Jon Carder retired when he was just 27 years old.
The California native started his first company, BabysHeaven, when he was a sophomore at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego where he studied philosophy and art.
BabysHeaven sold baby products online — and a few months after launching, Carder decided to drop out of college to focus on his business, which he eventually sold for a few thousand dollars at age 22 to start a new company: Client Shop, an online tool for helping people find a low rate for a home loan.
“I was able to use all the knowledge I had gained from marketing baby products to quickly scale Client Shop with my two partners to millions of dollars within its first year,” he tells Business Insider. “When I bought a truck and drove it home to see my parents, my Mum freaked out and thought I had started selling drugs. She didn’t really get the whole internet thing and how you could make legitimate money using it.”
It wasn’t until four years later when Carder’s mother saw him on the cover of Fortune Small Business with the caption, “Jon Carder sold his business, Client Shop, for more than $US10 million,” that she realised he was running a real business. “Ever since then she’s been a proud mum.”
Client Shop grew quickly in its short four-year life. It had over 100 employees and won the title of San Diego’s fastest growing company in 2005.
In March 2006 the company reached $US8.4 million in revenue and Carder decided to sell.
“Just a few months later the refinance bubble burst and the company’s value dropped like a rock,” he recalls. “I can’t say exactly how much we sold for, but it was large enough that I could travel the world, surf, and never have to work again. So that’s exactly what I decided to do.”
He says he became an entrepreneur for one purpose, and one purpose only: to make money. Once he had accomplished that goal, he felt “done.”
“My parents struggled with money and we never had a lot,” Carder explains. “In fact, when I started my first internet business I had to use my friend’s computer because I didn’t have one yet. So once I made the money I thought, ‘It’s time to retire and live the good life.'”
So, in 2006, he invited 10 of his friends to join him on a surf trip in Indonesia to kick off his retirement.
“We had an epic time and I couldn’t have been happier,” he says. “I learned that money can buy happiness, but it’s a limited-time-only happiness.”
After the two-week trip ended, Carder’s friends all had to go back to work. “I was 27 at the time and most of my friends were in their 20s, too. So I had a plan to just continue travelling and surfing around the world occasionally meeting up with them along the way. But that plan quickly fell apart.”
A few days after his friends left, Carder found himself on a remote island in Timor, Indonesia, feeling bored. “Like really freaking bored,” he says. “And I realised that although being an entrepreneur was stressful and excruciating at times, it was so much more fulfilling to be building something that was making a positive impact on people’s lives than it was to be doing nothing.“
He decided right then and there he’d come out of his very early retirement to go create something new. “I learned being happy — and being an entrepreneur — was finally no longer about money,” he says. “It was about impact.”
So, in week three of his retirement, he ran to a small internet access hut in Indonesia and bought the domain name for company No. 3: MojoPages.com, which was a place for people to find the best local businesses like plumbers, doctors, and restaurants by tapping into the wisdom of the crowds. “I was clueless that Yelp had already started two years earlier and was well on their way,” he says.
The day MojoPages.com launched, Yelp announced it had raised $US10 million. “We would never catch up,” he says. “Yelp would be the one making an impact, not us. So I moved on.”
Carder began studying game mechanics and decided he wanted to gamify the $US700 billion restaurant market. “That industry hadn’t changed for decades and punch cards was the most popular form of a loyalty program,” he says. “We had the opportunity to make a huge impact once again.”
So, in 2010, he teamed up with Jarrod Cuzens and Jeff Federman to launch Mogl, an app that allows you to earn rewards — including airline points and money, which you can keep or donate — at thousands of restaurants without the hassle of coupons or loyalty cards.
“I may finally, after 16 years of struggle, be able to truly create massive impact,” he says. “I might have missed the opportunity had I not retired and realised what really mattered most to me in life.”
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