Niche Technologies was a venture capital incubator founded in 2006 by Michael Murphy. Shortly after starting the company, Michael was joined by his two brothers, Sean and Darren. As partners in the company, the Murphy Brothers operated an innovative seed stage accelerator making investments in internet and media ventures.
Born and raised in Wyoming, the Murphy Brothers brought their can do, will do fightin’ Irish spirit to their work at Niche Technologies. Their upbringing and education helped them put into action a conscious business model based on the values that put Wyoming on the map— integrity, loyalty and good ol’ fashion hard work. With a set foundation the Murphy Brother dove into internet and technology. It was quite the leap from their home state; a place known for its energy industry, wide open spaces and bona-fide cowboys ridin’ horses, bulls and buffaloes.
From 2006-2008, the Murphy Brothers raised $2.5M to capitalize the company’s ventures and as early-stage investors made investments ranging from $25,000 to $500,000. Over time, the Niche incubator evolved from a band of brothers working in a basement to a team of 15 people working in an upscale office in downtown Denver.
The Murphy Brothers were anything but traditional investors. In fact, they were quite the opposite. When Niche Technologies invested in a company they became the founders and ultimately invested in themselves as the entrepreneurs behind the business. From 2006-2012 they funded, grew and exited most of the Niche Technologies ventures.
The Murphy Brother’s most noteworthy exit was Fairway Properties, Inc. (OTCQB:FRYP). After founding the company they raised financing from 37 accredited investors in Wyoming, Colorado and Texas. The company was spun out of Niche Properties and the Murphy Brothers took it public in 2009. Several years later the company executed a reverse merger and was acquired by Medient Studios, Inc (OTCQB:MDNT). To date, investors have realized ROIs ranging from 50%-500%.
The Murphy Brothers
It makes me smile knowing you’re my brother… and that there’s nothing you can do about it. -Anonymous
The venture philosophy at Niche Technologies was to put conscious business into action. As graduates from the University of Notre Dame, the Murphy brothers cultivated a deeper purpose by putting the values of their education and a sense of spirituality into their work. The effect was a foundation that sustained them during challenging times and propelled them to new heights during prosperous ones.
We hope that you find Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business Model as helpful and inspiring as we do. It was the foundation of Niche Technologies.
- Deeper Purpose: Recognizing that every business has a deeper purpose than merely profit maximization, a conscious business is clear about and focused on fulfilling its deeper purpose.
- Stakeholder Model: A conscious business focuses on delivering value to all of its stakeholders and works to align and harmonize the interests of customers, employees, suppliers, investors, the community, and the environment to the greatest extent possible.
- Conscious Leadership: In a conscious business, management embodies conscious leadership and fosters it throughout the organization. Conscious leaders serve as stewards to the company’s deeper purpose and its stakeholders, focusing on fulfilling the company’s purpose, delivering value to its stakeholders, and facilitating a harmony of interests, rather than on personal gain and self-aggrandizement.
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion can be fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. -John Steinbeck
- Michael graduates #1 in his class from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
- Michael graduates #1 in his class from Notre Dame’s Masters in Accountancy program.
- Michael is hired to a prestigious job with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in Connecticut.
- Michael begins to wonder if there is more to life than doing accounting all day long.
- Michael turns down several high paying job opportunities in New York and Chicago and moves to Denver to follow his entrepreneurial dreams.
- Michael founds Niche Technologies, Inc. working from a one room rental at his trusty card table (aka Mr. Bigglesworth).
- Michael begins fundraising for Niche Technologies Inc and raises seed capital from family and friends.
- Michael negotiates the purchase of the domain name Lux.com.
- Michael negotiates the purchase of the industry’s most comprehensive niche real estate domain portfolio including domain names such as LuxuryProperty.com, LuxuryProperties.com, HistoricalProperties.com and EcoProperties.com.
- The economy and real estate market are riding high.
- Michael upgrades from Mr. Bigglesworth to a house in the Denver suburbs. Niche HQ is born.
- Sean graduates from Notre Dame with degrees in Psychology and Theology. He moves to Denver and joins Michael at Niche HQ.
- Michael and Sean hire JGSullivan to develop the first LuxuryProperty.com website.
- Michael and Sean hire a sales team and graphic designers. The basement of Niche HQ becomes a venture incubator.
- The Luxury Property Blog launches as one of the first corporate real estate blogs on the internet.
- Niche Properties launches 13 niche real estate websites (e.g., EcoProperties.com, HistoricalProperties.com, CastleProperties.com).
- Michael and Sean co-found Fairway Properties, Inc. Michael becomes CEO and Sean becomes President.
- Sean writes the business plan for Fairway Properties, Inc. The business plan wins.
- Michael and Sean raise more funding for Niche Technologies.
- The first LuxuryProperty.com website fails to be delivered on time and on spec.
- Niche Technologies sues JGSullivan.
- Times are tough and stressful at Niche HQ.
- Michael and Sean co-found VideoPros.
- Niche Technologies invests in VideoPros.
- Darren graduates from the University of Colorado at Boulder and joins Michael and Sean at Niche HQ.
