Cyrus Sullivan

Cyrus Sullivan

Cyrus Sullivan is an internet entrepreneur with a background in web development, database design, and internet marketing. Sullivan graduated from the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business (LCB) in 2008 with a B.S. in Business Administration. Sullivan arrived at Oregon as a transfer student in the winter of 2006 before entering LCB during the summer of that year.

Academic Career

Originally an accounting major Sullivan excelled in Accounting Information Systems (AIS) and Cost Accounting, but after completing his first term of junior level financial accounting at LCB he deciding to pursue a more forward thinking course of study by declaring a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM) in the winter of 2007. In ISOM he excelled in Data Mining, Database Management Systems, and Supply Chain Management while also earning high marks in the Entrepreneurship and New Product Marketing.

Web Development Career: The First Year

After graduation Sullivan spent the summer of 2008 in Eugene before moving to Portland in the fall of that year. While his fellow graduates were out looking for work Sullivan decided to take advantage of an innovative idea he had thought of that summer by launching a new website in late October. Using a combination of skills he picked up in ISOM and Entrepreneurship he was able to push his idea into the headlines with a press release marketing campaign targeting Oregon media outlets. The result was more advertising than most can afford at no cost to himself thanks to a local news station and CNN that made his legal name number 42 on Google trends that day.

Unfortunately like most people his 15 minutes did not last and by the spring of 2009 he had written off his first website for the most part until a negative experience on Craigslist gave a new idea. He realized that a flag and delete system made it nearly impossible to promote edgy content, but also led to a lot of false flagging by competing businesses in traditional markets. After about a week he had reverse engineered Craigslist geographically and expanded it to include the whole planet, but realized that he needed a better overall design. Dissatisfied with the appearance of his first site he realized that he could build a prototype for his Craigslist alternative, pump new life into his first site, and enhance his resume all at the same time.

Finally by the second week of June, 2009 his first prototype was up and running on his first site giving it a complete facelift along with dynamic search controls, comment boards, syndicated feeds, social media integration, and a member registration feature that let people edit or remove their work. It took longer than he had expected because although he technically received formal web design training in a senior level eBusiness class most of the curriculum covered online business strategies, so he has always been a self-taught coder for the most part who had to rely primarily on online research and professional forums when building his code for binding web forms to databases and presenting their content to users.

To promote himself Sullivan launched an international press release marketing campaign targeting journalists in major television markets in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia. The campaign was an overwhelming success resulting in a major increase in traffic throughout the summer due to television produced by affiliates of major networks in Ohio, Illinois, Arizona, and Florida as well as an Oregon magazine and a large number of bloggers. It was during this period that the site enjoyed record profits and by the end of August a media inquiry from one of Germany’s largest television stations made it look like just the beginning of a bright future, but unfortunately for Sullivan it was the beginning of the end.

Site De-Indexed From Google

When Sullivan left his interview with the German reporter after being told that he would be featured on one of Berlin’s biggest stations once they dubbed his voice over in German he couldn’t have been happier, but instead of bragging to his friends about how he hoped it could make him the next Hasselhoff he decided to make sure German audiences could read and use his site. To do this he added language localization features and special CSS sheets featuring German national colors that were set by sniffing out the language settings in people’s browsers. The latter appeared to work great from an end user perspective, but made his site invisible to search engines whose bots would receive an error 500 response from the server and as a result his site got de-indexed from Google. To make matters worse the people in Berlin decided not to air his story and although they never told him why he believes it had to do with expanding his service into their country the night before his interview. He believes that the main reason for wanting to do his story in the first place probably had to do with the unusual nature of his business and once he expanded it to include Germany they most likely feared a backlash from viewers angry over them giving him free advertising.

Reality Check and Deciding to Move On

Nearly a year after starting his first business a local talk show did a special about the internet featuring him and a representative from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He had a good time on the show whose host was quite funny, but realized after he got off stage that when you go from CNN and a top 50 Google trend to a Wednesday night act at a comedy club whose only claim to being a talk show is based on how the stage is arranged and posting videos of the show online that your business has probably failed. It was then that he categorized his site as a failure because out the four P’s of marketing he had plenty of promotion and placement with price not being a factor to end users, so he concluded that the product was the problem. After realizing that his site bit the dust within its first year like 90% of all new ventures he called it quits and by November he had begun marketing himself to local businesses.

Search Engine Optimization Career

While coming to terms with the failure of his first venture was a lost cause overall in the fall of 2009 Sullivan also realized that it was also unacceptable as a prototype for his project due to bad search engine optimization (SEO). Even though he had gotten the browser sniffing issue fixed and his site re-indexed it suffered from a number of penalties the biggest being duplicate content. In the worst case he had used AJAX ComboBox control extenders to give users auto-complete functionality without realizing that because they render in the DOM as option value that it made every possible combination of first name, last name, city, state, and country visible on every version of the search pages for his people search database. This resulted in thousands of irrelevant search results and a massive penalty.

