In The Beginning

The year was 1999 and I have just started a site call Moto’s Project 504, a personal home page about the first computer I built all by myself. The system was a Pentium II 300 overclocked all the way to 504MHz, an unheard of feat at the time. The site was created with MS Front Page because I didn’t know any HTML.

I remember Project 504 getting about 200 page view on its first day. Most of the traffic came from a forum that I was member of. That forum, Riva 3D, is no longer in business but during the time it was running, it was the biggest NVIDIA forum on the Net. I was the 3DFX guy who made life a living hell for the NVIDIA fan boys. In the end, they got the last laugh when NVIDIA bought out 3DFX.

I tried to add more content to Project 504 by posting news from other tech sites. Back then, there weren’t too many. Tom’s Hardware was the best known, followed by AnandTech. HardOCP was still call the Overclocker’s Comparison Page (now you know what the OCP stands for). After about a week of posting news something strange happen. Sites started emailing me their news. I thought that was great because it meant I didn’t have to go looking for it. Then one day I get this news release from Mike Chambers (NVIDIA fan boy). Mike had sent out this news release as a CC instead of BCC. All the 30 or so email addresses were visible. The news list was born! Today that news list has over 900 addresses.

After a month, I decided that Project 504 needed its own domain name and I made a posted asking readers for recommendation. I think I received a dozen replies. In the end, none of the suggested names appealed to me. Before The TechZone, I own a site call The LoveZone, which served as a home page for members of a chat room. So I thought, “Hmm, Love Zone. Tech Zone!” And The TechZone was born in April 1999.

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Yes, black was in back then! I manually added content to the site everyday (no CMS yet) and managed to con a couple of local computer stores to loan me hardware to review. After about a month, I decided to try my hand at emailing a manufacturer for a product. The company I emailed was Abit. I asked them for a BH6 motherboard. I got no reply. Then a week later, the motherboard showed up! After reviewing the mobo, I emailed them to let them know I have completed the review and requested another motherboard. Again, no reply. A week later, that motherboard showed up. To this day, Abit has never replied to my requests for review samples.

Two months after starting The TechZone, I got a call from Ed Homich. Ed worked for Maximum PC magazine, and informed me that he was going to start a network, and wanted my site to join. Maximum PC would post my news and sell advertising for my site. Any money made would be split 50/50. I was like “I can make money doing this?”

Being part of the Maximum PC network was a fun and interesting experience. Unlike other networks, Maximum PC kept their number of affiliates low, and to well known sites. Some of the original network members include Ars Technica, WinDrivers, and Neoseeker, Ed told me to just pump out the content and he’ll send me the traffic. MaximumPC.com was a huge site back then and they only post network news. The funny thing was most of the other sites in the network didn’t do much. There was times when the Maximum PC home page look like The TechZone because all the stories on there were from me. The first check I got from Maximum PC was about $250. I remember saying to myself, “Cool!” Next month the check was for $2,500. That’s how fast my traffic was growing.

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In August of 1999, on the recommendation of a site designer, I got rid of the black background that was so popular back in those days. In September of the same year Ed call me again and told me I needed to come Las Vegas for Comdex. I think my reaction was “What’s Comdex?” Back then, Comdex was the biggest technology trade show in North America, attended by over 200,000 people. Maximum PC hosted a party and an affiliate awards dinner – I received the award for Top Affiliate. I was the fastest growing site in the Maximum PC Network.

Things were going really well. I was making more money than I ever dream possible. It was the dot com boom and the news were filled with stories of new startups and IPOs and the billionaires the Internet was creating. Anything that had a dot com at the end was worth investing in. Even strange unproven concepts like All Advantage, which paid people to surf the Net. They also pay when you referred other people to surf the Net. I use The TechZone to sign up over 15,000 people. I also signed up for other advertising networks to leverage the ad money I was already making with Maximum PC.

It was during this boom boom time that I decided to give The TechZone a major redesign. I hired a designer from Finland and a coder from the US to create TTZ 3rd Generation.

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The TechZone 3rd Gen was the first CMS and database powered TTZ. By this time, TTZ had moved to its own dedicated server after been kicked off by one shared host after another. Creating TTZ 3rd Gen cost me about $3,000 but it really kick the site up in terms of professionalism. It also made it a lot easier to update.

Yes, things were going great. People were getting rich. The internet money train was going at full speed and I was on it. I even turn down a $1.3 million offer for TTZ. It looked like the party would last forever.

Read part 2 here.


27 thoughts on “In The Beginning”

  1. Rex says:

    Now that is old school!

  2. Robert A. says:

    Amazing… simply amazing and inspiring story, Moto. Fantastic work!

  3. Austin says:

    Do you think you have made back the 1.3mill you turned down oh so long ago?

  4. Thomas says:

    How did the dot com bubble bust influence your income? Was it like half as much income for the same amount of visitors on your site or more like 10x less?

    [quote]Today that news list has over 900 addresses.[/quote]
    Nice, I think I currently have about 300 sites on my news list. Do you only send your news to English sites or have you also included dozens of Chinese/Japanese/Spanish/German/… sites?

  5. John Chow says:

    Austin – Yes.

    Thomas – I’m saving the bubble bust for part 2. But it was drastic! The news list does have non-English sites.

  6. Derrich says:

    Bah! Black is still in…

  7. Eduardo says:

    Now, that is an inspiring story bro! Congratulations on your success, it simply shows that if you do what you love and put passion in it, the money and success will come. Congrats again,

    Ed.

  8. Dominik says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your story with us. It is really amazingand inspiring. I like stories of websites that have a natural grow. Keep going the good work.
    Greetings Dominik

  9. A chronological exploit of growth inspired by creativity, passion and zeal. I salute your enterprise and vision.

    I wonder what you were doing with the love zone then, was it a romance genre? Kind of a dating site? It’s funny to hear a ‘Techie’ like you administering a romance site. Thank God for the evolution into your real niche, that is, Tech Zone TTZ.

  10. One of your absolutely most interesting stories yet, i would have digged this.

  11. siong1987 says:

    Your story is interesting. You sure earn a lot from TTZ. I hope one day I could be like you too.

  12. Nomar says:

    Cool to see 😀 nice !!

  13. Dave says:

    Great story. When I had my site, SLCentral.com we were also luckily accepted into the MaximumPC Network (it was SystemLogic.net at the time). Unfortunately for me though it was literally right before they had decided to shut it down, and we really didn’t benefit from it aside from a few big traffic days when they featured some of our articles.

  14. Ian says:

    I too was there on the Maximum PC network (ReviewFinder.com, still around). Maximum PC hosted a Comdex dinner for us at Spago (I think) and a party at the Hard Rock. Good times, good times. I sat next to John at the dinner and went out to a bar with him afterward. I left the Maximum PC network just before they shut down (got a better offer from About.com) and then, well, let’s just say the money train derailed 🙂

    John, you were an inspiration back then, and you still are today! 🙂

  15. Lady In Red says:

    Nice to read the “story”. I can see you have come from rags to riches on all that hard work “you” did.

    Congrats!!

  16. Thats a great read John. Thanks for filling us in on some of the steps along the way that launched your techie success!

  17. David Mackey says:

    Mmmm…I remember those days. I especially remember AllAdvantage. Made a few bucks off it back in the day.

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