(Mat Carpenter. Credit: @matcarpenter via Twitter)
Mat Carpenter — the 23-year-old Australian who started work on a goofy “glitter bomb your enemies” website on New Year’s Eve, watched it become a global viral hit overnight, and then sold it a month later for $85,000 — has some advice for you.
“Don’t underestimate a stupid idea,” he tells Yahoo Makers in an email interview, in which he also discussed what he did with his windfall and the pros and cons of overnight internet success.
Carpenter’s idea became www.shipyourenemiesglitter.com - “an idea I had for a while but thought was so f***ing ridiculous that I’d be wasting my time.”
The site offers to mail a glitter-filled envelope to the recipient of your choice for $10AUD ($8 U.S.). Within days of launch, it garnered media attention literally around the globe, along with thousands of orders. But Carpenter says his overnight success never went to his head.
(The original graphic for the site. Credit: ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com)
“I had no desire whatsoever to turn Ship Your Enemies Glitter into a “mini-empire” nor do I think it would even be possible,” he tells Yahoo Makers. “The idea behind starting Ship Your Enemies Glitter was just to create a fun site that got a bit of attention, not to cement my place as a leader in the glitter industry.”
Carpenter built the funny, profanity-laced site himself a few days after he finally registered the domain name in a pique of boozy inspiration on Dec. 31.
“The total cost to get everything up and running was just under $30.00 (excluding web hosting which I already had),” he writes on his current website, SofaMoolah.com. ($30AUD is about $24 U.S.)
Related Story on Yahoo Makers: Subversive Dinner Plates Are a Hit on Kickstarter
He then posted a link to Reddit and took a few other lackluster steps to promote it, and then went on vacation with a friend.
Within hours, he had hundreds of orders and was burning up Reddit. He turned around his car mid-vacation to go check on the project.
“At this point I was completely unprepared. There were no envelopes, no glitter, nor had I even started writing the letter that was supposed to go inside,” he recounts on his blog.
“Just to reinforce how badly I was prepared, I had setup the user to be redirected to a /thankyou page after making payment and that f***ing 404’d because I didn’t even set up the page.”
He says he responded to the flood of orders by having a few drinks with his traveling companion.
The next day he had several hundred media requests, several thousand orders, and a “massive hangover.”
He received more than 50 emails from people asking to come work for him, and he opened PayPal to find more than $20,000AUD added to his account.
Two days later, he decided to sell his site — a decision he says provoked a flood of criticism from people saying he should just hire employees and make ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com a real business.
Carpenter was unimpressed with the suggestion.
“You seriously think the best course of action right then was to bring in employees?” he writes on his blog. “Do you have any idea what happens to viral projects?”
Four days after ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com launched, he put his site up for sale on Flippa, with a starting bid of $1AUD. After a week of bidding, a U.S. entrepreneur bought it for for $85,000 U.S.
(Carpenter’s shipment. Note the excess glitter. Credit: SofaMoolah.com)
Carpenter bought glitter and envelopes to fulfill the thousands of orders already placed — a process he describes as a “clusterf***” — and re-learned the horrors of his site’s product.
“The glitter I was using was so fine that if there was any tiny bit of air inside the envelope, when it was touched or pressed down the f***ing stuff would fly out of the small gaps in the envelopes,” he writes on his blog.
“I hated glitter before I started, but this s**t not cooperating was driving me completely insane.”
Once he’d sent out the orders, Carpenter was out of the glitter-bombing business. (He strongly dislikes the explosive connotations of the term “glitter bombing,” but it seems to have stuck.)
Looking back on the experience, Carpenter is especially amused by the copycat sites that seem to have sprung up, including:
Carpenter says his only major purchase with the windfall has been a car for his mother.
“The rest of it will probably be wasted on alcohol, gambling & new projects,” he says.
The experience has left him with no regrets, he insists. But it did teach him three things:
Don’t underestimate a stupid idea.
A lot of people have too much disposable income.
A product shouldn’t be launched whilst you’re on holidays.
Carpenter says he’s working on a new product he expects (hopes?) will cause a lot of controversy. In the meantime, he encourages people to follow him on Twitter @MatCarpenter for “occasional project updates and drunk tweets.”
Related Articles on Yahoo Makers: