Consumers are bizarre. Surprising. Unpredictable. But most importantly, there are about six billion of them. About 600 million are on the internet, and 1.8 billion have cell phones.
With a group that large, you can find just about everything. In fact, you can find thousands of anything.
Well, imagine I told you that a college-bound kid put up a web page with a giant grid on it. Let's say he offered to sell squares on the grid -- each 10 pixels x 10 pixels -- for $1 per pixel (or $100 per square). How many could he sell?
If you're like me, you'd probably guess zero. Or maybe a handful to some friends as a gimmick. Well, you'd be wrong. Very wrong.
I haven't done the research to verify this isn't a sham, but it certainly looks real. Check out The Million Dollar Homepage. Start at the very bottom of the associated blog and read up. A teenager named Alex in the UK put up the site 6 1/2 weeks ago and has collected $323,200 as of this morning! The site is a wild hit. Here is its Alexa ranking growth:
With a simple, clever, gimmicky idea, Alex found a way to strike that certain chord with a large segment of consumers. Ostensibly, he launched the site to pay for his university education. The $300 grand he has already collected buys a few degrees with a couple of sports cars on the side. Yet people keep buying his virtual real estate.
Last week I spoke on a panel organized by the Young Venture Capital Society in New York. The event was titled "Understanding Consumer Media." My fellow panelists included Danny Schultz, Andrew Zalasin, Steve Brotman and Mitch Davis. We each had a slightly different take on consumer technology investing and entrepreneurship, but I think one of the most important points we discussed was the difficulty of predicting what will work with consumers. The Million Dollar Homepage is a wonderful example of that challenge. It may also be an illustration of an age old maxim: "A fool and his money are soon parted."
Hats off to Alex for a creative idea and an entertaining blog to go with it.