Five Entrepreneurs that Built their Empires from the Ground Up

This is what money looks like in outer space

Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs began their companies from garages, basements, or even a church crypt, in the case of Richard Branson. These bootstrapping entrepreneurs are not always well-educated, but they often have things in common that other entrepreneurs can learn from. They often made their fortunes by taking risks that other businesses avoid, and they all persevere and work hard to overcome obstacles on their paths to success.


Steve Jobs

Perhaps the most famous bootstrapper of them all, Jobs began his technology career at Atari, where he and Steve Wozniak worked together to improve the Atari circuit board design. Jobs, the business man, motivated Wozniak to design the earliest machines and Apple prototypes in the late 1970s. Jobs worked out sales deals that would allow him to finance the growing company. With the income that Jobs helped secure, Wozniak was able to improve on each of the successive Apple computer designs, and by 1980, it was the second-largest home computer manufacturer in the world.


Bob Parsons

Parsons, the famous CEO and founder of and numerous other associated companies, began his working life in Baltimore, where he and his family struggled to make ends meet. After almost failing out of high school, Parsons served in the Marine Corps, obtained an accounting degree from the University of Baltimore, and then taught himself to program. He began Parsons Technology in his basement in 1984, which sold an accounting program called MoneyCount. Using direct mail marketing, Parsons grew the business over ten years into a business that eventually sold to Intuit for $64 million. His next business venture was, the number one hosting and registration company in the world.


Jeff Bezos

The founder of, Jeff Bezos, was a precocious child who spent his early years exploring the world and trying new things. As a toddler he tried to dismantle his crib, when he was a young child he jerry-rigged an alarm to keep his siblings out of his room, and turned his parents’ garage into a laboratory for science experiments. After a successful high school and college career, lack of support from investors prompted him to quit his job and set up Amazon in his garage. Bezos has gone on to fund other companies and win numerous awards for his entrepreneurial vision.


Sam Walton

The famous business leader who began Wal-Mart and Sam’s club began his career as a salesman at JC Penney, where his slipshod bookkeeping almost got him fired. After a stint in the army during World War II, he returned to support a wife and child. With what little money he had, and some money borrowed from his wife’s father, he purchased a Ben Franklin’s variety store, where he established the fundamental principles that would make Wal-Mart a national success: consistently low prices. Through the fifties and sixties, after a few bumps in the road, Walton purchased a number of variety stores and opened his first Wal-Mart in 1962, and the rest is history.


Was the Virgin Empire born in a crypt? Only Branson really knows. And the people who read his autobiography.

Was the Virgin Empire born in a crypt? Only Branson really knows.
And the people who read his autobiography.

Richard Branson

The founder of the Virgin empire began a mail order record company in the crypt of a church, where he had already been distributing his magazine called The Student. By advertising through his startup magazine, Branson’s record business boomed quickly, and he opened a record store in London in 1971, then began Virgin Records in 1972. Signing on “risky” bands such as Sex Pistols and obscure bands such as Faust and Can brought Branson tremendous success, and over the next several years, Branson expanded his group of companies to more than 400.

Part 2: How to Quit Your Life, Become an Expat, and Live the Life of Your Dreams: Google Operators

Welcome back, let’s go ahead and dive into


Part 2: How To Use Google Operators to Search for Jobs in Other Countries.

Lost? Let Google Operators help you find your way.

Lost? Let Google Operators help you find your way.

Instead of searching for company websites, like we did last time, we’ll look for blogs with some new search operators. After thinking about my last article, I thought that it may have been a little tech-heavy for the less techy of whoever might come across this, so we’ll keep the operators simple this time.

Just use the “~” symbol (which finds similar terms) in front of any search term so you don’t have to use multiple pipes to get variations of a word (though I’ve noticed that Google has started sneakily raking in similar terms to standard searches anyway).

What we’re going to do is keep running with the whole copywriting in Japan bit, and look for blogs as a source of ideas, jobs, company links…i.e., we’re looking for blogs that can be used as resources in a few ways we can think of and in ways we can’t think of yet.

Search these:

blogs ~copywriting

blogs ~freelance ~writer

blogs ~english ~writing

blogs ~editor

Open all links of interest with ctrl+click. Then repeat the searches without the word “blogs,” opening all links of interest in new tabs (ctrl+click). And then repeat the searches again with “blogs,” and click on the “more” button, then click “blogs,” which will only bring up blogs in the search results. Ctrl+click links of interest. Repeat the search without “blogs” and then click the “more” and “blogs” buttons.

