Jon Brelig, Kunal Das

Through college I’ve met very few people who have made much money through entrepreneurial ventures. Even in many entrepreneurial clubs there still few people who have actually done much.

I like to observe people who I think “have it in them” in order to learn a way to improve my own chances of success. So far I’ve seen two people I KNOW will be successful in the future:

Jon Brelig:
Strengths: Intricate computer programming knowledge.
It’s very rare to meet someone so good at programming who also has a keen business sense and extroverted personality. Jon’s current claim to fame is SkiReport.com, one of the largest ski-condition websites in America.

Jon is still a student, yet makes serious cash because of the automated system he built for SkiReport. Of course he won’t just let his cash flow top off, so he is currently re-doing the entire site to accept reservations.

Prior to SkiReport, Jon had a web solutions company which did tons of business in the Colorado area. He was a step above all the other high school kids who designed a few websites and claimed they had a ‘web solutions’ company (like me).

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Kunal Das:
Strengths: Networking skills, leadership and persistence.
This guy knows pretty much every person in the world. His network is extremely large, and he knows how to meet new people. He is a natural born leader and manager and has started several businesses with many employees to show. His current project is Grade-A-Books.

Kunal buys back books for more cash than the Co-Op, then sells them for cheaper, right on campus. Since the Co-Op gets such a high profit margin from their used books, Kunal can afford to accept a smaller one.

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One thing I’ve picked up from Jon’s SkiReport is to automate everything. He has spent considerable time and frustration creating a phenomenal backend system, and it allows him to get things done extremely quick with little effort. Kunal demonstrates the need for being a great leader. His current and past businesses have helped him develop great leadership skills which are crucial for running a business.

“Surround yourself with those smarter than you”

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    Blog posted on: November 30, 2005

    21 comments on “Jon Brelig, Kunal Das

    1. Johnie

      Great Post Nev! One of your better in a while.

      To respond to the previous post, good programming skills will only get you so far. Programmers are a dime a dozen. If you don’t have the entrepeneur mentality, management skills, and most importantly the IDEAS, you’re sitting dead in the water if you’re trying to start something yourself.

      Reply
    2. colin

      Hahaha… the irony. I’m sitting outside of my programming class working on my final project for the class. I’ve opted to automate the account service aspects of running the advertising agency (proposals, creative briefs, change orders).

      I suspect this is only the start of a growing ‘small business’ market that puts new meaning to low-overhead while maintaining competitive, quality-focused services.

      So to all you liberal tree-huggers, I beg you to answer your own concerns of big business and offshore labor because I’m sick and tired of the liberal idealism plaguing this city with their naive thought.

      The smart local guys are competing (and winning), why can’t you?

      Reply
    3. Jason

      Nev,
      As a computer science degree holder, I can personally attest there are some people with business skills, but not many.

      Perhaps this shows the importance of programmers to have business minded partners.

      Great post, you seem to really keep a solid network of entrepreneurial people.

      Reply
    4. Quant Trader

      Good programmers with entrepreneurial ambitions are definately a rare thing. This is a shame because the software business has the lowest barrier to entry of just about any industry. There aren’t many other fields where just 1 or 2 people can create something completely on their own that can then be sold for millions of dollars or more. In just about any other field you would need tons of staff and start-up capital to create something of that value.

      It’s also has a neat kind of leverage. As you build up your own systems and tools you spend less and less hours to do the same amount of work. I also started my software business while I was in College (about 7 years ago). It has been a lot of hard work, but well worth it.

      Reply
    5. Anonymous

      Cool bunch of kids. I am very impressed that all of you are already preparing for your financial futures. Hopefully you will be able to retain the money you all earn

      Reply
    6. pfadvice

      There are still a lot of opportunities out there for those willing to put in the work and take the chance. beginning the entrepreneurial spirit at a young age will benefit you greatly down the road. I wish I had started younger.

      Reply
    7. Anonymous

      How is a site like SkiReport.com automated–where does it retrieve the data from? Has Jon created software to parse all the ski resorts’ websites for the data? Wouldn’t customizing the code to parse each individual site take a very, very long time? Is there another way?

      I’ve had data aggregation ideas in the past, but Terms of Use notices and copyrights prohibit the data mining of virtually everything on the web for commercial purpose. For example: I recently got in trouble with Google for creating software that retrieved news headlines from Google News and displayed it on a webpage. The compiled information–albeit merely headlines–was intellectual property of Google.

      Could someone explain how sites like SkiReport.com work please? I’d really like to know how sites like these work.

