Summer at home proving valuable for SelectOut founder Pappas
SelectOut's home page touts its growing user-base: "Over 20 million Opt-Outs set and counting…" Screenshot from selectout.org.
Midway through a phone call last week, Calvin Pappas made an admission about the sometimes disorienting nature of running a startup. "If it weren't for your email, I probably wouldn’t know that today was actually Thursday," said Pappas, a 20-year-old University of Nebraska student and the founder of SelectOut. (For an introduction to Pappas and SelectOut, see our story "Thriving privacy site SelectOut.org puts 19-year-old in high demand".)
Details like days of the week may be hazy for Pappas, but one thing is crystal clear: he's exactly where he wants to be. "You know, every day kind of merges together," said Pappas (below, photo from Facebook), "but it’s something that I absolutely love to do."
After spending last summer in Silicon Valley working for database marketing company RapLeaf, Pappas opted to stay in Lincoln this summer and dedicate himself to SelectOut, a website that educates users about companies that follow their internet use and gives those users the choice to opt out of being tracked by companies.
Pappas turned down the opportunity at the end of last summer to stay in Silicon Valley full-time, and he's had plenty of offers to return to The Valley again this summer. In fact, offers are still coming in. But be warned, would-be suitors: Pappas isn’t likely to leave Lincoln.
"This summer, I really want to dedicate to myself," Pappas said of his decision to eschew another stint in the Bay Area for a summer break spent at home in Nebraska. "I figured, worst case scenario, if everything flops, I gave up one summer when I'm 20 years old. It's not the end of the world. But the experience I'm learning from this, just taking control of it myself and really pursuing what I'm passionate about and what interests me, is definitely going to be worth it in the long run."
Recently, SelectOut introduced email alerts sent to users when new tracking companies are added to SelectOut. The site also offers email updates on the latest privacy news. Pappas has made upgrades to the SelectOut to accommodate expected spikes in traffic. But perhaps the most important development this summer for SelectOut has been the opportunity for Pappas to better define his vision for the site.
"You know, every day kind of merges together, but it’s something that I absolutely love to do." - Calvin Pappas
"One thing I've been really looking at this summer was really kind of finding my one focus, what I really want to do, and really start monetizing off of (that) and really creating it into a full-fledged business," Pappas said. "And so I'm slowly adjusting away from just purely opting out and giving kind of more control and more options to users."
To more users, that is. As of our March interview with Pappas, SelectOut had facilitated some 1.4 million opt outs. Last week, that number surpassed 20 million. And the number of tracking services SelectOut enables users to opt out of has grown from just more than 100 as of that March interview to nearly 200 today.
Still, Pappas is currently the only person working on the project full-time. He has friends helping him on a part-time basis and said there are plans to add employees on a full-time or closer to full-time basis in the near future. But, for now, Pappas doesn’t mind the sometimes dizzying demands of fronting his own one-man band.
"I would be doing this anyway," Pappas said. "So it's an absolutely, completely different perspective. And it just makes everything better, I’d say, actually being able to be in charge and really take control of my own projects."