Massive results in just a couple minutes.

Focus on the bigger picture

Focus on the bigger picture when researching

See how easy that was? While Google is still an utterly primitive database query system — utterly, utterly primitive and ridiculous — its crudity will still serve up mostly relevant results, some of the time.

The inability to save preferences or refine or interact with our search results in any meaningful way is just woeful beyond belief, and SEO monsters are still everywhere in the search results. Just see all the online psychology degree websites. Unbelievable. Google’s algorithm is so far in the ice ages and the company should really give users a preference interface so we have control over fine tuning our own results through sophisticated search parameters and criteria that appear as part of a GUI (Graphical User Interface).

But I digress.

The expat blogs I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for example, are a prime resource for someone looking for a job in a foreign country. Not because it lists jobs, but because it shows you what people actually do for work and how they live as expats in foreign countries. And some of them are specifically geared to help other expat wannabes who wanna make it work.

By adding the blog dimension to our Google research, we are adding a new avenue to our research method. There are other methods to pursue, and ways to keep updated on our research, which we’ll get into later. This type of job market research analysis helps profile an industry, and, in the long run, gives us information which will contribute to our authority in our chosen field.


That’s all for this week’s episode of How to Quit Your Life, Become an Expat, and Live the Life of Your Dreams. Next week, or whenever, maybe, I’ll get into things like designing your website’s architecture so Google crawls it properly, how to perform lateral keyword-stuffing, how to conceptualize your content marketing, and how to go clothes shopping on Kao San.


How to Quit Your Life, Travel the World, Become an Expat, and Live the Life of Your Dreams: Google Research

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I suppose I will never tire of internet marketing satire. Yet in my informative humor lies buried a grain of truth, and from that grain can sprout a cornucopia of knowledge.

So You Want to Travel the World

First, make sure you have something to offer the world, such as a job skill or a pretty face. If you don’t have a job skill, then teach English. Once you figure out what you bring to the table, it’s time to quit your life.

Do that by throwing away every material thing you don’t need. Determine what you don’t need by creating a mathematical function that balances your estimated away time (EAT) and the estimated cost of storage (ECS) against the estimated cost of replacement (ECR). Use a spreadsheet to plot a line graph where EAT is a function of time, and your ECR is the inverse of your ECS.The point where ECS and ECR cross paths is what tells you what to throw away and what to keep.

If you have a free place to put your stuff, then don’t worry about it.

The next step is to quit your job, then hop a plane, and get a job.

That’s all there is to quitting your life, really. Getting the job is where the fun begins.

image002How I Do Google Research to Look for Jobs in a Foreign Country

Very few people understand how to do research with Google, so I will explain some basics.

First, it needs to be understood that Google research is a methodology, or a way of searching, it is not just a matter of putting in a couple stupid searches and seeing what comes up. If you want to research jobs, don’t be lazy and just click the top link for the top search for whatever, wherever.

Google is a database that accepts queries, which you can modify. A query is a search string. For instance, “copywriter Tokyo” reveals pages that have those keywords in the title, the body, and/or the URL of web pages. There’s not a lot there, which can mean a few things: there’s not a lot of competition for copywriters in Tokyo, there’s not much demand, they don’t know how to use the internet there for localized internet marketing, they use other methods of marketing, the search time needs tweaking, and so forth. Of course, part of the challenge of searching the internet for jobs in Japan is that most of the geotargeted search engine marketing will be done in Japanese.

So we’re going to keep going with this scenario. Let’s say you want to be a copywriter in Tokyo, either working for a company or freelance.


Crap. I had just finished writing this whole post and then I lost over 500 words and have to start back here.

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Job Market Research with Google Operators

Anyways, it’s a jungle out there, so we’re going to use Google search operators to narrow our search. An operator is a modifier that you include in your search to omit results, group terms together, specify where your search terms appear in the results, and so forth. If you include “-” before a term, for instance, results that include that term will be omitted. Before beginning hard core searching, go into your search settings and turn off the “show results as you type,” a seriously annoying feature that won’t let you put 100 results per page, which is you need to do. This way you’re getting ten pages of results at once.

Now let’s expand our search with an OR operator, the pipe:

copywriting|copywriter tokyo

This brings up pages with either “copywriter” or “copywriting” and Tokyo. Boolean logic at its finest.