      Reply
    8. Martin

      Personally, I think there is only one solution for a web site like SkiReport : data aggregation. A “batch” program (probably not very complicated) visits x number of web sites with some regular expressions…

      Reply
    9. Johnie

      To Anonymous:

      The thing about data aggregation sites like SkiReport is that you need to reach a critical mass. Once there are enough ski locations and users using it, other resorts are clammering to get on it. If you have the site that everyone goes to, companies will be even willing to pay you to be listed. You now have the bargaining chip to set demands for them because you’re basically providing THEM a service: advertising. In lieu of payment, he could also setup exclusive contracts with these resorts so that he pretty much locks out the competitors.

      I’m sure this guy set up a system where the different resorts update the reports through his web interface. OR, if he’s even more advanced, he gets an XML feed from them.

      This is a pure example from the book “Tipping Point.” All the major websites started out the same way. Once it got to a critical mass, people must and have to be on that site. See EBay, Amazon, Yahoo, and especially GMail.

      One of my friend, who is an avid skier was telling me about that website last year and how it is the best site to find out ski conditions. That’s why I found it great that Nev reported on this guy. And even better to find out that he’s just “some guy” instead of a large corporation that put the site together.

      Reply
    10. Johnie

      Nev,

      Another company/website along this line of started by college students that are picking up steam are:
      SeamlessWeb – Allows you to order food online started by two law school students. Basically they targetted large companies and set up deals with them. In a lot of companies, if people stay late, the company gives them a stipend of $30 or more for dinner. Since the employees aren’t spending their own money, they buy more expensive dinners. Which allows SeamlessWeb to make a huge commission on the profit.

      Reply
    11. Jon Brelig

      Thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate them.

      We receive our ski reports hourly via XML from Sno Country Mountain reports (www.snocountry.com). We pay them a seasonal fee for the service, however it is well worth it. Sno Country and Mountain News Corp are the only 2 aggregators of ski reports worldwide. Basically all resorts report to them, and they provide data to sites like SkiReport.com.

      We get our weather reports from Weather.com’s FREE xml feed. For the cams, I simply have a script that caches them on our server every 10 minutes. I’m currently working my tail off to integrate lodging reservations via a Travelocity XML feed – it’s done through a subsidiary called World Choice Travel (wctravel.com).

      Site is doing good, bringing in around 30k page views per day and the season is just starting. Planning on taking the spring semester off to ski bum in Steamboat and promote the biz so if anyone’s up there shoot me an email (jon@skireport.com).

      Reply
    12. Anonymous

      Jon,

      When I saw SkiReport.com it looked very….simple. However I quickly realized that it was extremely simple yet extremely functional.

      It seems you make all your money from advertising, is this right? Who do you use for advertising (Google, Chitika etc.) and who gives you the best payout?

      Also, what made you start this website? Did you one day wake up and decide to become an online authority of ski conditions?

      Sorry for all the questions, but I find your whole operation to be pretty cool…and you’re still a student.

      Any feedback qould be appreciated!

      Reply
    13. Anonymous

      Jon,

      Thanks for chiming in and clearly defining how you’ve put together such a great site. Congratulations on the success. I don’t have to tell you that you’ve earned it.

      Reply
    14. Jon Brelig

      “it was extremely simple yet extremely functional.” – that is quite possibly the best comment I’ve received about my site. Through my experience, you can never spend too much time on usability. I honestly think there’s still some room for improvement with SkiReport.com’s usability.

      What made me start the site? Well, back in high school (when I lived in CO and was able to ski 30 days/season), I simply went to ‘skireport.com’ to attempt to check the ski conditions. The guy had a message up ‘Sorry, I had to take the site down – the server can not handle it’s bandwidth.’ It was obvious the domain brought in some traffic. I negoitated with the guy for a few months, but didn’t have the capital and left it hanging. About a year and half later, I got some capital from my brother (in exchange for equity) and started the biz.

      I regret sitting on the idea for so long and honestly I was VERY lucky I was still able to get the domain. If you have any idea, act on it. Today.

      Reply
    15. ncnblog

      Hey Nev,
      I am about to start my retirement investing, since I am almost out of debt. Which brokerage do you use for your Roth?
      ncnblog.com

      Reply
    16. Neville

      NCN,
      I use Ameritrade for my ROTH and my regular trading account.
      I am about to max out my 2005 contributions before Dec. 31st (max $4,000).

      I’ve NEVER had a problem with Ameritrade, but I’ve also never had experience with any other broker!

      -Nev

      Reply
    17. Anonymous

      I go to a small college in the mid-west, and I’m not finding many people who are super interested in entrepreneurship. Some small ideas here and there, but have yet to meet someone who has really done something significant.

      Where are you meeting other business minded people? Clubs? Randomly?

      Reply

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