Get-Rich-Quick schemes mostly seem useless or fake to us. As Zig Ziglar, aka Hilary Hinton, said, “There is no elevator to success… you have to take the stairs”. But amid the millions, there is always one individual who heads in the opposite direction to write his own history.
They create some out-of-the-box examples for the world and show a new path of success. Such one example of crazy entrepreneurship was “The Million Dollar Homepage,” created by Alex Tew, a 21-year-old boy obsessed with making money. And the result was becoming a millionaire in just four months!! Can you imagine just selling some pixels online makes a man millionaire? But that’s exactly the work Tew had done. In Tew’s words, “It was the get-rich-quick scheme that actually worked.” The website’s aim was to sell one million pixels in the image, hence generating a million dollars of income for Tew. Wondering how? Then let’s take the tour of Tew’s journey of creating “The Million Dollar Homepage,” and a peek at his crazy ideas too.
Crazy Ideas of Tew
It’s clear as crystal that Tew never stopped in a single idea or success. The journey of this misfit entrepreneur started at the age of 8. Tew used to sell hand-drawn comics in his schoolyard in Wiltshire, England, for a $5 pop and completed it with a chocolate bar “freemium.”
After finishing school in 2002, Tew found an unusual passion for beatboxing in college and toured around the UK under the alias “A-plus”. After that, he launched the world’s first beatboxing forum, HumanBeatbox.com.
It was the early days of the internet, and the forum was able to bring together beatboxers from all over the world. They also gathered a 200-persons convention to discuss everything from replicating a snare drum to humming through the nose. But after a few years of slow-moving growth, Tew sold the website to his friend and went for some big project indeed.
That’s when Tew enrolled in a business school at the University of Nottingham. He was thinking about how to pay the fees without burdening with random student loans and bit for a million-dollar project.
As Tew said to The Hustle, “I was living at home, and I was fed up with being broke. So, I asked myself a simple question: How can I make a million dollars?”
He brainstormed many ideas that can make a million-dollar at once and came up with a webpage of million pixels.
Launched on 26 August 2005, The Million Dollar Homepage was an internet phenomenon at that time. The basic idea was influencing businessmen to advertise via the internet. All it took was a website bought for $50 and two days of Tew’s life.
The homepage featured a web banner on the top with the Site’s name and a pixel counter on the right displaying the number of pixels sold. Also, it had the influential line “Own a piece of internet history!” to make extra buzz among the buyers.
Under that, it has a navigation bar containing nine interlinked web pages and a big 1 million pixel empty square grid divided into 10 thousand 100-pixel blocks. Each of the blocks cost $100, which you can say was a long-time promotional investment for the purchasers. As Tew promised, the website would remain online for at least five years.
However, the purchaser had to provide tiny images or logos of their business to be displayed on them, a URL to link the images and a slogan that displays when hovering the cursor over the link.
Tew first called on his friends and family members to buy some pixels with these simple requirements and guidelines. As you know, “Charity begins at home,” and from this one, Tew gathered $47000 by selling 4.7k pixels to them.
Being wiser, Tew used this money to hire a PR agency to draft a press release for his website, and guess what? The BC and The Guardian picked up that PR, resulting in the site having a $3000 business in one day.
Even taking the graph high in one month, Tew collected $250k and was receiving 65k hits per day. By the end of October, the site got more than 1.4k advertisers raging from Tenacious D to online casinos, and half of the pixels were sold out.
Some of the purchasers were buying only 10×10 blocks, while others tied together thousands of pixels for detailed graphics. Also, the biggest graphic on the page was a chain of pixel blocks owned by a domain called “pixellance.com”. That pixel chain contains $10,800 worth of pixels.
Though the last pixel of the page worthed more, by the end of December 2005, 999k pixels were sold, and Tew put the last pixel on eBay for auction. Dueto the huge demand for that tiny one, a domain “MillionDollarWeightLoss.com” bid $38,100 for that pixel. So the grand total of this million-dollar homepage ended at $1,037,100.
And after paying all the costs, taxes and a charity donation to The Prince’s Trust, Tew’s net income was about $700,000.
While everything was going perfectly in the business, Tew had a bump on the way. On 7 January 2006, a few days before the auction closed, The Million Dollar Homepage was subjected to a Distributed Denial-of-Service attack (DDoS).
Tew received an e-mail from an organization named “The Dark Group” where they asked for a $5000 ransom by 10 January, otherwise the homepage would be attacked by DDoS. As Tew believed it as a prank and ignored it. While another email occurred saying, “Hello u website is under us attack to stop the DDoS send us 50000$”. Tew again ignored the mail and his website was flooded with extra traffic and emails, which caused a crash.
For that, the website was inaccessible for a week, and the host server had to upgrade the security system by filtering traffic through anti-DDoS software. Also, Wiltshire Constabulary’s Hi-Tech Crime Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation said the attack was originated from Russia.
The Million Dollar Homepage Now
Passing over the bumps, Tew successfully sold all the pixels and gathered attention from numerous British media articles and programs. Even by November 2005, the website was featured by The Wall Street Journal and many media around the world.
The concept was described as “simple and brilliant” and a unique platform for advertising. Being an astonishing example of viral marketing, The Million Dollar Homepage could have come up with more modern advertising ways later.
But it just stopped there. Tew did the business only as a one-time show which didn’t upgrade or resold later. Till the website has the early 2000’s styling, saturated with eye-melting color pops. The links given on the navigation bar redirect to an unformatted 404 message, though the “Contact Me” redirects to the Twitter profile of Tew.
Just like the navigation menu, many pixel banners on the grid is also having a link rot. According to an article in The Guardian, after nine years of The Million Dollar Homepage creation, 22% of the links were dead.
While another article by Library Innovation Lab in 2017 shows the matrics of 547 links being entirely unreachable from a total of 2,816. Other 489 links redirect the browser to an entirely different domain or a domain resale portal, leaving the 1,780 reachable links. However, the website still receives thousands of monthly traffic, possibly coming to see the heritage website or the largely intact digital artifact.
The Post-Success Void
After having this huge success on his plate, Tew dropped out of the business school to create some more examples like The Million Dollar Homepage. And from 2006 to 2010, he continuously came up with different ventures. Like- Pixelotto, a spinoff of The Million Dollar Homepage, then PopJam, a social networking site for sharing funny content and lastly, One Million people, replacing the advertisement part with pictures.
But none of those projects succeeded like the way The Million Dollar Homepage did. So he moved to San Fransisco and joined his friend’s incubator. But that’s not Tew’s style.
So he got depressed and decided to go back to his previous job, building websites. As people were getting obsessed with the internet time by time, it caused “mental clutter” for them. That’s why Tew built a new website named donothingfor2minutes.com, where people got 2 minutes timer on the screen for not doing anything. If they move the cursor between that time the page restart again.
After taking the online meditation concept more advanced, in 2012, Tew launched Calm.com, which is still running the race. This website concludes everything you need to improve your quality of life and wellness. Also, the mobile app version of Calm got awards like Apple App of the Year 2017, Google Play Editor’s Choice 2018 and World’s Happiest App. With that, Calm has 1.5+ million 5-star reviews, which clarify Tew’s new success.
Getting success is hard but holding that success for a long time is harder. The Million Dollar Homepage is the perfect example of that. Though getting success from this idea was a piece of cake for Tew. But he couldn’t hold onto that. So tell us, What’s your thought about this concept?
Leave a Comment