Jeremy Young: I was teaching HTML at the university at that time. There was a guy in my class, Steve Jenkins, who registered the domain name windows95.com before Microsoft was even thinking about the Internet. If you remember, Windows didn’t even have the web browser in their launch edition of Windows 95. He was building a website that was getting to be pretty popular. It was all free shareware and downloads. It was one of the pretty popular sites on the Internet.
He was in my HTML class just to get half a credit to get his MBA. We became really good friends. My idea was, “Why don’t I start a web hosting company?” I can talk to the current people that I buy web hosting from, get them to create a white-labelled reseller solution for me where customers would have no idea that they were actually purchasing from a different company. Then Steve could provide the marketing to push traffic from his windows95.com website over to my company.
We created a partnership and formed a company called Virtual Servers. Within a very short period of time, we were accounting for majority of the sales of this other company. It was amazing. We started it out of our apartment at college. Steve ended up moving up to Seattle. He took a marketing job at Microsoft, but was still helping me push traffic to the platform.
Once I graduated, he convinced me to move up to Seattle. I took two key employees who were working out of their homes as well. We moved up to Seattle together and wanted to turn this business into something great. For a period of about three and a half years, we grew it very quickly. We were the number one registrar for domain names for Network Solutions when they had the monopoly. We ended up selling the company for $50 million to Micron Electronics. That was in December of 1999.
We were running into lots of problems in scaling. It was harder to grow. We were running out of server space and office space. We realised that everything was coming to a head right there at the end of 1999 and we had a couple of options. We could either go raise money and try do this ourselves. We could find an investor to come in and take the whole thing, or we could go out and see if there was any interest in buying the company as a whole. Micron came knocking on our door. The company still exists. It’s now web.com out of Florida. That’s what Virtual Servers has evolved into. One of the things that I think entrepreneurs would be interested in knowing is how we bootstrapped that company. We, literally, started that with zero dollars. The windows95.com partnership was key.