Jeff Tinsley is the founder and CEO of MyLife. He created the company in 2002 under the name Reunion.com after meeting his wife at his 10-year high school reunion. The company now has a membership of more than 50 million. Prior to MyLife, Tinsley was a founder and CEO of GreatDomains.com, the world’s leading secondary domain name marketplace. At the end of 2000, the company was acquired by publicly-traded VeriSign, the Internet’s leading domain name registry, for a reported $100 million. Tinsley is also involved in a number of private Internet companies as an investor and advisor.
SM: Jeff, to begin, tell me about yourself. Where does your story begin?
JT: I am an Internet geek. I have been in the Internet space since 1994. I started on the Internet by building a bulletin board and trying to put some information online. I got into building database-driven websites for a small company pretty early in the Internet world.
When I was building websites for companies, I was really struggling. While everyone was convinced that the Internet was going to be big, at the time it was very difficult to convince businesses that they needed to be on the Web. They did not see a clear path to the improvements and efficiency that their businesses could gain through the Internet. It was really difficult to sell people websites in 1994 and 1995.
During the day I would be out there selling, and at night I was doing a lot of the development. I was not sleeping very much. I remember going to an appointment and wondering if I had enough gas in my car to make it to the appointment. If I did not sell to them and pick up a check for some of the development, I would not have had enough money to put gas in my car and come home. Fortunately, I was able to get a small deposit from them. I went straight to the bank, which was very embarrassing because they called the company to verify the check. It is an experience that I will never forget.
One of my clients was GreatDomains.com, which was a marketplace for trading domain names. I took an ownership piece in the company and eventually ran it as CEO. We built that company into the market leader in its space. We built that company from a space that did not exist. You could list domain names that you owned and offer them for sale. Buyers of names could go in and search for names on secondary markets, and we could handle the transaction and escrow. It was an amazing business that we eventually sold to VeriSign.
SM: How big was the business?
JT: We sold it for $100 million. We were the clear market leader in the space. We were clearly profitable as a business, and it was growing very quickly with multiple revenue streams. I learned a lot from that business.
SM: When did you sell it?
JT: We sold it at the end of 2000.
SM: What happened after you sold the business?
JT: We were fortunate in that we had not raised a significant amount of capital and that we had always focused on building a real business that generated profit. The investors we had made a lot of money.
SM: Did you make a lot of money?
JT: I was the largest shareholder, so I made out well. I looked at a number of opportunities before I got into this business.