Sramana Mitra: It was a software-driven diagnostic tool. You were running a piece of software from the internet onto that machine.
Rob Cheng: Yes. It was using a technology by Microsoft called ActiveX. It was quite similar to cloud computing. We stored all the results there. We were able to track which type of computers were slower.
We ran benchmarks on them. It was an amazing success. It became one of the top 1,000 websites in the entire world back then, which is quite an accomplishment.
Sramana Mitra: How did you acquire that much traffic?
Rob Cheng: We didn’t have to do anything. We were on television. This is the dawn of the internet age. We were on every single newspaper. We were on every single PC magazine. We were three people.
It was all my own money. I put in a million dollars in this thing back in 1999. We didn’t have any money for a PR agency. We didn’t need one. It was growing organically because we satisfied a need. At that time, it was very large.
Sramana Mitra: You started this company in 1997 with your own money.
Rob Cheng: Correct.
Sramana Mitra: Can you go into a little bit of a detail? Tell me a little bit about what was involved in 1997.
Rob Cheng: It was 1999. That’s right when I met my friend Rick Snyder who had a venture capital firm. At this point in time, I was 39 years old. I really didn’t know how to start a company.
Rick is a very interesting man. He was the President of Gateway. He created a VC firm. In 2010, he became the Governor of Michigan. Before that, he helped me make my company. Rick helped me quite a bit.
Then I put in my own money into that because I had made quite a bit of money. I was Senior Vice President and Gateway was a publicly-traded company.
Sramana Mitra: Where were you based?
Rob Cheng: I moved to South Carolina.
Sramana Mitra: Why?
Rob Cheng: I had made quite a bit of money at Gateway. My parents bought a Timeshare in South Carolina. It’s a wonderful part of the country. Every single year, we would come.
I had made enough money at Gateway where I said, “Rather than us use the Timeshare, let me build a vacation home.” I had built this vacation home. When I decided to leave Gateway, I decided to move into the vacation home that I had been building.
Sramana Mitra: Since you were doing a business on the internet, it didn’t really matter where you were located.
Rob Cheng: Yes, we were also one of the first to do that. This was back in 1999. I had two partners. All three of us worked from different locations out of our homes.
Sramana Mitra: It’s a virtual company 21st century style.
Rob Cheng: Yes. It remains a work-at-home company.
Sramana Mitra: How many people did you start this with in terms of employees?
Rob Cheng: We started in 1999 with three people.
Sramana Mitra: All working from home.
Rob Cheng: Right.