Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies Into Livelihoods - InformationWeek
Business & Finance
11:40 AM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner

Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies Into Livelihoods

InformationWeek interviewed five accidental entrepreneurs, including the founders of and Digg and the author of the blog Dooce, to find out how they freed themselves from the paycheck-to-paycheck grind.

The Armstrongs use software called Movable Type (more on that later) to run their blog and Apple iBooks and a G5 tower to compose and manage it. Heather takes pictures with a Nikon D70 camera, improves them with Adobe Photoshop, and posts them to the Flickr photo-sharing service. She uses a simple File Transfer Protocol program to move files around. Their hosting provider is Liquid Web; they pay $200 per month for the server access and bandwidth.

As for the content, Armstrong blogs in loving, exasperated tones about the joys and frustrations of being a stay-at-home mom and tells stories about her extended family (including her mother, whom she refers to as the Avon World Sales Leader). Leta is the star of the blog, with their dog, Chuck, a popular supporting player. The blog is a cheerful chronicle of 21st century digital domesticity, peppered with good-natured profanity, toilet humor, and sentimental stories.

From Unemployed To Company President

Mena Trott is the 28-year-old president of a hot technology company. Trott and husband Ben run Six Apart, which distributes Movable Type blogging software and the LiveJournal, TypePad, and new Vox blogging services.

Risk paid off for Rose (right, with Digg CEO Jay Adelson)

Risk paid off for Rose (right, with Digg CEO Jay Adelson)
The Trotts started writing Movable Type as software for Mena's blog, Dollarshort, in early April 2001. It was a hobby. Then they were laid off from their jobs at a small Web design firm, where she was a designer and he was an engineer, in September 2001--amid the dot-com bust and just a few days before 9/11. They released Movable Type a month later.

Movable Type is one of the dominant software platforms for managing personal and professional blogs. The software lets authors create a blog easily, using templates or by creating a fresh design from the blank page. Authors write posts either in a form in their Web browser or offline, then Movable Type handles the rest--publishing the posts to the Web, collating old posts into archives, managing user comments, and handling subscriptions by e-mail or RSS feed. Movable Type was light-years ahead of competitors when it came out. Other blogging tools predated it, but none had its power and flexibility. Competitors have emerged since--open source WordPress, most notably--but Movable Type remains competitive in functionality. Because it's written in a scripting language, Movable Type can be customized by users with programming skills. An API set allows for extensions.

You don't need programming chops to use Movable Type or even need to know any HTML. Anybody who can write an e-mail or compose in Microsoft Word can publish and update a Movable Type blog. The software was initially donationware--users lent what they thought was appropriate. In late 2001, Six Apart introduced a commercial license for $150. Now the company has 135 employees.

It's Delightful! It's!

Like the Armstrongs and the Trotts, Joshua Schachter saw his hobby become a business as demand for it took off. Schachter created the service while working in IT for several financial companies; his previous employers included Montgomery Securities, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley.

2 of 4
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll