February 23, 2006 5:16 pm

Pixel millionaire in new online venture

Alex Tew, the 21-year-old who raised $1m with milliondollarhomepage.com, plans to launch a new online social networking business which he believes could become a billion-dollar company.

Mr Tew has been bombarded with emails since January, when he reached his target by selling a million pixels for $1 each on a static webpage to advertisers.

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Most of the emails ask for advice on setting up a business, investment, and what he calls straight-out “begging emails”. But the young entrepreneur has also received advances from about a dozen potential investors interested in what ideas he has next.

Mr Tew said he would use some of the money he raised to start the new business, and would look for “second-round funding” about April.

“It’s very much a web 2.0-oriented application, about connecting users to each other, but with a specific market in mind,” he said. “It’s moving into a market that’s already established, but a market where there’s huge growth and room for innovation.

“I’m always thinking really big – there’s no point thinking small. I wanted to do something as impactful and profitable as Google. This year it won’t be as big as Google, but it could be a billion-dollar company.”

During a live Q&A on FT.com, Mr Tew said he believed having a good idea was crucial to getting good publicity.

“The crucial thing in creating the media interest was the idea itself: it was unique and quirky enough to stand out,” he wrote. “I only had to push the idea a bit in the first few days by sending out a press release - which essentially acted as a catalyst.”

“I’ve been coming up with ideas all my life and trying them out and although I’ve had some small successes in the past, The Million Dollar Homepage was in many ways my ‘breakthrough’,” he wrote.

In addition to the web 2.0-based business, he plans to invest smaller amounts in several different businesses – a few thousand here, a few thousand there – but is wary of getting ‘unfocused’.

Mr Tew readily admits the milliondollarhomepage idea was a one-off, and although it was a valuable learning experience, he still doesn’t know enough about business. “I’ve got a good instinct for marketing and I can recognise good ideas. I’ve learnt about delegating,” he said.

Ideally, he says, he would not be running a business but “sitting in a room all day, coming up with ideas”.

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