December 29, 2005

Cash pours in for UK student with Web idea

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - If you have an envious streak, you
probably shouldn't read this.

Because chances are, Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from a
small town in England, is cleverer than you. And he is proving
it by earning a cool million dollars in four months on the

Selling porn? Dealing prescription drugs? Nope. All he
sells are pixels, the tiny dots on the screen that appear when
you call up his home page.

He had the brainstorm for his million dollar home page,
called, logically enough,, while
lying in bed thinking out how he would pay for university.

The idea: turn his home page into a billboard made up of a
million dots, and sell them for a dollar a dot to anyone who
wants to put up their logo. A 10 by 10 dot square, roughly the
size of a letter of type, costs $100.

He sold a few to his brothers and some friends, and when he
had made $1,000, he issued a press release.

That was picked up by the news media, spread around the
Internet, and soon advertisers for everything from dating sites
to casinos to real estate agents to The Times of London were
putting up real cash for pixels, with links to their own sites.

So far they have bought up 911,800 pixels. Tew's home page
now looks like an online Times Square, festooned with a
multi-colored confetti of ads.

"All the money's kind of sitting in a bank account," Tew
told Reuters from his home in Wiltshire, southwest England.
"I've treated myself to a car. I've only just passed my driving
test so I've bought myself a little black mini."

The site features testimonials from advertisers, some of
whom bought spots as a lark, only to discover that they were
receiving actual valuable Web hits for a fraction of the cost
of traditional Internet advertising.

Meanwhile Tew has had to juggle running the site with his
first term at university, where he is studying business.

"It's been quite a difficulty trying to balance going to
lectures and doing the site," he said.

But he may not have to study for long. Job offers have been
coming in from Internet companies impressed by a young man who
managed to figure out an original way to make money online.

"I didn't expect it to happen like that," Tew said. "To
have the job offers and approaches from investors -- the whole
thing is kind of surreal. I'm still in a state of disbelief."