How I Built My Company in High School, Sold it at 21, Bought it Back and Sold it to Answers.com

Learn how Scott Wainner used his teenage frustration to fuel the development of his multimillion dollar company and why you should love your work and your mission.

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Best Success Story:

In 1999, I received an offer to sell ResellerRatings to a public company, and to work for the company as an employee. At 21, this was an easy decision, so I sold. The acquirer didn’t know what they had purchased, and eventually decided to discontinue it.

Shortly thereafter, interest erupted from many who wanted to buy the site, including myself. I negotiated a deal to repurchase ResellerRatings for $32k in 2002, earning myself a rare second chance.

This time, I had renewed vision, and a long term goal. In time, as the business grew, I hired extremely talented people, and together we’ve built an influential and trusted brand that helps consumers shop at stores that people love, and helps retailers tell the world about their great customer service.

Biggest Startup Challenge:

From the beginning, my focus has been to create a fair and balanced consumer resource, where consumers speak the truth. There are many sites out there that only accept negative reviews and exist to vent, bash, and destroy, but those types of resources aren’t helpful to anyone. The average review at ResellerRatings is 85 words long, and 80% of our 850,000 customer-written reviews give praise to online retailers.

The challenge, here, is in dealing with poorly rated merchants who accuse us of manufacturing negative reviews not because we actually do, but because the merchant doesn’t like that customers have a place to tell their stories. But when you never compromise your integrity and always do the right thing, there is no fault to find.

Authorities like Google, Bing, and the New York Attorney General, trust our customer ratings data as being authentic and reliable. The 1,600 retailers who subscribe to our site appreciate the ability to engage with reviewers, they love what we do, and they validate our efforts.

The more retailers endorse us, the more we’re able to win over skeptics. Once we take the time and patience to explain how ResellerRatings can help retailers establish trust and earn consumers’ business , the reward is subscriber growth for us, and another satisfied retailer that begins working harder than ever to deliver excellence to consumers.

#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs:

Learn with intense curiosity, and do it for yourself, before you hire others.

Love your work and your mission — the pursuit of money is never a lasting source of passion.

Test, test, test your new ideas, especially the ones that are counter intuitive, and don’t be afraid if your tests fail — for every success there are ten failures.

Embrace that the one constant in life is change, which means that you must adapt to your customers’ demands and pivot your model to satisfy your market’s needs as they evolve over time.

Editors Note: Since the original interview, Q&A site Answers announced that it has acquired ResellerRatings.

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