2020 year in review

For the last three years, I’ve done a “year in review” post to look back at what I’ve achieved in the previous year, get some future strategy ideas written down, and set some concrete goals for the next 12 months.

In this edition, I mostly talk too much about all the different kinds of pet stores I want to own. Enjoy!

SingularLabs is still dying

SingularLabs—my Windows software development business—saw its sixth consecutive year of traffic decline. 2020’s revenue was almost exactly identical to 2019, so there was some positive not negative news.

There were a total of six software releases in 2020, which was fewer than the previous year, but arguable contained more interesting improvements.

Bzzt! Image Editor was re-engineered to use the new async/await feature introduced in Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5, which has made it much faster and more responsive. NET 4.5 has actually been around since 2012, but it doesn’t support Windows XP and SingularLabs still had a decent number of customers using it.

The System Ninja and CCEnhancer updates were mostly minor bug fixes, but we did please a few people by adding cleaning support for 25 addition web browsers. System Ninja notably celebrated its 10th birthday in November.

I also had to discontinue Remembr—my Windows clipboard management app—because Windows now has a clipboard manager built in. It’s the second time Microsoft has made one of my projects redundant, the first being Nucleus, which added app notifications, a notification API, and a start menu replacement to Windows 8 years before those features arrived in Windows 10.

LaunchWoo is ascending

LaunchWoo is basically my personal web design portfolio. Sure, there’s other services offered there like digital marketing and site management, but they basically exist as complimentary services to the people for whom I build websites.

Prior to 2019, LaunchWoo was called Gowland Media. The rebrand, along with the launch of the Growth Blog, Entrepreneur’s Brief, and Retail Events Calendar, was to use content marketing in the WooCommerce niche to attract new clients. This hasn’t worked at all, and to date I haven’t acquired a single new client solely through the website.

LaunchWoo’s traffic, however, more than doubled in 2020. The self-service web hosting service that the website also offers—but doesn’t actually promote—also started to pick up a bit.

It seems clear that the future of LaunchWoo isn’t to attract clients, but instead to generate passive income through digital services.

My goal in 2021 is to redesign the website to put more of an emphasis on the hosting side-business, and potentially explore other passive income streams that the content parts of the website could generate. I’ve always wanted to write an eBook…

Continued work in the pet industry

Earlier in the year I launched Aquarium Hub, which follows the shop/magazine/community/classifieds business model of Aviculure Hub. The main difference is, of course, that the new website is focused on fish instead of birds.

Since launching it has been my most neglected project, with very little content published and $0 in revenue so far. Traffic did start to pick up in December (ostensibly as the site came out of Google’s sandbox), so there is some potential on the horizon.

Aviculture Hub was the unexpected mild success in my 2019 roundup, bringing in a five-figure profit in its first year of monetization. 2020 didn’t go quite as well.

Sure, the website’s traffic doubled, but the revenue stayed completely flat. In January I lost supply of the store’s most popular product. The sales growth in other products that recouped the revenue lost was focused on the products with much slimmer profit margins, leading to a substantial overall profit drop.

The biggest growth area for traffic in 2019 was the bird sale calendar. Sadly COVID completely stopped all in-person events, so the traffic to these pages effectively became zero. Luckily the uptick in traffic to the classified’s section more than made up for it, and also presents a monetization opportunity further down the line.

Pet Village Group is another new website launched in 2020. It’s essentially an umbrella for my four (soon to be 5) pet websites, so that I only need to maintain one business registration, one credit card processing account, one PayPal account, etc.

I wrote back in May that I “might be planning some Voltron-esque pet industry play a little further down the line.” That’s still a work-in-progress, but the website is currently live and actually got its first sale—a dog bed—during this soft launch period. I’m really excited about this project, and expect that a huge number of hours will be poured into it in the next two months to get ready for the autumn pet-store boom period.

There’s also another two websites that might be joining the Pet Village Group towards the end of 2021. The first is a resource for people in the pet industry (shop owners, manufacturers, etc) that I’m ruminating about.

I haven’t quite ironed out the finer details, but I can imagine it having great synergy with LaunchWoo (online pet stores need eCommerce development and web hosting and digital marketing), while also giving some competitive advantage to my own pet businesses and existing LaunchWoo clients in the pet industry.

The second is a dog accessory boutique that will operate entirely independent, but exist within the Group for the sake of synergy. I’m saying synergy a lot. Did I suddenly become a 30 Rock character?

I’m going to be quite busy I think.