Tuesday, November 08, 2011
How many people do we know who make money just to give it away? Not just some of it, but almost all of it? For Mike Mann, this is not a new idea born of some single transformative experience, but a lifelong and innate way of living and being. He's always "done well" in order to do right by others. The converse works just as well: his commitments to charity feed the success of his (many) businesses.
Where to start? Probably in Washington, DC, when at a young age Mike spent much of his time volunteering in the inner city, teaching kids about the environment, dealing with inner city issues and working with homeless people. He had enough free time, in 1994, to launch his first company, Internet Interstate - an ironic development considering "I'm not at all technical - I'm totally incompetent with technical stuff." But it was a strong marketing concept and, as such, quickly caught the attention of Verio, Inc. Verio infused the company with venture capital, and soon enough the investments made Mike a millionaire - but not the sort to go out and enjoy it. "I figured with 5% interest, I could live on $50,000 a year, invest the rest, and go back to work in the inner city." This he did, and became the first chairman of ByteBack.org, a still-active organization helping disadvantaged city kids and adults gain computer literacy and training skills - for free. "It's a fantastic model," he says.
We've talked before about "serial entrepreneurs" in domaining, but we think Mike stands alone as a serial Founder and Chairman - of BuyDomains.com (1998- now NameMedia), BrowserMedia (1999), X3O Technologies (2005, just Founder) Phone.com, SEO.com, DomainMarket.com (all in 2007), Bethesda.com/AdvertisingNow, proHR, PurePPC.com, and PRMarketing.com (all in 2011). These are just some of the companies he's launched, chaired, and funded that make very good money for the projects he most cares about.
The centerpiece of those projects is Grassroots.org, whose goal is to aggregate some 10,000 member charities, generally small 501(c)(3)s, and give them each $10,000 worth of free services each year - phone, consulting, web, hosting, and more - for a total annual giveaway of $100 million. At this writing, Grassroots is closing in on 50% of this goal, with nearly 5,000 members and some $4 million in free services, but Mike won't be fully satisfied until they hit their mark. "It's challenging," he says, "because we have the platform and the membership, but we need more service providers to join us and integrate with us." A companion project is ChangeTheWorld.org, which pairs MBA students with Grassroots members to help small nonprofits improve their efficiency and functions. It started with the University of Maryland, but is expanding to other business schools around the nation. In fact, its membership has quadrupled in the last two months, and shows no signs of slowing. Add to this Interns.org, which provides students and graduates opportunities to work with nonprofits and guides them "toward meaningful real-world career experiences."
The roots of this sprawling tree of social activism are in his MakeChange! Trust, which funds these and other projects, and where almost all of Mike's personal business profits end up. He notes from his earlier days of nearly instant wealth, "I once bought a bunch of luxurious stuff, houses that were good investments at the time and might make some money for charities, but I'm done with it, I'm not going to do it again. These days, I just about break even."
With dozens of companies, many hundreds of employees ("who work their asses off"), hundreds of thousands of domain names in his portfolio, and his ambitious charity ventures, he's somehow found time to write two books, Make Millions and Make Change!, and the recently released Applied Evolution! Understanding Humans for a Better World, available online but not fully completed. A third book is on the way, focusing on how to fix government so it actually works for the people - very much the core ethos of his latest project, the Green Tea Party, created "to stand up for American people and fight the vicious cycle of bad governance in Washington perpetuated by uncontested, incompetent Democrats and Republicans." With everything he does, he boils it down to three core concepts - "best practices, no fraud, no waste."
Anyone exhausted yet? Mike isn't. "I'm famous for not sleeping." And the need to help make the world a better place is as essential to him as food and water (if not sleep). "Everybody needs to feel they're a part of a global community, that we're all interconnected by design."
You can connect with Mike Mann on Facebook, LinkedIn, or his website. We're grateful that he could share some precious time with us for preparing this article, and we're highly honored to recognize him as one of Domaining's Most Fascinating People for 2011.
Catch up on more of Domaining's Most fascinating People for 2011:
This year we're inviting you to submit your own nominations: what individual has forged imagination, diligence, and discipline into bottom-line success, and who has gone far beyond domaining to leverage their success to help others in need?
We know some of them already, and we're inspired by their stories of altruism, of creating fresh opportunities for those who are much less fortunate. It takes vision and commitment - and a rare perspective that sees the world with clarity far beyond personal financial success.
And revisit 2010 Awards:
Be inspired by the success of people who did the work to transform their dreams into reality: Domaining’s Most Fascinating People of 2010. These 20 diverse entrepreneurs are generating real wealth through a disciplined process that can be followed by everyone who dreams of striking it rich online. It’s old-fashioned marketing, reengineered for the digital world. Every one of these Most Fascinating People knew that the true path to revenues and riches is to build a brand with an actual business model based on differentiation, relevance and value.
Barbara Dillman Neu
Mike Sullivan & Fusible
Lori Anne Wardi
Francois Carrillo / Ron Josephs