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The Million Dollar Homepage

In 2005 The Million Dollar Homepage was created by university student Alex Tew. The entrepreneurial goal was to make enough money to pay for his university fees by selling individual pixels on a web page for US$1 each. The million dollar homepage therefore consisted of simple web page that contained a 1000 x 1000 pixel array – yes there are enough zeros in there to make $1,000,000 dollars.

The newly created pixel real estate was sold in minimum blocks of 100 x 100 pixels ($10,000).  Advertisers could then place company logos that would also link to their web sites within their pixel block. Alex succeeded in selling all 1,000,000 pixels and therefore certainly had his university fees taken covered.

The Million Dollar Homepage is visually amazing to look at and resembles a patchwork quilt. In fact I think it could be perfectly at home in any contemporary art gallery symbolizing the Internet and a full market place of wares vying for consumer’s attention. Alex’s discusses in his FAQ section that he came up with the idea while brainstorming random ideas one hot summer night for about an hour.

Entrepreneurial Touchdowns:

  • It was unique at the time. Apparently copy cats have emerged since, but never with the same success.
  • The title (“The Million Dollar Homepage”) was catchy and very quickly communicated a bold idea.
  • There was a human story behind the idea – a young university student looking to pay his university fees. People where therefore happy to pay the minimum $10,000 to buy a 100 x 100 pixel block as they perceived the money as going to a good cause.

Bluepulse – Aussie tech startup

I recently (Tuesday 11th of December 2007) had the pleasure of attending a breakfast seminar conducted by the Innovation Bay team with Ben Keighran as the guest speaker. Ben is the founder of an exciting new startup company called Bluepulse which has recently expanded into the USA after securing US$6M in seed stage venture funding. Ben shared with the audience a number of insights into both the mobile and social networking space. From meeting Ben he is certainly very accomplished and will be a future innovator to watch.

I have gathered in this blog post a collection of take away points from the seminar that I thought worthy of note. The points are collected from both Ben's talk, questions from the audience, general discussion and some of my own thoughts and thinking on the area.

Technical Notes on Bluepulse Mobile Platform Development

  • In the early days, it was discovered that by trying out a few AT commands into the mobile phone, the menu items where returned.
  • Ben connected a mobile phone to a PC (I assume by Bluetooth) which then allowed the mobile phone to control the music playing on the PC.
    • I assume this consisted of client side software on the PC that sat between the Bluetooth API and the music player software API and then a small client (assume java based) on the mobile phone to pass commands to the PC client.
  • Early days java and C++ as client on mobile. The mobile phone client detected handset and then controlled itself accordingly. Had over 2000 mobile phone configurations.
    • The new back end detects the mobile phone handset and sets pages orientation accordingly.

Barriers to PC based Social Networking Platforms Getting Onto the Mobile Platform 

The obvious PC based social networking platforms are in this case MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc. These social networks already have very large user bases. Many people therefore believe they will leap from the PC to the mobile with ease. However others in the industry believe they wont for the following reasons:-

  • The platform leap is too significant. Examples giving was the huge efforts CNN had to go through to bring their content from TV to Internet.
  • The change in platform is too significant of a paradigm change for the company staff.   
  • Current PC based social networking platforms are more focused on past connections. The term "social mapping" (which I assume has the same meaning as social network) was used to describe this phenomenon. Social network in this case refers to people being friends while in high school, playing in the same sporting team during 2005, etc.
    • However social networking on the mobile phone is regarded as significantly different as it is behaviour orientated.
    • Users share their actions, movements etc with their social network through descriptions of where they are going or where will they be at a certain time. It is therefore much more focused on the now rather than the past.
  • PC ownership declining, generally only 1-3 PCs per house. Alternatively mobile phone ownership is rising with each user having their own, which is generally turned on 24/7 and always with them.
    • The advertising proposition on the mobile phone is potentially more valuable as it is a very directed media.

Bluepulse Company History and Future

  • Funded by family and friends. Bluepulse PTY LTD registered with ASIC on Sept 2002, Bluepulse Holdings PTY LTD registered Mar 2007 (I assume as a result of the VC deal). Therefore approximately 5 years of development.
  • Seed stage venture funding of US$6M.
  • Bluepulse is described as being a new messaging format for the mobile. Previously there was talk and sms, now Bluepulse is a third type of messaging format.
  • Target group is university students.
  • In future 80% of mobile phones will be Internet connected.
  • Bluepulse feel that expertise in the US will help their move to using a much larger back end that scales well.
  • A figure of 1 million unique visitors per month was used. I don't know if this is a current or projected figure.
    • From US discussions 1 unique visitor = $1 in value. I assume value attributed is the price you can sell it for to advertisers.

