1. When you first became interested in computers, what was it specifically about the internet that made you direct your efforts there (rather than, say, writing software)?
To be honest, I don't know what exactly attracted me to the internet, computers in general, or business! I was generally a normal kid otherwise--I played sports, rode bikes, loved camping, and preferred to be outside. I've been using computers since Windows 3.2 although I remember I really gained more interest when I was in 4th grade. Since I was a young kid, my role model was Bill Gates, and I always admired his work and what he was able to accomplish from his life. When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I had dreams of building my own software company called "EagleCOM."
When I moved back to Chicago from Texas, I remember the first winter I endured and I couldn't go outside. I spent the entire winter on the computer learning the ins and outs. When I was in 5th grade, I made my first website from scratch by reading HTML for Dummies. When I was 14, I made my first money online. When I was 16, I was catapulted into massive success from websites that I had created and never looked back.
2. Why did you decide to shift your career from affiliate marketing and ad-based income into a "tangible business"?
I started doing affiliate marketing in 2005, and after closing my last affiliate marketing based business I wanted a challenge. I didn't want to default to my comfort zone knowing that it would make me quick money fast. I wanted to develop new businesses in new sectors that were a challenge to me; I wanted something new; I needed a new challenge.
3. In your experience, what are some of the challenges for someone with a long history in online business to move into a very different field?
For me, the biggest challenge was basically starting from scratch and learning something from the ground up. I learned huge lessons from my last companies that I pulled into new businesses, but when transferring to completely new sectors, it was quite the challenge. At times, I wanted to jump back and get right into affiliate marketing again for the quick money, but I remained determined. I refused to give up, and like every time in the past, it paid off.
4. How do you currently balance your time between your companies and your philanthropic work?
To be honest, I could do a lot more than I currently do. I take the easy road out by doing things like donating my money rather than actually getting involved. Instead of committing funds to specific foundations, I've been trying to invest into individuals by paying for scholarships and things along those lines. This question reminds me that I need to get a lot more involved, both financially and physically.
5. You describe materialism as being a good motivator, but what would you say keeps you grounded--or to put it another way, what makes you happy at the very end of the night when reflect on how your day went?
Material things are far less important to me than they used to be. At the end of the day, all of those flashy things are simply metal objects or clothing with cool symbols on them--they come and go, just like money itself. Nowadays, I live a lot more modestly than I used to, and I prefer to keep a lower profile than I ever have because all of that does nothing but build a false ego. At the same time, I don't deprive myself of the rewards of working hard--it's just not as important to me.
To keep grounded, I pray to God and give him thanks for anything that I've been given. I also value my relationships with others far higher than anything material. My family, my girlfriend, and my true friends mean more to me than anything I can buy. They are the ones that stick through the tough times--and like any person I’ve endured those times, too.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me! I really appreciate the opportunity.