Why I'm Building my Life's Work on the Internet

A conversation with Kamrul Khan for the Bengalis of New York podcast

  
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Kamrul: I'd love to hear about how you got started. You don't have a tech background either. I know you got into one of these incubators, 500 startups. How did that come about?

Raad: I've read books, essentially. There were always all these forces in my life growing up where I needed to be my own person and be independent. I was living in a time where I was always really fascinated by the internet. I loved using AOL instant messenger growing up. I loved seeing different websites and how they were built it back in the early 2000’s era.

I came across this book when I was in law school. It was called millionaire fastlane, or something really cheesy. I was just like, why is it so hard to figure out how to get rich? Why isn't that just there? Why can't I just search for that, get a good result, and just follow that rule. I wanted to do that because I viewed that as tied into freedom.

I picked up this book and I read it and there wasn't a whole lot there around internet companies, but there was something in there about music that really resonated with me and how musical artists got really rich. It might seem very obvious, but at the time, the way that it broke it down for me was really eyeopening.

Musicians think of a song. They think of a creation. They record it once to sell it a million times. And for the million and one time it costs the same amount as the first time you produced it, because the cost of replication is negligible. You create something once, and if you have the right distribution, which at the time was the internet, you can infinitely scale at a zero cost margin. It's open 24 7, and there's millions of people on the internet. That idea of build one, sell twice stuck with me when I was in law school.

I experimented with this web app for Facebook, which allowed you to customize your cover photo on the top of your profile. At one of the Facebook conferences at F8, they announced they were going to roll out this thing called cover photos where anybody could to upload a big banner image on their profile.

I thought it would be a cool idea to have a website that had thousands of different cover photo images, perfectly cropped in size to that Facebook cover. With one click using the Facebook app integration, it would change it automatically on your Facebook profile and then post it on your timeline that, I just used this website to change my cover photo to this Justin Bieber thing, or this motivational quote thing, or whatever. I must've spent probably $300 to launching it.

I found some guy in China that wrote the code for me, and I got the website up. I knew basic HTML so I knew enough to get the website up. And I asked other people for help. I bought the domain name, 'myfbcoverphoto', and did a bunch of SEO.

I was going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. I had this blank website with all of these keywords in it that said "cover photos", "Facebook covers", "Facebook cover photos". The things that I felt like people would search for once Facebook actually made this public and dropped it.

When they did drop it, the site went viral. At its peak, it was getting 30 million hits a month and I ran Google ads on it, Google ad sense. I turned it into a six figure business while I was in law school. I think at its peak, it was doing like 250 to 280 K a year, just from clicks. And I did a bunch of other sub websites after that, one for Twitter, one Facebook, one was an Indian version of that.

I just knew at that point, there was nothing else I would do other than build stuff on the internet. It was a no-brainer for me. I didn't really have too many friends that even did this. There was maybe one friend. At that time, we weren't close. His name was Fahim Saleh. He actually passed away this last year, as well as with my mom.

He was the only person that I knew that was doing stuff on the internet. I would bug him all the time after I built that site and try to meet up with him as much as possible. He was way further along than me, because he had actually built out his website. I think it was doing a million a year.

It was a lonely process, but I was able to see that path. I got more into tech and I was realized there's a bunch of other people doing this. I read just a few books and what I saw Fahim do from the sidelines.

That was enough for me to realize this is where I'm going to build my life's work. And I'm going all in on that.