It’s been nearly 5 years since HMGAL launched. In that time, a lot has happened and I know lots of people are curious - did I get the Lambo?! I want to update everyone on the project (besides the obvious new look), explain more about its genesis, what happened, and what’s next.
When I first published this site, I had no idea what a phenomenon it would become. There really were no expectations in mind - certainly not what followed. While I hoped I'd achieve my goal, I was pretty skeptical that it would actually work. I figured that, no matter what, I would learn something in the process. Boy, did I ever!
The site launched in April of 2013. At the time, I was working at a non-profit, not exactly rolling in dough. I'd hatched this idea of trying to crowdsource a Lamborghini from the internet at large. I can't pinpoint 100% where I came up with the idea, but I believe I thought of it after hearing about a woman who was trying to crowdsource a breast augmentation. It struck me as extremely egotistical and fascinating at the same time.
Actually, let’s back up a little bit. Like the original page said, I was in my late mid-twenties when it launched. I grew up in a good family in a high-achieving school district in New York. I did very, very well in school and was involved in many sports and clubs. To be honest, I was a bit myopic. Sometimes I had a bit of trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Up until my senior year of high school, I intently worked on getting into the best college that I could.
Where I’m from, kids are competing to get into the best schools in the country - Ivies, little Ivies, smaller, elite liberal arts colleges, and the best state schools. Where I come from, it’s not a question as to whether you’re going to go to college but which one and you’re choosing from the best of the best. So I did like I was supposed to and got into one of those really good schools. And then I didn’t know what to do.
Up until that point, my life was devoted to getting into an amazing school. But once I got there, I was lost. I didn’t know why I had worked so hard or why I was really there. Somehow, I’d missed the memo on how to decide what to do with my life. It had always just been such a singular focus to get into a great school and yet no one had really helped me to figure out what I was going to do once I got there.
For the first time, I struggled in school. I really didn’t know what I was doing. Life had sort of lost its purpose. There was no crystal clear objective other than “do well.” I got involved in some sports and clubs there too, which gave me some sense of familiarity.
My advisor (basically, a guidance counselor) suggested to take classes that I was interested in and that seemed to help. I started getting good grades again. I graduated with a degree in a cultural studies program and a minor in history. But I felt stuck again.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I made a half-hearted attempt at going for a masters degree in digital information, aka this whole social media thing. Facebook came out my freshman year of college and we were one of the first schools to be on there. So I’ve been on Facebook just about as long as anyone could possibly be and knew it was going to be big.
Growing up, I’d always been interested in technology. My dad was into it and had some nice gear. I was the one who friends and family turned to when they needed help with computers and technology. Mind you, I didn’t know how to code or build anything from scratch but I understood most of what was going on. And importantly, I was able to distill technical concepts and translate them into meaningful explanations to non-technical family and friends.
I parlayed this into a couple of jobs in public relations and then as the first employee of a startup. I thought I had made it. I was going to get a bunch of options, this thing was going to take off, and I’d be angel or venture investing before I was 30. Needless to say, it didn’t play out like that.
The startup had a lot of issues. Neither my boss, nor I, were technical enough to code and our development was outsourced to remote teams on the other side of the world despite my insistence that we bring on a full time dev here. It’s not that there isn’t a place for outsourcing development but it wasn’t what we needed. Besides, it was my boss’s money so there was only so much I could do. His best quality was also his worst - he was willing to listen to lots of ideas, which, on the surface, sounds great. But it ended up being a liability. He’d end up constantly changing directions on things almost weekly. One week we were building this product, the next we were building something different. You can’t really build anything when you’re changing what it is every other week.
After nearly two years and a few hires, I was part of a round of layoffs. Here I was again without knowing what was next. A family friend offered me a temp job for a few weeks to have something to do while I was looking for a new job and that turned out to be the non-profit.
Almost two years later, while still at the non-profit, the site was launched. Being a student of history and culture, and also having taken a few psychology and sociology classes, I was keenly interested in the reactions it would receive. I tried to do as much work ahead of time to ensure a successful project.
