Online Entrepreneur

Elad Hogen, married and father of three, lives in Israel.

B.A. in Business Administration and Accounting, and currently writing a thesis on crowd wisdom and practical crowdsourcing for an MBA.

I am an online entrepreneur, specializing in SEO, online reputation management, practical crowdsourcing, and founding online businesses. I’m addicted to the field. When I’m not in the midst of a new project, I read inspirational books, industry blogs, and listen to podcasts in traffic jams.

I enjoy myself most, and am most motivated, when I’m creating something new: setting up a business, a project or a product. Taking an idea that’s been buzzing around my head for a while, and carrying it out from start to finish. A few of my projects are extremely financially successful, some of them are absolutely not, and most are somewhere in the middle – but none of them are failures. Any project that I wholeheartedly throw myself into returns the investment: sometimes the profit is monetary; sometimes the profit is educational, allowing me to succeed more next time; usually, the project brings me to places I never even imagined when I started carrying out the original idea.

In my not-so-free time, I enjoy family outings and events, mountain biking, kitesurfing, snowboarding and photography.

Background Story

At the age of 10 I wanted to be an archaeologist, at 13 a photographer (it’s still one of my favorite hobbies); in high school I studied electronics and thought I would be an engineer.

My first degree was in accounting, although I’ve never worked in that field. I finished my degree in 2000, the golden age of high-tech, and the programming world beckoned me (compared to accounting, pretty much everything seemed more attractive…). Towards the end of my studies, I started learning computer programming independently, and because demand for professionals was so high, I was soon hired as a junior programmer.

Three years later, at the height of the high-tech crunch, I set up my first company (Go-Net Software Solutions), together with two other partners: we purchased a failing programming venture that dealt in information systems development. The first two years were challenging, the company grew at a good rate, and even though it wasn’t a velocious success, it brought in enough to pay the bills and make a living. Five years later, I realized that managing employees and clients wasn’t what I was looking to do in life, and I sold my share of the company.

For a year and a half I looked for something new to set up, and I couldn’t find an idea that excited me. As time went by, my motivation also dropped, and with little choice left, I started working as an information systems manager. I felt that I had gone 6 years backwards, and it didn’t feel good. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, neither the work itself nor the atmosphere in the workplace. I felt that I had to reinvent myself, to do something that I like, I just didn’t know what.

When you do something that makes you feel worthless, it harms you in all aspects of life. At a certain point, I realized that with or without a great idea, I was just going to start something new. Then the decision was made: I decided that I was going to reinvent myself as an independent freelancer, no matter how.

There’s a quote I particularly like from the ‘Art of War’ by Steven Pressfield (which I only read a few years later):

“Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ”I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.””

Like many other people starting their journey in the field, I typed the phrase “How to make money on the internet” into Google. After mulling around for a few days, I somehow got to Timothy Ferriss’s book ‘The 4-hour workweek’. Once I finished reading, I realized what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but my direction was clear.

I set up my first internet venture: an online jewelry store. I didn’t know anything about internet commerce, certainly not about marketing, but I was full of motivation. I learned something new every day, and each day I developed further. After a few months of preparation, I launched the website. In the first few weeks, absolutely nothing happened, but then the day came that completely changed my career path. I came home from a summer vacation, switched on my iPhone in the airport to filter through my emails, and there it was, my first sale:

Elad Hogen first sale

That was the moment when I realized that it worked! I was going to build myself a new career…

Things get rolling

I started setting up new sites, I tried out different models and strategies. Whatever worked, I copied and developed further. Whatever didn’t cover its costs was thrown away. Most of the income from the different sites came in through search engine optimization (SEO), the field I enjoy most and am best at. I used the knowledge and skills I had from programming and data management, and built tools to help me manage my business and make it grow.

After a number of successes under my belt, I started marketing the knowledge I had picked up and the strategies I had developed. It took some time to find the first big client, but then came another, and another, just like the sales from my first venture…

Guiding Principles

Many books have been written about online entrepreneurship. If I had to give three principles, that in my personal experience have been most significant, it would be these:

Just do it

This is simply the best slogan I know. Most people don’t reach the stage of turning their idea into reality. This is a result of either fear of success, fear of failure, procrastination, and usually a combination of all of these.  If I had to give just one tip, this would be it, without a doubt.

Choosing an idea for a project

Don’t choose an idea only because of its financial viability. That’s the biggest mistake I made when setting up my first online venture. The idea was good in terms of business potential, but the field didn’t personally interest me, so it was hard to keep it up over time. Since every venture eventually just turns into work, it’s important to choose a field that interests you in the long term, and that you’ll enjoy working in.

On the other hand, a subject might hugely interest you, but if it’s utterly esoteric, the potential audience will be too small and it won’t turn into a successful business venture – it’ll probably remain a hobby. A site about the mating habits of the Polyphaga beetle probably won’t work…

The trick is to combine both worlds in one project. There are ways and tools for doing that.

Perfectionism will bring you down

Many entrepreneurs have difficulty with this problem (including me). It’s better to launch an imperfect product and improve it as you go, rather than not launch it at all just because you haven’t reached what you think is perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect product or service. In addition, trying to reach perfection is what turns the creative process from something fun into another tiresome task.