At the time he had never studied SEO, but quickly discovered that it came naturally to him. Basic concepts such as keyword density, level of uniqueness, and link analysis were just an extension of the Data Mining techniques he studies at Oregon. It wasn’t long until he eliminated the flaws in his design and by the end of November he had taken things to the next level with URL rewriting. Still it would take time for Google to process the changes and eliminate all the penalties, but even in the interim Sullivan noticed an increase in traffic right away that continues to this day.

In early 2010 Sullivan began helping local businesses in need of web development solutions and expanding his skills by switching from Visual Basic to C# as his primary programming language, learning PHP, and improving his knowledge of SQL, XML, and graphic design software. He used his knowledge to help people build Wordpress sites with custom themes in less than a day, improving their social media presence, and refining online catalogs, but where he really excelled was in on-site SEO. Sullivan realized that he had a unique ability to see pages from the eye of an automated crawler at first glance and he started using that skill to diagnose Google guidelines violations and bring them into compliance before making them more competitive with keyword research that led to more traffic and increased online sales.

2010 Expansion of SBT

In May of 2010 SBT realized that for its goal of making a good Criagslist alternative to be a successful reality it needed to have more useful features for users, embrace the latest technology, and fine tune every aspect of its operation. To do this the decision was made to forgo development of the final product in favor in incremental prototyping through useful services by targeting hot button issues in the news media with anonymous publishing services to be deployed as quickly as possible each of which would contain new features to be perfected before being transferred to the final product.

2010 Press Release Marketing Achievements

Despite giving up on his first site as a long term business of sufficient profitability Sullivan found himself back in the headlines without even knowing about it. In March and August of that year he issued press releases promoting various minor aspects of his first website including an incident of end user abuse and a media research study both of which resulted in his releases being published as articles on news sites belonging to television stations in various cities. It was the first time Sullivan put out press releases about his business written entirely in the third person. Those incidents made him realize that referring to himself in the third person makes things sound more professional, he liked that, and he has been doing it ever since.

In addition to his first site Sullivan wanted to prove that his success in press release marketing was a matter of skill and not luck. He wanted to see if he could make headlines with innovative ideas independent of his first website and he used the new SBT prototypes to do just that. In late June of 2010 he launched an anonymous publishing service aimed at a hot button issue, partnered with George O’Brien who agreed to be the spokesman for the site, issued a press release, and by mid-July his work became the second website of his to be featured on CNN within just one month of launch in less than 2 years. Beaming with confidence at that point Sullivan tried to do it again with yet another anonymous publishing service targeting a hot button issue and got an interview with a local news station. Unfortunately his interview was bumped to cover a major crime story, but search engine results indicate that at least one news station mentioned the site in another state and a series of celebrities Tweeted a link to it.

Long Term Employment

In the late summer of 2010 a local company who Sullivan had helped with SEO services earlier that year called him out the blue with an offer of full time employment as their in house SEO specialist. Due to the scalability of his designs and the help of George O’Brien he knew that his sites would be able to handle all levels of traffic regardless of where he was or what he was doing. Sullivan stayed with that company into 2011 until he made himself obsolete by optimizing every site he was authorized to change as much as humanly possible within the constraints imposed on him by the company.

2011 PR Achievements and Technical Difficulties

In the spring of 2011 Sullivan made headlines again when he issued a press release about how O’Brien got an anti-bullying site suspended by threatening its hosting company with a bad review. The problem was that SBT owned the site and O’Brien was portrayed as a disgruntled customer became so abusive towards the company that they shut down the account because they believed doing business with SBT created a negative work environment for their employees. O’Brien accused Sullivan of throwing him under the bus and threatened to leave the company, but eventually agreed that no matter how bad it made him look that increasing traffic is always more important than being liked.

Early 2011 was plagued by numerous technical difficulties at the fault of multiple hosting companies. On Malaysian company was constantly plagued by downtime that exceeded four days at one point at a time when SBT had already moved everything except for a critical database off of their servers. A Dutch company proved unable to get a single site running properly within 5 days. An American company suffered a hard disk failure requiring the repair of multiple databases just day before SBT had planned on transferring the databases and shutting the account down. An attempt to issue a press release announcing a new version of a website was aborted due to losing the ability to use our press release distribution service. All and all SBT lost at least a month of development time to incompetent hosting in that time period. This also led to a critical change in strategy by SBT after Sullivan realized how much overhead is involved when changing hosts with a large number of domains due to uploading files, changing DNS, restoring databases, and re-creating critical email accounts. This led to the decision not to launch incremental prototypes anymore and begin moving everything to one large website when live testing of the final product begins. All designs made for the purpose of creating new services as quickly as possible to target hot button issues in the news were then used only to help clients needing to get inventory visible online quickly.

Before losing the ability to send press releases using its preferred method SBT managed to plug three sites in one broadcast that spring. The broadcast was the most fair and balanced coverage of Sullivan’s first website to date.

2011 Summer Progress and Fall Plans

The summer of 2011 has been consumed with building the final prototype for the Craigslist alternative. This prototype is a complete mirror of the final site right down to each section. Sullivan found a way to apply every field from the database to something relevant to its topics. For instance the site has a business directory which is really a test for housing where fields visible to the user as number of employees, years in business, and number of locations are really intended for housing ad listings on the final product.