The premise was simple. Coinciding with the rise of crowdfunding, I wanted to see if people would give money and support to an obviously frivolous campaign so long as the intentions were made clear. I was asking strangers to visit my site and donate money or click on ads so that I could raise enough money to buy a Lamborghini Gallardo. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have some terrible tragedy befall me. I was just a regular guy with a regular job asking for help. I figured that if I straight up said what I wanted and didn’t try to trick people, that I might be able to do it. And let's be real for a moment - I'd wager that 99% of people aren't supporting these projects out of the goodness of their hearts. They're doing it because they get something in return, usually the ability to preorder a product. So I felt I had nothing to lose.
This was important to me as a personal growth exercise as well. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I have always struggled with asking for what I want and communicating my needs. I usually don't speak up and am very willing to go along with what others want and not necessarily voice what I want. This was a chance to simply and clearly ask for something and express myself.
I’ve always been fascinated by money and its role in our society. I’m also fascinated by materialism and aesthetics and psychology and how they affect our lives as well. There so many issues with money in America and I am always warmed hearing about the goodness of strangers donating money to people who are down on their luck.
Living in New York City, I’m especially familiar with the plight of the homeless, with such a large population here. Here, the homeless mostly ask for money. Sometimes they’ll ask for food. And I’ll see people oblige, mostly in the form of giving them money. And it is our society’s relationship with money that is so interesting to me. Have I ever given a homeless person money? Absolutely. But I don’t do it anymore. Why? Am I heartless? Am I cold? Am I trapped in the bubble of privilege? Not at all. In fact, I feel that I’m trapped in a perverted version of reality.
I’ve always been a big fan of the, “If you catch a man a fish...” quote. (For those unfamiliar, the full quote is “If you catch a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”) I feel that when you give a homeless person money, it’s really more about you than it is about them. I think most people are doing it from a good place but it’s also a naive place. It’s something that allows the giver to feel good and assuage their guilt about the state of our society. When you give them money, you are creating a situation of dependency. This person is dependent on simply getting more from other people in order to survive. While it feels like you’re helping, you really aren’t. You are actually trapping them to a life of reliance. If people really wanted to help, they’d tell the homeless person to come with them. They’d take them to get something to eat. They’d get them a shower and buy them some clothes. They’d bring them home and give them a place to stay. And then they’d either pay them to work for them or help them get a job. But how many people do this? Has anyone ever? Probably, but it’s clearly the exception and not the rule. I haven’t either. But I’d prefer to live in a society where people didn’t have to be homeless. I'd prefer to live in a society that offers protections and cares for everyone equally so that people would be less likely to be homeless in the first place.
It’s incredible how different America is from so many of our first-world peers. We have little to no safety net and the majority opinion seems to be that if you’ve had a setback or failure in your life, it’s always your fault and you should just pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Of course, the people who usually say this completely ignore all the help and benefits they’ve received from the safety nets that do exist.
I point this out to hopefully give you, dear reader, something to reflect upon. As I write this, it’s amazing how the events of the last few years in America have shown us what our society really is. This was evident to me at the time, though I certainly had no idea what would have transpired in November 2016.
Anyway, back to the website. I used a basic site builder and deliberately designed it to look rather unpolished. I was already using a higher-end builder for my own personal site but I wanted HMGAL to have less polish. I put up some basic ads and a simple donation button. I went out and tried to find a few outlets and contacts to promote the site, hoping that someone would bite. And bite they did.
The site was initially covered on Jalopnik. I just checked the numbers as I’m writing this update and the article currently has 28,800 views and 130 comments. This set off a few more interviews and pieces on the Yahoo! homepage and Complex. In the first three days, the site received over 50,000 views and donations from across the world including someone in the Arctic Circle. The Yahoo! coverage was particularly amusing to me as the story was featured 2 stories above some story on the Kardashians.
The articles had hundreds and in some cases thousands of comments. It appears that Yahoo! Autos did some sort of restructuring and the numbers were reset but, at the time, the article had over 1,200 comments. I was also amused by the comments on the Yahoo! article because several people thought they had figured out who I was and were making all sorts of judgments on completely innocent people.
