BiggerPockets CEO Dorkin Talks About 'Going All In'

November 18, 2013

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It’s hard to think of a better word to describe real estate investment site BiggerPockets than “home-grown” (no pun intended). But, really, since founding the site in 2004, BiggerPockets CEO Joshua Dorkin has been bootstrapping and building his site to 145,000 members strictly from word of mouth. In fact, he has spent less than $500 on advertising in that time.

Though Dorkin has only taken two days off work in seven years and just hired his first non-developer employee, Director of Communications Brandon Turner, last year, Dorkin said it has all been “so far, so good.”

It all comes down to the BiggerPockets philosophy of providing “pure,” reliable content for its users looking for real estate advice from someone else than the “get rich quick guy” Dorkin said.

“The key was, ‘Let’s create content that helps people and forget about everything else,’” Dorkin said. “It hasn’t been easy; it’s been a struggle. But over the years, we have risen above everybody else because our community is strong and we are not selling out our users.”

The core of BiggerPockets is its forum, which has over 655,000 discussions, and its blog, which has over 30 writers contributing weekly. But once upon a time it was just Dorkin instigating and moderating all of his site’s content.

“A tipping point for me was the day that I no longer had to be on there every day for things to go well,” Dorkin said. “The day the site became self-policing and we had enough content every day that I knew that conversation was going to happen without me, it felt really good.”

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Now, the BiggerPockets community has even transcended its traditional web boundaries: over 40 BiggerPockets meetups have sprung up nationwide and the BiggerPockets podcast, which is this year’s top real estate podcast on iTunes, has about 15,000 listeners each episode. The podcast addresses topics like “Flipping Houses While Still Employed” or “How to be an Awesome and Profitable Landlord,” investment topics which are relevant for both beginners and experts in both good and bad economic times.

“When the economy is good everyone says, ’How do I make money in real estate?’ and when the economy is hitting the can people say, ‘I’m losing my house. What do I do?’” Dorkin said. “I’m not going to say we are completely shielded from the negative economy, but I didn’t see it. From the investing side, people are always investing.”

Though Dorkin hasn’t had a problem keeping BiggerPockets content relevant, the bad points in the company’s history have mostly come from the site’s backend. When first starting out, Dorkin said he hired a development team in India to build him the Myspace for real estate and “got back tons and tons of code and a website that didn’t work” or when he made the decision to switch the site to Ruby on Rails, meaning his own HTML and PHP skills would do him no good on his own site.

Dorkin wasn’t a pro web developer and wasn’t even a real estate broker when he founded BiggerPockets in 2004; he was still working as a special education teacher and simply started the site out of his personal need for investment advice. But ever since Dorkin switched mental gears and made the decision to go at BiggerPockets fulltime, he has been all-in.

“I know that this is my business: I have to win,” Dorkin said. “I am going to commit myself until this thing is amazing. I’m working towards that milestone of taking days off.”

 

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