Google launched today an antique search engine which only searches in pages that were in their index till 2001. You can find it here.
That link along brought me mamy memories of the past.
My first serious and successful internet startup was back in 1999, called Usfaz.com (view the non-graphic version of archive.org) which was a free web hosting service that paid free members a share out of the revenue generated from the banners on their websites. The idea was totally unique at that time and it got pretty viral through the web.
The whole history of that startup can really provide content for a whole book. Me and Stefanos were in our 18s, having just entered the university. We had already done several attempts to make money on the web through some websites and most of them were successfull. So we were thinking what our “big thing” could be. One day while we were brainstorming at a cafe, the idea dropped on to the table. We knew that free hosting services were pretty popular and there was no chance to become a competitor. So we decided to offer a good incentive to our members to get their free website with us. That was when we introduced “revenue sharing” to the free web hosting industry by creating Usfaz.com which was described as “Free web hosting that pays you”.
Being in Greece it was extremmely difficult to do anything back then. We had to send wire transfer payments (which costed $40 per transaction) in order to pay just for the hosting of the server each month. Hosting was expensive and we also had to pay for software and then customize it to our needs. We managed to do everything almost right. I say almost because once we reached to about 40.000 members, our website was hacked and hackers deleted everything. Till now I still believe that the hosting company itself deleted the whole server since traffic was very expensive and web hosting companies did not expect customers with that amount of traffic as ours. (p.s. for those who wonder, it was impossible to download a backup to Greece since we first got a DSL connection in 2001!! We made all this startup possible with just a 56K modem, not even ISDN).
Even after this unfortunate event we got the site back and running. We received great support from our members since everyone wanted to get their website up on our service again. It was a great time and we worked almost 20 hours a day for a week to get everything back on.
But the difficulties were not technical ones only. I remember what happened when we went to Citibank (in Greece) for the first time to issue 400 checks in united state dollars to pay our members. They laughed, didn’t believe it and said it was impossible. Well, we managed to figure a way out but it was really hard.
There had been legal issues as well. One time we almost made it to jail because a member had uploaded “password-protected illegal material” on their website hosted on our service. It’s fun to talk about it now but back then it was one of the most unpleasant experience of our lives:)
Finally the company was sold for an amount that didn’t make us millionaires but it was worth the time, work, experience and fun we had that time!
If you enjoyed this post just leave me a comment and I will definitelly write about the next startups I have been involved since back then:)