December 25, 1998 the sun wasn’t up, darkness surrounded my house, and underneath the Christmas tree laid a brand new Gateway desktop computer system for my brother and I. We had an old Compaq computer but the new Gateway was equipped with the latest version of Windows and had a complimentary monthly subscription to America Online (AOL). Before our parents woke-up my brother and I were tearing through the box connecting the cords to get things up and running. We could not wait to experience the power of the new machine and get on the Internet.
Our neighbors had a similar machine and we used to go over to their house and get online. We found it absolutely amazing that we could read the latest sports news, get the weather, and see what was going on all over the world without turning on the television. For some reason that I cannot explain I always wanted to have my own “web page” where I could create content in my bedroom and it could be read by people all over the world. With the new machine, this was my goal, to have my very own website online and have people reading it.
About three days went by as I started to read how exactly to get a website online. I was only 13 years old so my funds were very limited but I eventually figured out I could create a website for free using a service called Geocities. On December 28, 1998 my sportsfan_13 website was online. It was a simple blue page with content about the NBA, NFL, NCAA, and even professional wrestling. Nothing fancy but I had accomplished my first goal: to have my own website that could be read by people allover the world.
Eventually I figured out I could use Microsoft Publisher to create professional looking pages and have more in-depth websites that were much easier on the eyes. My brother had an exceptional talent for writing so he began to help me publish new content weekly. We told a couple of of friends about our new venture and they started checking the site every week to obtain sports scores, schedules, rosters, etc. Reaching only 20 hits or so a day we felt like we were really accomplishing something.
As the months passed I picked up a ton of knowledge. I found myself spending all of my free time online (even sneaking to the computer lab in school) reading everything I could about HTML and coding dynamic websites. I learned how to make graphics, functional CGI scripts, and how to implement content management systems that allowed other writers to contribute content. Super long story short by the year 2000 by identical twin brother and I had full fledged business online selling 468×60 banners to advertisers. Making money was never our goal, but once we sustained several thousand visitors a day, we were forced to begin monetizing as dedicated server expenses topped over $600 a month. This was a lot of money for teenagers.
Fast forward 13 years later I’ve owned multiple Internet start-ups including a web hosting company, numerous professional wrestling websites, a performance marketing company, and many other content-based web properties. By the age of 25 I had successfully made over $1,000,000. Something I never thought was possible with something I started in my bedroom. As I continue in my career I will never forget how that one Christmas day changed my entire life. I can never thank my family enough for the support and love they showed to make all of this possible. Still to this day I look around at the “material goods” – the homes, the cars, the clothes, the watches but all of that is shit to me. I wakeup everyday with a smile on my face because I’m able to pursue my dream of having content I publish read by people allover the world. The day I get on the computer for money is the day I quit. I do this because it’s fun.
In June Ralph Ruckman and I started IMGrind and now we’re reaching damn near 60,000 unique visitors a month. Another successful property; not for the money but for the passion of writing material that people want to read. We live in an amazing country and the Internet provides many lucrative opportunities as long as you have the passion and desire to succeed. Never accept failure, don’t pay attention to the haters, and you’ll see your dreams come true. Thank you all for being part of my latest venture I can’t wait to see what happens in 2012!
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.