Vail Valley-based Hackernoon using equity crowdfunding to fuel new growth | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley-based Hackernoon using equity crowdfunding to fuel new growth

EDWARDS — David and Linh Smooke have turned a move to the Vail Valley into success for their company, Hackernoon. Now, the couple has launched a crowdfunding campaign to grow the company.

The campaign, with a goal of $1.07 million, began a bit more than a week ago. As of Sunday, Nov. 18, the campaign had already raised more than $600,000.

That's pretty remarkable, David said, since crowdfunding campaigns can often take 60 to 90 days. But the growth of Hackernoon since the couple's move to Edwards has been pretty remarkable.

Since moving to the valley in 2016, Hackernoon, a website that features content about the hows, whys and how-tos of technology, has taken off in terms of readers and engagement.

When the Smookes arrived in Eagle County from San Francisco, Hackernoon was seeing about 1 million page views per month. In the most recent quarter of this year, those monthly page views had jumped to 8 million.

That's a lot of traffic. In fact, Linh said that Hackernoon is now in the top 5,000 sites on the web. The internet has more than 640 million sites.

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Seeing what worked

Some of those sites were started by David, Linh Smooke and partner Jay Zalowitz. In fact, David Smooke said, he and Zalowitz started 15 blogs at the same time a few years ago, then worked on ways on to monetize them and see which worked best. Among the blogs on marketing, music, travel and feminism, Hackernoon quickly rose to the top.

"We thought, 'Let's try a bunch of different things and go with what works," Linh Smooke said.

Hackernoon started roughly at the same time David and Linh Smooke met, by chance at a concert in San Francisco's Market Square.

David noticed Linh had a handful of technology — trying to charge her phone with her laptop. Linh bought David a beer, and a romance soon blossomed.

These days, the Smookes get a lot of work done while raising their 20-month-old daughter, Norah.

David Smooke rises early to check the newest submissions to Hackernoon, and works to get the pieces edited and on the web. Linh Smooke handles marketing and other duties.

There's going to be more work to do when the crowdfunding effort is complete.

The couple want to move away from Medium, Hackernoon's current hosting site, and build a new platform to host their work. That site will include ways to make the site more user- and contributor-friendly.

'Connect more with the valley'

That's going to require growing the team, even if only by a few people. While the Smookes currently work both from home and a one-room office at the Colorado Workspaces co-working facility in Eagle, building a new platform will require hiring software engineers and others. The idea is for everyone to meet roughly once per quarter, then work remotely.

But getting the crowdsourcing effort together has already required hiring attorneys and accountants. In order to sell stock that's compliant with Securities and Exchange Commission rules on equity crowdfunding, the company had to comply with the hundreds of pages of rules required to satisfy a federal agency.

With that done, though, investors can buy a piece of Hackernoon for as little as $100. So far, hundreds of people have bought large and small pieces of the company. And the vast majority are already convinced of the value of Hackernoon.

Of the 400 or so current investors, David Smooke said somewhere between 75 and 90 percent are readers or contributors.

As the crowdfunding push enters its second half, the Smookes hope to bring more local investors into the picture. The couple also hopes to hire some local interns to help out in the coming summer.

"We want to connect more with the valley," Linh Smooke said.

The Colorado Workspaces office helps with that, since there are dozens of entrepreneurs working from the offices there now. Plus, it's good to get out of the house, and have a place to get together with team members from time to time.

"It helps to have an office," she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

What’s the law?

The Jump-start Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2015 became law in April of that year.

The law establishes Securities and Exchange Commission oversight for stock-sale crowd-funding.

Companies that use the law — including Hackernoon — are required to meet a host of federal requirements, but are allowed to sell stock via crowd-funding.