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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 10:05 GMT
What Alex did next
Alex Tew

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

It took this 21-year-old student just 20 minutes to come up with an idea which made him a million dollars in four months. So what did he do next?

Alex Tew completed just one term of his three-year business degree before deciding he'd do just fine without it. If the $1m in his bank account is anything to go by, he's right.

The 21-year-old student started the Million Dollar Homepage to help pay his university fees, but it ended up making him a dollar millionaire in just four months.


The site sold pixels, the dots which make up a computer screen, as advertising space, costing a dollar a dot. The minimum purchase was $100 for a 10x10 pixel square to hold the buyer's logo or design. Clicking on that space takes readers to the buyer's website.

Alex invested 50 setting up the site. Friends and family bought the first $1,000 worth of pixels. The proceeds of the first sale of ad space went on putting out a press release, which brought the site to the media's attention.

From there it snowballed. As he made money, more people talked about it and the more people talked about it, the more money he made. At its most popular, the Million Dollar Homepage got 863,000 unique users in one day, it still gets about 7,000 a day even though every pixel has been sold.

Ideas machine

But what has happened to Alex since the last pixel was sold in January?

He'd completed just one term at Nottingham University before deferring his degree when the site took off. He thought of going back and completing it but decided to work on his business ideas.

Alex Tew and his empty page
It all started with a blank page
"I'm not good at studying in the traditional sense anyway," he says. "I have a short attention span. I'm always thinking about something new, I have lots of ideas."

He's bought a car with his earnings, but that's about the extent of his big purchases. He's moved to London from his family home in Cricklade, Wiltshire, but is renting a flat instead of buying one.

"Obviously the money has changed my life in some ways but it hasn't in others," he says. "I don't get recognised in the street or anything like that. I pretty much see the same people I used to and do the same things."

After the success of the site, job offers and investment opportunities from around the world flooded in. Some were very attractive, but in the end he turned them all down in favour of doing his own thing.

His mother is still his PA, but he has employed two other people, one to look after his sites and one to look after customers.

"I like to think of it as a internet time capsule," he says. "I want it to sit there for as long as possible, for decades."

Could be you

Most of his time has gone into coming up with a new business idea. The Million Dollar Homepage was a one-off but Alex knew the concept still had legs and could be developed. He came up with Pixelotto, which goes live on Tuesday.

I don't know anyone who doesn't want to win $1m dollars, so I can keep doing it again and again
Alex Tew
His new venture will turn one lucky web surfer into a millionaire. Again he will sell a million pixels as advertising space, but this time for $2 each.

He will get $1m and the other million will be given to one random visitor. One month after the final pixel is sold, a draw will select one of the site's adverts at random.

Someone who clicked on that particular advert will be picked via a second random draw. The next round of Pixelotto will then begin, giving someone else the chance to become a millionaire. The winner can also nominate a charity to receive a $100,000 donation.

"This idea has longevity," he says. "I don't know anyone who doesn't want to win $1m dollars, so I can keep doing it again and again."

But what about in the long-term future? Even if his latest venture is a success, he says he will still move on to something new.

"I don't think I will be running this company for 25 years. I always want to do new things, I have a very short attention span."

Your comments.

I get half a dozen spam messages a day claiming to congratulate me on winning some random web lottery or other. What are the chances of our entrepreneur's messages being believed?
David Gosnell, Surrey

I hope Alex is aware of the laws about lotteries for his new idea. And did he really make million dollars from his first idea - it would be interesting to see audited accounts and the receipt of the over quarter million dollar tax bill that would go with it even after expenses. Mind you he's brilliant on publicity!
Iain Wright, Aberdeen, Scotland

Good on you Alex, why can't I think of ideas like you can?
James, London, UK

Whats so clever about this? He's just a greedy Thatcherite - there's no merit in what he does, it's not doing any good for anybody. Why is it news? What is wrong with the world?
Jordan Traffic, leek, staffs

The pixelotto is a fantastic idea, but wouldn't it be more noble for Alex to donate a portion of his million-dollar share to charity, rather than give the winner the option?
Anon, Nottingham

If selling a million pixels for a dollar each was a cracking idea, then selling a million pixels for two dollars each has to be just pure brilliance! Nice one, Alex - now why didn't I think of that?
John, Budapest

The embodiment of UK business. A short attention span, no plans for the future, couldn't be bothered with learning new skills so he comes up with something worthless and pointless to make a short term financial gain. He should be chairman of the CBI.
grahame mitchell, sevenoaks

The original idea still has some mileage. As firms go out of business or stop maintaining their websites, some pixels will become vacant and available for re-sale. The new idea will be welcomed by people running lottery scams. A message saying "Because you clicked on a particular advertisement, you are now the winner of $1,000,000..." is more likely to be believed, because many people will have visited this page in the hope of receiving exactly this message.
Colin, Swansea, UK

this guy is doing great work at such a young age,it also shows his courage to breakaway from the traditional mindset .
vinod, india

This story has been an inspiration to myself and i am sure to others who are young and want to suceed. Every young person at some point comes up with ideas which they believe will be a success, yet due to their naivity and lack of drive these ideas often do not prevail. But this story has proven that these things can come true, with drive and passion.
Tristan Woods, London

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