While growing up in the tiny country town of Cricklade in north Wiltshire, England, Alex Tew was known as a maverick entrepreneur. At the age of eight, he already was peddling hand-drawn comics at school for $5 each–including a chocolate bar “freemium.”
According to The Hustle newsletter, in August 2005, Tew, then 21 and needing college money, was in bed jotting down schemes for selling something cheap for a million dollars. Among his absurd ideas was a pouch for chewed gum that he called the “Gum Slinger.”
Suddenly, an idea glowed in his head:
He would create a website that sold ad space for $1 per pixel. Advertisers would buy a 100-pixel block for $100 to promote their logos or images with its hyperlink.
Tew designed the website in two days, spent $50 in domain fees, then introduced his brainchild to cyberspace. It was new. It got press. It caught on.
In 30 days, “The Million Dollar Homepage” made $250,000. It was attracting 65,000 hits a day. By the end of October, it had made another $500,000 from nearly 1,500 advertisers.
By New Year’s Eve, Tew had sold 999,000 pixels and auctioned off the last thousand on eBay for $38,000 from MillionDollarWeightLoss.com.
His four-month earnings: $1.04 million.
Tew’s fundamental idea of selling pixels on the Internet was something countless other people could have done. However, Tew beat them to it, and everyone was wondering why they didn’t think of it first.
Among his subsequent ventures, in 2012 Tew co-founded the meditation app, “Calm.” Five years later, Calm was named Apple’s App of the Year.
According to Inc.com, Calm is now worth more than $1 billion.