If you haven’t heard of HARO.com (Help a Reporter Out), it’s a superb resource for connecting journalists with expert sources. The site began nearly on accident, as many of these social resources do, by a former PR guru who had connections to everyone. By creating this site, he created one of the most popular, highly respected assets for journalists, and in the end sold it to a pretty hefty sum, or so they say. How did he do it?
His story is not so much about how he developed HARO.com, or even how he grew it over time, it’s how he sold it. While many business owners spend time building their business with the sole purpose of selling it and moving onto the next, the owner of HARO.com started it for the sole purpose of helping others. He didn’t go after advertisers, they came after him. He didn’t go after journalists or the expert sources, they flocked to his website. HARO.com was, and still is, one of those ideas that really needs very little work; most of the advertising was simply through word of mouth.
HARO.com began with 10,000 members inquiring thousands of questions a day. His website traffic was through the roof, and advertisers began to buy ad space on the site. Vocus, the parent company of PR Web, another premier resource for journalists and public relations firms, was an advertiser on HARO.com for just a year before they reached out to the owner about purchasing the site from him. Selling the site was never mentioned, perhaps thought about but never truly realized, until Vocus approached HARO.com and brought up the discussion.
Of course, the owner made a fortune, and though he continues to function as HARO.com’s chief executive, he has time to focus on other ventures. According to Inc.com, the entire process from start-up to the sale of HARO.com too two years. The irony of this tale is that it all began with wonderful intentions and no goals to sell or even make money off of the site.
So, what’s the moral of this story? It would seem that starting a business for all the right reasons can produce some very profitable outcomes, especially if that’s not your intent.