During my senior year of college, I became obsessed with starting my own business. After a few failed business plan contest entrants, I turned my focus to the web. Having done an internship that spanned a summer and a semester, I needed an extra semester of classes to graduate in December, and thus had an extra summer as a college student before my final semester. I decided to teach myself how to program, having taken all of one college class on the topic. During the day I programmed. At night I read business books and studied how web businesses worked.
And on July 15, 2004 I launched what I had been working on. The business, SportsLizard.com, was an eBay-like marketplace for sports collectibles, a hobby of mine growing up:
That initial iteration didn’t have much commercial success, but it did win Honorable Mention in the Microsoft Start Something Amazing Awards. I have a signed letter from Bill Gates hanging in my office!
Shortly after, SportsLizard was featured in Tuff Stuff Magazine:
Those two events gave me the confidence to quit my job.
We eventually did find commercial success in 2007 when we launched a freemium pricing tool – type in the name of your collectible and we’d give you an estimate of what it’s worth. The $4.99/mo subscriptions were very popular, and for many years we did minimal work on the project while profiting enough to cover one of our salaries at a time when we desperately needed that kind of cash.
We failed at trying to expand it a few times, and eventually in 2013 Google shut down the API that we relied on. I wrote a very in depth post about this at the time, in which I also talked a lot about how that offering came to be a success.
We launched a simplified, free model with an updated responsive design:
But the damage was done. Without Google’s data we couldn’t come up with good enough price estimates to charge the monthly fee. And until this week, it chugged a long making a little money here and there from Amazon and eBay affiliate referrals.
Today, after 15+ years, I finally shut the site down. Amazon pulled our API access due to low sales generated per their new “Efficiency Guidelines”. API calls would look like this:
The Amazon API was key because we were allowed to use it to estimate the value of an item. eBay does not allow for data analysis, at least not without special privileges, which we failed at attaining several years back. Without Amazon, the site was basically an eBay search, and the decision was an easy one to pull the plug.
I redirected all of the traffic to AdamMcFarland.com/sportslizard/ where I posted the one piece of content that I still think has value. It’s the guide to customizing McFarlane Sports Picks (modifying and repainting figures), which was this odd little subculture that was very popular a decade ago and SportsLizard played a key role in growing the community with tutorials, galleries to post pictures and share decals, a service to link people who wanted a custom with customizers, and more.
I’m a little sad to see it go, but really it wasn’t a part of our business since 2013. Nor has sports collectibles really been an interest of mine since college. It’s one less thing to manage and maintain. On to bigger and better!