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Can You Become an Internet Millionaire?

There have been more millionaires created through the internet in the last ten years than in the entire history of the United States. Not even mentioning Billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, there are millionaires who started small with one great idea. Everything, naturally, takes hard work and unending hours, but the internet allows you worldwide access and the possibility of success is, if you look at the percentages, a way to get rich… or at least to make some money.

Odder Things Have Happened

In the 1970s, advertising executive Gary Dahl came up with the stupidest, most brilliant idea for the gift market—the Pet Rock. It was simply a rock in a cardboard carrying case, like a cat or dog carrier, that promised the rock could be loved and cared for without the usual feeding or mess a live pet can make. It became the gift of the year and it was reported that sales were well over a million units, sold in a six-month stretch of the fad. It was rumored that Dahl made $10 million by keeping production costs low.

Pet Rock

Dahl’s biggest expense was the die-cutting and manufacture of the boxes. The rocks only cost a penny each, and the straw that lined the “pet carrier” was nearly free. For the initial run of booklets, Dahl had a printing job for a client and “tacked” the Pet Rock booklet onto the main job. With a little labor, probably done in his garage, after work, he is a success story that has not been repeated on the same scale. Now, imagine if he had the internet to help sell his prank gift? There might also be Pet Rock T-shirts on Zazzle, as well as a plethora of other “no-money-out-of-pocket” web manufacturing options. Can you imagine if there was the internet when the Pet Rock was introduced? How much would Dahl have raked in?

Even Facebook and Google were odd success stories. How could anything like them take over the world as the largest internet success stories? Someecards, a freeby service for posting on Facebook, using free clip art and witty writing grew to license their products on commercial products. So, there’s no reason you can’t do the same. What’s your excuse?

Life is tough and time for private projects is scarce, but it’s there, if you just make it. In a past article, “Take The Initiative and Create Your Own Projects,” I wrote:

One of my recent favorite self-initiative stories was about an injured creative with time on his hands and a need for income. Dave is a designer at the Iconfactory and responsible for the ultimate Twitter icon Ollie the Twitterrific bird; he had broken his foot while playing soccer over the Fourth of July. That meant that the poor guy was relegated to staying off his feet at home. Rather than wallow in self-pity, he decided to use the opportunity to keep himself from going completely Rear Window and offer up his design skills to the large Web community — and successfully so!

In Dave’s case, time and need was thrust upon him. It was boredom and probably panic that pushed him into his project. In the case of Von Glitschka, a well-known illustrator and educator, his odd initiative started as a joke and propelled him into what could have been a six-figure income (read “5 Minute Logos Makes Designers Go Bat Shi!t Crazy”).

“Time and Money” are the Biggest Excuses

You’ve got the ideas, as every creative does. How many times have you been watching TV and seen a commercial with an idea you had? How often does something fly past you on your Facebook timeline and you think, “I had that idea and should have acted on it!” Then, you go back to watching TV or posting cute kitten videos on your FB profile. There’s two big reasons you don’t have the time to work on your ideas.

Time and Money
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

As I wrote in the aforementioned article on self-initiatives:

Your idea. Your dream. No one will do it for you. Even if you have to work at something non-creative — use the money to live, but make your dream the priority. Crappy job gets in the way of your dream? Find another crappy job! They’re everywhere and they won’t drain your creativity. Have the idea? Now set your plan. Just like your previous boss who had always made projects go around and around, it’s finally time to make your own plan, knowing it will work better, and make it happen!

In Courtney Seiter’s article, “Six Obstacles That Hinder Your Creative Projects,” she makes some excellent observations of the most common problems people face in self-motivating carrying through with their ideas. Her overview, before exploring the reasons and fixes, is hard-hitting, but true:

Most of my ideas just stayed in my head. Where other people couldn’t see them, interact with them or build upon them. Where they were safe and untested and uncriticized. All mine.

Sure, I’ve created some. Some might say I’ve created plenty. But that’s only because they can’t see what I’m not creating. For example, this very post sat dormant for at least a month while I pondered, waited and nitpicked at it.