My thoughts and comments

I can see more value to the end user when viewing the Bluepulse network as a new messaging format rather than social networking for the mobile phone. The blending of SMS, email, instant messaging, contact management and location with GPS in the mobile phone in a more user friendly manner is obviously a huge value proposition.

  • Current use of mobile phone communications are all point to point based, one user talking or SMS'ing another. Now with web on the phone the Bluepulse network offers point to point between the user and a back end server which then re-broadcasts the message to many.
  • New communication methods using web on the mobile phone are relatively new not because of new technological developments but due to mobile phone carriers opening the Internet access available from the mobile phone to the wider web after first offering customers only walled gardens.

Therefore I think Bluepulse is a great new idea. I imagine the company future could be a lot like hotmail in which registered users are the score card and once a significant registered user head count is reached acquisition becomes a real possibility.   



Bluepulse is described on its web site as a "privately held mobile social media company based in San Mateo, California that is busy building one of the world’s largest communities on mobile".

Innovation Bay is described on their web site as "a not-for-profit group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who come together to discuss issues and share experiences within a casual, open and informal environment".

Online Business And The Joy of Tight Verticals

I had the opportunity on Thursday 22 Nov 2007 to attend an informal breakfast seminar conducted in Sydney Australia by the Innovation bay team. The guest speaker was Alison Deans from Netus. Alison was very well spoken and is certainly regarded as a subject matter expect on the topic of online businesses. Alison's talk was very entertaining, informative and a real pleasure to attend.

I have captured below some points of interest that I took away from the seminar. The points below are a mixture of grabs from Alison's talk, questions from the audience and discussions with other people attending the seminar.

  • Online advertisers love tight verticals
    • Vertical in this case meaning the vertical columns of text on a web page.
    • Examples of the use of tight verticals that were giving was the collection of blog sites controlled by the Allure Media company of which Netus has invested into.
    • Picking the Lifehacker blog which is one of the 4 blogs maintained by Allure, as an example. The text is left aligned on the page and all contained in a tight vertical. Well orientated advertising is then placed both on the left side and then also in the middle of the vertical text. The placement of such advertising is common place and is perhaps regarded therefore as the best solution for grabbing a viewers attention.      
  • Social Networking = unknown content = brand risk to advertisers
    • Social networking sites are very popular and are therefore generating a lot of traffic. However advertisers are largely uncertain about buying ad space and therefore risking the reputation of their brand by having it placed beside potentially illegal, rude, or even raciest content. 
    • A point to this issue is that the content on the Allure blog sites is described as "… localises licensed content from the world leading blog networks". Therefore I imagine that the content comes with some type of guarantee, specification, or service level agreement or similar so as to comfort advertisers.
      • Lifehacker has a comment review process that is conducted before a comment it is published. The review process is described on their web site as "…looking for comments that are interesting, substantial and/or highly amusing. ….Your comment will only appear if it is approved". Again protecting the content that will sit beside advertisers brands.       
  • Social Networking akin to Bar mentality
    • Bar in this context means drinking bar, pub, nightclub etc.
    • As humans we generally like to gather in groups. Examples of such are new bars, which when they first open a crowd will gather, investigate and have a drink. As there is a crowd more people will come and the crowd will get larger for no other reason than there was a crowd to start with. I think the important observation here is it is not the bar itself that has drawn the crowd but the newness of the bar.  
  • Online retailing Australia's next Internet wave
    • After hearing this comment I then become aware of television advertisements for Deals Direct and bus advertising for Lasoo, both of which are new Australian based online retailing business.  
  • User experience in relation to advertising budget
    • If your advertising budget is low, you must focus more on the quality of the user experience.
    • In the early days Ebay Australia, started with an advertising budget much lower than their competitors. Therefore the user experience became very important as the catalyst for customers talking to other customers and therefore generating more leads.  
  • Buyer and seller dynamics that lead to impenetrable market position
    • Ebay attracts buyers because there are sellers and sellers are attracted because there are buyers. The buyers and sellers form a market. The rate of attraction of buyers and sellers grows at an increasing rate. The growing size of the market therefore makes the market as a whole more protected everyday from other businesses attempting to setup up their own markets.  
    • This type of protection does not require lawyers or large adverting budgets. 
  • Preferred Founders are Subject Matter Experts (SME)


Netus are a technology investment company, with an aim as stated on their web site of "…bringing…proven business models, based locally or overseas, to the Australian market".

Innovation Bay is described on their web site as "a not-for-profit group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who come together to discuss issues and share experiences within a casual, open and informal environment".