The site spawned countless copy-cats. In fact, taking a very quick search as I write this, I have counted 15 Lamborghini-funding projects on GoFundMe alone.
Again, I had no expectations since how could I really know what would happen? Of course, I hoped it would work but it didn’t really matter. I was hoping for a reaction.
I received hundreds of emails and signups to the mailing list. Most of the comments on the articles and the emails were negative. I received many positive words as well but I’d estimate the split was 70/30 negative to positive.
The negative comments were the most amusing. It’s amazing how powerful money is in our society. Some people were enraged that someone would ask for this. They accused me of being lazy, selfish, or lacking ambition. They told me to get a job or work harder. These comments frightened me. Not because of what they were saying to or about me. But because of what they said about America.
And what it said wasn’t good. It showed how terrible our education system is. While messages have come in from all over the world, clearly most were from native English speakers and, based on the analytics data, mostly Americans. It was incredible how few people were able to string together a coherent, grammatically correct sentence. While some may say that it’s not nice to poke fun at the ability of people to write or speak clearly, especially if you understand what they’re trying to say, I have to disagree. When one can barely communicate in one’s native language, it is worrisome. I think, in this day and age, the ability to communicate clearly is imperative. Because detail and clarity matter. Being able to understand nuance and decipher what one is reading is imperative to understanding the world. It’s no surprise that fake news has been able to be wielded as such an effective weapon of misinformation.
Additionally, what the messages communicated were failures to understand logic, history, and our society at large. It’s no surprise that America is where it is in 2018. While people complain about politicians and corporate CEOs, they act as if these people magically appeared into these roles. There’s some sort of failure to see that Joe Senator or John CEO is one of us. They’ve grown up in the same country (mostly) that we have. They are us. We are them. Society is you and me. We are America.
And the comments directed towards me in particular were worrisome. Again, not because of my feelings, but because of how many people just cannot do basic logic. I was called out for being lazy. I was told to work harder. I was told to get a job, despite the fact that both the project site and most of the articles clearly stated that I had a job. Additionally, the fact that I had a job at a non-profit was also lost on many people. There’s a fascinating TED Talk about the relationship between financial compensation and charities that is really worth watching. It is just astonishing how Americans will laud financially-successful people, regardless of what industry they succeed in or how they actually go about achieving their fortunes, and believe that these people are completely deserving of their riches. At the same time, they believe that the people who are doing charitable work dare not ask for any compensation at all. And if they are to be compensated, they must be given the absolute bare minimum. We have such a warped view of morality and priorities in this country.
So many people failed to see that I was literally doing all of the things they were complaining about. Let’s see: I built an honest, truthful website that allowed people to give me money. I marketed it to large publications with massive scale. I overtook the Kardashians on the homepage of Yahoo! I got complete strangers to give me money with nothing expected in return. I managed communications and built a mailing list. And the site continues to generate money with virtually no involvement on my part. I’d say those are pretty marketable skills. The irony was not lost on me.
OK, so what happened? After the launch, that’s when I saw the most traffic which has understandably died down over time. The site generated thousands of dollars in advertising and donations. I continue to receive traffic every day. Did I get the Lamborghini - No.
But wait, there’s more…Of course, I was never going to be able to buy the car on the salary I was making (hence the site.) And regardless of whether or not I got the car, this wasn’t a job that I could stay in forever. So instead of being “lazy” as some would accuse, I started learning to code. My experience at the startup had left me wanting to never be in the position of not being able to build something I’d thought of. Not to mention, developers can make a good salary from a job as well as freelance or build their own companies.
I started learning online. Then, one of the most popular learn-to-code sites launched an in-person mini bootcamp. I applied and was accepted. It wasn’t as intense as the popular all-in bootcamps that have come about the last few years, but it was a start. I did well enough that I was asked to be an advisor for their new online learning platform. I worked there on nights and weekends for just over a year. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, it didn’t allow me much time to progress in my own learning. One of my classmates who also was selected to work in the program told me about another bootcamp-style program for learning iOS. I went for an informational session and was blown away by the instructor/owner. I immediately enrolled in the weekend programs to learn Swift for iOS development.