Because the riskiest, most dangerous and potentially most interesting ideas are the easiest to hold back. I would pin them down like butterflies on a mat, like art at a museum. They were in spreadsheets, in notebooks, on scrap paper around my desk.

And while it might feel creative to think of these ideas, they were dying a lonely death when I wasn’t doing anything with them. They didn’t get their chance to add anything to the world. To affect someone. To spark something.

I lost out, too, with this arrangement. I didn’t push myself to think deeper and harder. I lost out on the feedback or insight or even criticism of others. I missed the chance to discover uncharted territory within myself. I stopped before I could start. It wasn’t the best life I could give my ideas—or myself.

Dedicated Douches Always Win!

One of my own guilty, time-wasting pleasures is the reality shows about million dollar real estate and millionaire dating services. There are several things that stand out about the people on these shows:

  1. They dedicated themselves to their ideas and businesses 24/7, forsaking any kind of life until they reached their goals. While they lost socialization skills and simple pleasures (all wanting to meet that someone special for a relationship at the successful age of 40+), being incredible douche bags, for the most part, they reached their goals and sacrificed to get there. Sacrificed everything to focus on their end goals: success and money!
  2. They all admit to working 24/7 without any thought to taking time off. Their goals were number one in their lives and they sacrificed a great deal.
  3. They all hoped that success would signal a chance to slow down and enjoy life while being able to afford first class treatment. If you ask them if the sacrifices were worth it, they will tell you they were.
  4. They loved what they did to find success. That certainly makes it easier to focus on one’s goals.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo: Funding Made Easy

It used to be that gaining funding was the greatest hindrance to implementing one’s ideas. Kickstarter and GoFundMe has made that easier.


You could kill pests with a flyswatter or rolled-up magazine, but where’s the fun in that? This miniaturized shotgun is meant to take down flies, mosquitoes and other pesky insects. The weapon shoots table salt, killing bugs within three feet, and claims to be an excellent tool for getting rid of creepy crawlies on windows, ceilings and corners. The creators were hoping to raise $15,000. They ended up with more than $577,000.


Roaches are pretty disgusting creatures, so you wouldn’t expect a lot of support for a crowdfunding project built around transforming the insects into cyborgs. But this product defied the odds. Using the technology created by neuroscientists to help patients of Parkinson’s disease, RoboRoach lets users wirelessly control the movement of a cockroach by microstimulation of the antenna nerves.

The DIY cyborg kit contains tiny circuit boards, aka backpacks, that users must surgically insert onto the common cockroach—really!—allowing you to control which direction they scamper. The roaches were not included in the kits, but the project still managed to take in better than $12,000.

Ostrich Pillow

Power nappers, it seems, are looking for a little privacy; simply laying your head on folded arms as you did in grade school is too 20th century. Then throw in the peculiar posture of the ostrich, among evolution’s more famous flightless birds, and a person who doesn’t want to fly off anywhere, or even move, might have thought up the Ostrich Pillow, a shell that goes over your head, offering alone time in public.

It can be used when one leaves the ambience at home or simply to relax in the library. (Backers didn’t seem to care too much about the odd looks they’re sure to get while using it.) Though it initially hoped to raise $70,000, the device (which is now available to everyone) picked up $195,000 on Kickstarter.

The Remee (a lucid dreaming mask)

The ability to control—and remember—your dreams is a pretty powerful lure. So when Bitbanger Labs introduced the Remee, a sleep mask equipped with six LED lights that its creators said would let users do just that, the response was staggering. More than 6,500 people donated nearly $573,000. The product, which is now available commercially, claims to let you “consciously alter the content and control the narrative of your dreams.”

Potato Salad

One of the oddest examples of crowd-funding largess is one of the most recent. Zack Brown, co-founder of Columbus Web development start-up Base Two Interactive, achieved nationwide notoriety in July for his crowdfunding efforts to make a potato salad. Initially seeking just $10, he has raised more than $55,000 from close to 7,000 backers.

Be Dedicated and Patient

If a potato salad recipe can receive $55,000, then what can your idea garner? Maybe it’ll be the game that beats Angry Birds, or an app that just makes birds angry?

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