Tomas Gorny: As a result, while I was building my tech business in the web hosting industry, I was doing whatever it takes – valet car parking, carpet cleaning – to survive. For two years, I lived on $3 a day in terms of food allowance. I even remember days when I didn’t have any money. I never pitied myself though. I was living in a place where I wanted to live. When I woke up, it was always sunny. I was building something. Eventually, the business started kicking in a little bit more. Two years later, we sold the business for a substantial amount. I had just turned 22 and became a multi-millionaire with the sale of the business. I also own stocks in the company that bought our business.
Sramana Mitra: In 1996 to 1998, you were living on $3 a day. What business did you start?
Tomas Gorny: It was a web hosting company. I didn’t start it. Somebody else started it and I became part owner. We started it together but the other person would have to take credit for starting it.
Sramana Mitra: That business was sold and you made money?
Tomas Gorny: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: When did the sale happen?
Tomas Gorny: We sold it in September 1998.
Sramana Mitra: Where were you in the United States?
Tomas Gorny: I was in Hollywood.
Sramana Mitra: You now have turned around the situation. Your immigration and financial status is in a much more stable footing. We are in 1998. The Internet bubble is getting to its peak. What happens next?
Tomas Gorny: We got two-thirds of the transaction in cash and one-third in stocks. We got the stocks at a very low valuation at $1. When the company went public, it was about $70. As you can imagine, regardless of what amount you get at the 1$ valuation and it ends up being $70, the money multiplies very quickly.
Sramana Mitra: You made a lot of money basically.
Tomas Gorny: Exactly. Although I am very aggressive in business, personally, I am not very materialistic. I took all the money and did just two things for myself. I bought a house and then bought a car. That’s about it. I invested the rest of the money in businesses with people that I knew. I got ventures to come and finance that business. In 1998, I started another business plus I had the stocks of the company that we sold.
Not seeing the bubble coming, what happened next was the obvious. All my $70 stocks fell. I ended up with nothing there. The company that I started did not succeed. We were in the advertising business. We had enterprise clients. Some of our clients were Internet companies that went out of business. On the flip side, we had traditional companies like Chase who were paying us money. After September 11, companies started freezing their funds.