling In
To demonstrate, Frind turns to his computer and begins fiddling with a free software program that he uses to manage his advertising inventory. While he is doing this, he carps about Canada’s high income taxes, a serious problem considering that Plenty of Fish is on track to book revenue of $10 million for 2008, with profit margins in excess of 50 percent. Then, six minutes 38 seconds after beginning his workday, Frind closes his Web browser and announces, “All done.”
All done? Are you serious? “The site pretty much runs itself,” he explains. “Most of the time, I just sit on my ass and watch it.” There’s so little to do that he and his girlfriend, Annie Kanciar, spent the better part of last summer sunning themselves on the French Riviera. Frind would log on at night, spend a minute or two making sure there were no serious error messages, and then go back to sipping expensive wine. A year ago, they relaxed for a couple of weeks in Mexico with a yacht, a captain, and four of Kanciar’s friends. “Me and five girls,” he says. “Rough life.”