Eventually, the course came to an end. The last portion of the class was focused on helping us get started as developers in terms of freelancing or finding jobs. I started reaching out and getting freelance gigs, building up my portfolio. I built custom tools for a marketing agency and did work on some of their clients' websites I was hired by a messaging startup that I ended up walking away from and did some coding for a VC education program. I was connected to it by a college friend who was initially scheduled to do the work for them but was unable to take the contract. He introduced me to them and, just like that, I was making really good money. I was able to take the exact same rate that he was set to charge them even though he was a more experienced programmer than I was. Had I parlayed that rate into a full-time client base, I’d have earned almost 4 times what I was making at the non-profit. Which reminds me - I was able to get a couple of raises and promotions at the non-profit during these last few years. So I continued working there and freelancing on the side.
My buddy who had gotten me this project was also planning to move back to New York from California. For a while, we’d been saying we should do something together. It started to all make sense when he passed on this project to me. He was trying to get a digital agency started but was unable to devote time to it with his other business taking off. We decided to go in together and build our own agency focused on online advertising and marketing, website creation, and web & mobile app development. We are Google AdWords-certified and in the process of obtaining our Google Partner badge, as well as several other certifications. I am now working with him to grow our agency and I continue to work at the non-profit in the meanwhile until it gets to the level where I feel comfortable leaving and focusing on the agency full time.
So what does that mean for HMGAL? While I have been adamant about not giving anything in exchange for the advertising dollars and donations, I’ve decided to do something more. I hoped that the gamble would pay off completely on its own merits but I realize that it has a much better chance of working if I do something in return. So I have built Lambogram.com. It’s a basic image site that pulls in pictures of Lamborghinis from across Instagram in one spot. So for all of the Lambo buffs out there, you now have a spot for pure, unadulterated Lamborghini pictures and videos. Lambogram and HMGAL will continue to be advertising and donation-supported and I hope that the goal can still be achieved. Additionally, I’ve also built another viral comedy site called WhoLetYouOutLikeThat.com, which is ad-supported. You can email pictures of crazy outfits and we’ll post them up on there. But please, don’t send me pictures of people who are obviously homeless or need help. That’s not cool. If you see someone who needs assistance, try to help them. I realize not everyone is going to be able to take someone into their home but do something positive if you can. Remember - our society is you and it is me. But it is also them. Sometimes we forget to simply recognize each other’s humanity in the busyness of the day-to-day.
What about all of the charity stuff? My offer still stands. If I'm able to get the car, I will take some of the proceeds and donate them to charity. Obviously, I'm sensitive to the homeless and will likely use that money for programs that help people get back on their feet and give them education, training, and opportunities.
As always, you can contact me at HelpMeGetALambo@gmail.com. If you’re interested in doing a story, have a question or comment, or just want to shoot the breeze, don’t hesitate to reach out. I read every single email even if I can’t reply to all of them.
If you have a brand or company and you need help getting more customers or clients, also please reach out. I think it’s clear by now that I’ve got the chops to help you stand out, both from a pure marketing and creative perspective, but also now, legitimately, from a technical perspective. Our agency is always looking to work with people who care about the work that they do but also want to make money while doing it.
The last few years have been an incredible ride. I have learned so much about our country and our world and how things work, both social and technical. Most importantly, I have gotten to know myself much better than I did before. I’ve never claimed to have lead a perfect life. But I’ve taken my situation and taken action and tried to make my life better than it was the day before. Constantly striving to be a little bit better each day than you were the last day is a great way to live. I hope the project has injected some humor into your life and now with Lambogram and WhoLetYouOutLikeThat, hopefully a little more humor and entertainment. But please remember, that at the end of the day, it’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice.
Hugs & Kisses <3 ~ HelpMeGetALambo Guy