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Are Internet Millionaires Still Emerging?


By June Campbell

“Is the Internet still turning out millionaires?”

It must be, if I can believe the tons of messages I receive daily, urging me to purchase a product guaranteed to make me as obscenely rich as the guy trying to sell it to me claims to be. Some of these people even direct me to screen captures of their ClickBank affiliate accounts or to digital images of their bank accounts—all showing enormous balances. Hmm. Can you say, "digital editing"?

That aside, are real people making real money on the Net these days? Many claim to be, but whom can you believe? You know the old saying: On the Web, nobody knows you're a dog.

Recent Millionaires

A Google News search for "Internet millionaires" turned up a few reliable sources. According to Post-Gazette.com, in 2000, Manu Kumar from Pittsburgh sold his Oakland company, SneakerLabs, for a bundle. SneakerLabs, now part of E.piphany, is a Web site that lets people facilitate online meetings.

Only 25 years old at the time, Kumar was reported to have a net worth of $50 million. Kumar, as it turns out, was never your typical youth. He was memorizing entire textbooks at age 7; selling musical doorbells in New Delhi at the age of 14; designed a solar car at age 17; and at age 21, launched SneakerLabs on a student visa while at Carnegie Mellon University.

More recently, across the pond in the United Kingdom, Alex Tew, a 22-year-old student, made $1 million in four months with his Million Dollar Homepage . Tew sold tiny advertisements on his site, which became viral and attracted enormous traffic following his interview with the BBC. The unbelievable-looking site resembles a magazine rack containing hundreds of miniscule magazines. ABC news radio and Reuters TV in Times Square have also interviewed Tew about his various moneymaking ideas.

In 2006, a PR Web press release stated that Tellman Knudson from Vermont became a millionaire selling online help for people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). After a string of bad luck and failed businesses, Knudson went from broke to millionaire in 12 months, and then became a multimillionaire in 24 months. Knudson explained his success by saying, "I uncovered the secret is to focus intently on my own skills. I love the Internet with a passion, and I love helping people experience success in their own lives."

In the Trenches

But what about the rest of us? To find out what's happening in the trenches, I loitered around the Warrior Forum , an online meeting place where Internet marketers hang out to network and swap war stories. Warrior Jeff Gardner, the president of Gardner Marketing Group Inc., of Mansfield, Texas, agreed to speak with me.

"Are people still becoming Internet millionaires?" I asked Gardner.

"Yes, absolutely," he replied.

However, Gardner said, you have to understand one thing. It's a misnomer to talk about having an Internet business. The Internet is a marketing and delivery method, but it is not a business. If you sell pet food, that's a business. If you market it online, that's a marketing method. Find a way to have your pet food downloadable, and that's a delivery method.

Gardner pointed to the 1900s, when people made millions of dollars in mail order—another marketing and delivery method. People predicted it would die out, but decades later, people are still making money with mail order, thanks to credit cards and other advances.

Similarly, Internet marketing has a rosy future. "I believe there are people in elementary school who are going to make a million dollars on the Internet," Gardner predicted. He expects to see technological advances that we cannot begin to understand now, and considers that in the future, there will be even more opportunity than there was five years ago.

"But, since everybody and his dog is trying to sell something online, doesn't that mean too much competition, and therefore, decreased opportunity?" I asked. In response, Gardner pointed to the weight-loss market as an example. Businesses have been selling weight-loss products for 100 years. We often hear people say they aren't going into the weight-loss industry because the market is saturated, yet every day we see proof that this is not the case. Although the market appears to be jam-packed with weight-control products, somebody comes along with a new diet, product or service and makes a fortune. The market is hungry for new weight-loss solutions.

The health and wellness industry is another good example of a "saturated" market that pays off big for those who know how to maneuver it successfully. A company entering this market with a new supplement, vitamin or other product can make millions of dollars.

Competition and Opportunity

Gardner pointed out that the increasing numbers of people on the Internet bring more competition, but also more opportunity. This growing number of people, coupled with technological advances, affords increased opportunity to tap into new markets—markets that can't be reached through direct mail, magazine advertising or television. In his opinion, those who say there are no opportunities on the Internet are taking a short-term viewpoint. "Over the next five or 10 years, there will be Internet advances that we cannot imagine," he mused.

According to Gardner, plenty of people are starting businesses that make six or seven figures in the first or second year. Some, like John Reese, become millionaires. Three or four years ago, John Reese sold an information product for $1,000. He made $1million in one day. Gardner likens this accomplishment to breaking the four-minute mile. For years, people believed it impossible to make $1 million in a day. Then Reese broke the barrier. Since Reese's success, many have brought in a million a day in online sales. There have been outstanding product launches that brought in $12 million within 24 hours.

Internet technology has reached a point where you can go online and find your target market, the people who are most likely to buy from you. And, since e-commerce has advanced to the point that many people are comfortable using credit cards online, these people have the ability and willingness to purchase.

As for people who claim the opportunity has passed, Gardner had an opinion. "I look at these people as making an excuse for not taking the first steps toward making money," he commented.

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