1. Million Dollar Homepage
If I had to pick THE craziest idea for making money online, this would be one. A 21 year old student decided to raise money for college by selling pixels on his website. Alex Tew, that is. And, as they say, the rest is history. Alex got his college money and more – over a million dollars, media attention and countless interviews. Copycat sites immediately popped up and… failed all. Maybe this is the reason why we no longer hear about Alex Tew – all his new projects were variations of MDH. Time for a gradschool?
To some cranky father is a source of irritation. To Justin Halpern it was his ticket to stardom. Justin, a struggling comedy writer himself, had to move in back with his parents. His father just would not stop yapping about anything and everything, so Justin decided to start a Twitter account just for father’s words of wisdom. In just 30 days Justin’s microblog was mentioned on The Daily Show. It didn’t take for sitcom and book deal to materialize soon after that.
We are all good at something. Dmitry Davydov was good at naming things. Anything, really. So he decided that he might as well make a career out of it. Dmitry started offering people a deal they could not refuse – I’ll come up with a cool domain, name or slogan for you, and you pay me $50, if you like it. And if you don’t – pay nothing. No risk involved. The San Francisco Chronicle picked up the story and Dmitry was swamped with orders, so he created crowdsourcing naming service called PickyDomains.com that operates via the same risk free principles.
Don’t you hate when free sites, like NYTimes.com or YouTube require registration for full access? It bugged the hell out of Guy King. Unlike others, Guy decided to do something about it, so he started BugMeNot.com in 2003, a free web service that instantly provides logins and passwords for free sites to folks who do not want to waste their time on registration. BugMeNot got really popular after 2004, when Wired magazine reported on efforts to get the site shut down by the dark corporate forces that insist on registration, so they can send spam the hell out of it. But the light has won. BugMeNot has since branched out into similar niches, like RetailMeNot.com.
There are some certainties in this life and one of those is “dogs don’t need sunglasses”. Sunglasses for dogs? That’s the stupidest invention ever. It is also the one that generated millions of dollars for Ken and Roni di Lullo. Doggles are now sold in (hold onto something) 4500 different shops in 16 different countris! One thing I do admit though – dogs look cool in doggles.
Chasing geese may sound like a metaphor, but it’s not for David Marcks, who makes $2 million dollar a year, well, chasing geese away. What’s his story? Back in the eighties, David worked at a golf course that suffered from “the geese problem” (read too much bird poop on golf balls). He could not kill the birds, but he did take note of the fact that his dog, a border collie, was good at chasing them away. He now owns 27 trucks and 32 dogs that do just that – chase geese away from private and public properties for money.
Have you ever heard of ‘tombstone tourism’, i.e. visiting graves of famous people, because you like visiting graves of dead people? To Jim Tipton it was a weekend well spent. One problem, though – he lived in Utah, a state not known for great population densities (dead or living), so he basically ran out of (dead) celebrities to visit. So he started FindAGrave.Com, a site that helps you locate a grave of any person in US. The hobby soon turned into a big business, providing multiple paid services, like genealogy research. “I see dead people” ©.
Plain and simple, this one is impossible to explain, but the site has a cult following and more than likely started as a college prank. For some reason, the owner(s) of this one prefer anonymity. Here is a description the site provides – “The Center for Prevention of Shopping Cart Abuse is an organization dedicated to preventing the pervasiveness of Shopping Cart abuse”. Prank or not, ShoppingCartAbuse.com t-shirt became a must have fashion accessory for 2010 with several Hollywood celebrities spotted in one.
If you know this site, the owner profession should not be a surprise. No, Hank Eskin isn’t an accountant. He is a database consultant. Who else would think that punching serial numbers for dollar bills into a big online database is fun? If you are new to Where’s George, here is how it works. First, you log onto WheresGeorge.com and enter your zip code and bill serial number(s). Then spend your money and hopefully some other person will do the same – enter bill serial number and zip code into the database. As of this month, Where’s George is tracking 192,623,138 bills totalingUS$1,040,594,634. This means that millions of people have logged onto Where’s George to find out where their money has been.
Male lifecycle is defined as “first you believe in Santa Clause, then you don’t, then you are one.” Byron Reese must have taken that literally, because in 2002 he decided to start Santa Mail, a website that that lets kids to send letters to the North Pole. There is a little twist, however, parents pay $9.95 to make sure little Johnny or Jane get a personalized letter back from the “big man” himself. Last year Santa Mail had responded to over 300,000 children. Multiply that by $10 and you get the picture.
I like the business model for pickydomains – using crowdsourcing to come up with ideas for domain names for businesses. Allows those with a creative bent to make some money, and those looking for a good name to get ideas cheaply.