I find it is better to do all my searches at once, then sift through the piles later. Ctrl+clicking opens up the searches in a new tab. Once I’ve opened up all the interesting looking links in new tabs, I can ctrl+tab between them rapidly.

Now, we can ctrl+N to open a new window, and begin a new search.

copywriting|copywriter|editing|proofreading|”web content”

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It’s a jungle out there

This strings a lot of OR operators together, groups “web content” as a single term that must occur together, and specifies that “” appear in the destination URL, i.e., that it has to be a Japanese .com site. This search produces a few interesting results, but “editing” brings up too many photography- and videography-related links, so knock that out, along with “web content,” and a better stream comes up. Searches for english language also brings up many useful results.

And so on and so forth. The “link:” operator can tell which sites link to a url, so “ english” will bring up sites that link to this one. Including “english” weeds out Japanese language sites. “Related:” is an operator will bring up sites similar to the one specified. A “~” symbol attached to the front of a term is another very useful operator, that brings up searches similar to specified term.

So after all the useful sites are bookmarked and scanned, we can move on to other methods, such as using Facebook to find jobs. Searching for keywords from your Facebook search box will bring up relevant Facebook pages, which then link to their websites, and so forth.

Other standard venues for job searches include craigslist, classifieds in English language media outlets, and local job sites, which can be found through Google research. Expat blogs are also highly useful sources of information.

Doing Internet Research in Other Countries

Clearly, there are language barriers (for those who don’t speak the language) and often technological barriers to doing Google research in other countries, but internet research is a good first step for those interested in tapping in to foreign job markets.

Well, that’s all the time we have for this week’s episode of How to Quit Your Life, Travel the World, Become an Expat, and Live the Life of Your Dreams. This episode has been brought to you by keywords such as Google research, internet research, become an expat, and how to quit your life. Other major sponsors include a bunch of bold words and high quality web content.

Are You Really Ready for Retirement?

If anything, my studies of Internet Marketing have taught me to take everything with heaping mountains of salt. Everyone’s trying to get you to part with your hard-earned money. I’ve seen how the Peace Corps has trashed its mission so the agency heads can keep their six figure paychecks, I’ve seen how the vegetable oil industry has trashed Americans’ health to keep their pockets lined, and lately, I’ve decided to completely pull my investment out of my 401k after watching a recent Frontline episode that uncovers the hidden fees that go to the mutual fund managers who are investing your retirement money.
They are financial experts, one might say, so they know best…right?


Watch The Retirement Gamble on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

You are the Average of the 5 People You Most Spend Time With

I love that quote, quoted by Scott Dinsmore who was quoting someone else in this awesome TEDx talk. Herein, Scott explains the value of becoming a self-expert and changing your surroundings in order to achieve the impossible — doing what you love, instead of doing what you think you’re supposed to.

He relates the story of the young aspirer who questions a Wall Streeter about what motivates him, and the Wall Streeter replies, “More.”

And this mentality, Dinsmore argues, is what keeps us from finding and doing what we’re passionate about. By seeking more and more, we’re stuck on “resume-building” and when we just focus on the bottom line, the passion will just be drained out of us.

Careers and Specialization

school-93200_640I’ve met several people who, in less than a decade, have burned out on their chosen career path. This was a great fear of mine when I was in college, and it’s also one reason I used to resist traditional career tracks: they are built on a foundation of overspecialization. Rather than promoting growth and comprehensive knowledge (pseudo-inculcated in our educational system), we tend to encourage specialization in a “niche” market. It’s easier to commodify special skills, which can be beneficial to both buyer and seller, but this type of behavior encourages codependence rather than independence.


Buckminster Fuller saw overspecialization as a severe weakness, so much so that his magnum opus, Synergetics, opens with the following lines:

We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist’s brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which, in turn, leads to war.

Fuller later describes overspecialists as people who can make the various parts of a pencil, but who cannot make an entire pencil by themselves. One person makes the lead, one the eraser, the other the wood, and another puts them together. He suggests comprehensive understanding as something lacking and necessary for our species’ survival. Yet this is the world we live in, and many in my generation feel that the career world looks a lot like an assembly line.

Self-help televangelists like Tim Ferris and Chris Guillebeau speak to a generation of intelligent Gen-Xers yearning for freedom from the corporate yoke, and businesses like have sprung up to support these budding freelancers and solopreneurs.

When someone like me can learn web design in a few months, the real challenge is not learning some specialized job skill, it investing the time and energy to digging yourself into a niche and staying there.