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Memoirs of a Minyan: The Phoenix!


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

Editor's Note: "Memoirs of a Minyan" is a first-person account that follows Minyanville founder Todd Harrison as he weaves his way through Wall Street and beyond. This e-Book will publish each Wednesday over 18 weeks. Click here to read previous Memoirs chapters.

Chapter 17: The Phoenix

I began 2004 the way I started every year of my career, trying to learn from the past and morph mistakes into lessons. I told myself I would give Minyanville 12 months to turn it into a business, or it would leave a legacy as an expensive hobby that chewed through millions of dollars.

We built a stable of writers, human capital that was very good at what they did but better at who they were. They included such respected professionals as Tony Dwyer, Scott Reamer, Kevin Depew, and John Succo. Each shared their insights and acumen with "Minyans" around the world and didn't do it for the money; they wrote because they believed in our mission of affecting positive change through financial understanding.

In the summer of 2004, we hosted Minyans in the Mountains in Crested Butte, Colo., the first of many gatherings. The intention was to bring our online community to life, put faces to names and create an engaging forum for financial intelligence. Minyans flocked to the mountains, including my best friend and college roommate, Kevin Wassong.

After standing on the periphery since the inception, Kevin wanted to experience Minyanville first hand. He was a steady sounding board as I forged a path into an entirely new industry, serving both as a friend and offering advice on how to position a next generation digital media platform.

If anyone knew that space, it was "Fish." After college, Kevin headed to Hollywood to pursue his creative ambitions before returning to New York. He launched the digital group at J. Walter Thompson in 1998, became CEO and built it into a top-10 interactive services company. Kevin was responsible for a lot of firsts. He brought Sotheby's first auction online and Merrill Lynch into the digital advertising space.

To him, Minyanville was the "big idea" that could connect generations and transcend media platforms. He arrived early to help tend to the last-minute details and prepare gift bags for the guests.

That was Kevin. He never cared about my money or the summer homes; he was never the "bigger, better thing" guy.

As we roasted S'mores at the Saturday night bonfire, I allowed myself a rare moment of satisfaction. After three years of heavy lifting, Minyanville arrived at a place of collective consciousness despite a motivated agenda and dwindling funds; the fledgling community was proof positive that our vision was indeed vibrant.

As we watched the sunset over the mountains and laughter filled the air, I turned to Kevin and shared a smile. That's when I knew he saw it too.

Of Mice and Men

They say if you told an entrepreneur how much work it would take for his or her dream to succeed, they would never start the business in the first place. While I've never regretted Minyanville, the labor of love was a labor indeed and entirely more challenging than I would have ever imagined.

Kevin and I met at an Applebee's near his home in Larchmont following the summer of 2004. There, over beers and burgers, we scribbled the "wagon wheel" business model on the back of the check. The central hub was Minyanville and the "spokes" were ancillary business lines, including advertising, subscriptions, licensing, events, video games, entertainment and merchandising.

When I landed a meeting with Stan Gold -- Roy Disney's business partner -- in California to see if we could get him to invest, I asked Kevin to help put together a presentation. We were told we had 30 minutes of Stan's time. But 3½ hours into the presentation, we continued to pound the table with passion and purpose.
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