- Darren is hired as Secretary of Fairway Properties, Inc. High five bro.
- The Murphy Brothers raise financing for Fairway Properties, Inc from 37 accredited investors in Wyoming, Colorado and Texas.
- Niche Technologies invests in Fairway Properties, Inc.
- Niche Technologies settles its lawsuit with JGSullivan.
- Niche HQ outgrows the basement and moves to a new office. Employees become ping pong ninjas.
- The Murphy Brothers take Fairway Properties, Inc (OTCQB:FRYP) public filing a Form 10.
- Michael and Sean raise more funding for Niche Technologies.
- Niche Technologies invests a second round of capital into VideoPros.
- VideoPros hires a team of Ruby on Rails developers, designers and videographers.
- Niche Technologies invests in Vidli.
- Niche Technologies rebuilds and relaunches LuxuryProperty.com
- Revenues for VideoPros and Fairway Properties increase.
- Niche HQ continues growing. The Murphy Brothers upgrade the incubator to a new office in downtown Denver.
- Niche Technologies invests in Zprosper.
- Niche HQ grows to 12 employes, 7 freelancers, a dozen part-timers and an armada of interns.
- The Murphy Brothers move to Los Angeles and open a small office for VideoPros and Vidli.
- Niche Technologies grows and develops Vidli.
- Niche Technologies launches a third generation website for LuxuryProperty.com
- Website traffic and advertising revenues increase for LuxuryProperty.com
- Niche Technologies redesigns and launches new niche websites for Niche Properties.
- Website traffic and advertising revenues increase for Niche Properties.
- Revenues increase for Fairway Properties, Inc.
- Revenues increase for VideoPros.
- Vidli is acquired by a private buyer. Niche Technologies exits investment.
- Niche Technologies spins off Niche Properties, including LuxuryProperty.com, to new management.
- Michael negotiates the sale of Lux.com, one of the top domain name sells of the year. Niche Technologies exits investment.
- VideoPros is acquired by Vidyasa, Inc. Niche Technologies exits investment.
- The Murphy Brothers receive an offer to buy Fairway Properties, but due to ethical considerations they pass on the offer.¹
- The Murphy Brothers return to Denver.
- The Murphy Brothers receive another offer to buy Fairway Properties, but due to stakeholder considerations they pass on the offer.²
- Fairway Properties executes a reverse merger and is acquired by Medient Studios, Inc (OTCQB:MDNT). Niche Technologies and shareholders exit investment with ROIs ranging from 50-500%.³
Conscious Business in Action: Shareholder Value vs. Stakeholder Value
Shareholder Value emphasizes profitability over responsibility and views organizations as instruments of its owners. Shareholder Value proponents believe an organization’s success can be measure by things such as share price, dividends and economic profit. Stakeholder value, on the other hand, emphasizes responsibility over profitability and sees organizations primarily as coalitions to serve all involved. Stakeholder Value advocates believe an organization’s success should be measured by the satisfaction among all stakeholders.
To put conscious business into action the Murphy Brothers practiced a stakeholder model. When they sold Fairway Properties Inc, their public company, they relied heavily on the values of the stakeholder model and what they learned about business ethics during their Notre Dame education. Otherwise, the ending to this story would have been different.
¹ In 2011 Fairway Properties received an acquisition offer from a gender selection company that offers products to help expecting parents influence the gender of their unborn baby. From a numbers and shareholder perspective, the company looked like a great acquirer, but the Murphy Brothers decided it wasn’t a fit considering their ethical principles and the stakeholder model. They reasoned unborn children were stakeholders in the acquisition as well– and that the gender selection product (if ever ineffective) could potentially lead to someone choosing abortion in countries where a baby’s gender can be a matter of birth or abortion (i.e., Saudi Arabia, China, etc.). Instead of doing the deal to maximize shareholder value they decided it best to wait for a deal in line with their ethics and the stakeholder model.
² Fairway Properties received a second acquisition offer in early 2012. Like the gender selection deal, the deal looked really good from a numbers and shareholder perspective. However, the acquiring company did little to maximize value for all of the stakeholders. The Murphy Brothers decided to pass on the offer and continue growing Fairway Properties.
³ In late 2012 Fairway Properties received a third acquisition offer from Medient Studios. The numbers were not quite as good as the previous offers, but the Murphy Brothers believed that this deal best served all stakeholders of Fairway Properties. They executed the reverse merger and were acquired. To date, shareholders have realized an ROI of 50%-500% and stakeholder value is being maximized through developing partnerships.
Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. ~Marc Brown
We sure do ‘preciate it…
Thank you for taking the time to read our story of conscious business, entrepreneurship and brotherly love. At most, we hope that it inspires you to start your own business and practice a conscious business model. At the very least, we hope that you hug an entrepreneur for their hard work and be the best sibling you can be.
Just remember, even though things don’t always turn out they way you expect, the greatest success rests in trying your best and making every moment count. We are proud to say we did that at Niche Technologies and wish you much success in all your ventures.
Feel free to drop us a line here and God bless you and yours.