ProActive Web Marketing was my first entrepreneurial endeavor. I left a corner office job as the number 3 guy in a high tech company to start an Internet company. Everyone told me I was crazy. My boss, my girlfriend, my parents, strangers, business owners, hobos… well, maybe not very many hobos… but EVERYONE told me in no uncertain terms “you are nuts”.
I just quit a corner-office job in my mid-twenties to go do this new Internet thing at a time when less than 60% of America even knew what the Internet was. AOL was just getting started. Amazon and eBay were fledling companies. WebTV was on the verge of being launched as the first “for the home user” web-access service.
It started as a concept that was inspired by one of the original founders of LensCrafters that bolstered my vision that this new-fangled Internet-thing was going to change business. Our idea was to help established businesses hock their wares on the Internet. Remember, this is a time when NOBODY in their right mind wanted to share credit cards over the Internet. It was a scam or ponzi scheme. As it turns out many business owners thought there is no way in hell you could sell flowers, jewelry, books, or any other item people wanted to “touch and hold” online by just looking at pictures.
We decided to do a real-world show-and-tell. After a night at the local pub in Marblehead MA we strolled past a fish shop that sold lobsters. That was going to be IT… we would open a web store that sold New England lobsters and put it on Yahoo! (Google wasn’t even an idea back then). We never intended to sell anything, it was just for our dog-and-pony show when we tried to explain to the local flower guy how people could find him in Yahoo! It was our way to show SEO when the term SEO didn’t exist. Show them eCommerce when it was just called “a web catalog”.
Then something weird happened. Someone actually bought a lobster. We had NO CLUE what we were doing and didn’t even have a way to charge a credit card. 2 days later we had shipped the first lobster order for a $25 loss that was charged via a gas station around the corner. A year later our first brand, The LobsterNet , was in Time Magazine as a Best of The Web award winner right beside Amazon, eBay and seventeen other well-known (and many now-gone) brands. Two years later The LobsterNet was sold off as a separate division of ProActive; my first Internet an entrepreneurial success story.