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For some reason, I thought that having the longest hair possible without needing to brush it was fashionable. My clothing of choice was jeans and a zip-up hoodie that was always one size larger than it should have been. My only real possessions were my laptop (which started as a family laptop and within a few weeks became mine exclusively) and a digital camera that had been given to me as a birthday gift a year earlier.
Except for school and working as a busboy at the local Red Robin, the majority of my time was spent chatting in online forums (or message boards, as they were known then). I first stumbled upon AOL chat rooms and AOHell (a popular AOL hacking tool) in the mid-nineties. Then came Yahoo! GeoCities in the late nineties, Macromedia (now Adobe) Fireworks, Myspace layouts, and finally, message boards in the early 2000s.
I loved interacting with people online, and it was through these experiences that I learned that my calling was making things for other people. When I was twelve or thirteen years old, I created a fan site for my favorite local theme park, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. This not only became the most popular theme park fan site on the internet at its prime, but it also replaced Six Flags as the number one search result in the early days of Google. By the time I turned sixteen, I knew I wanted to create something that was digital and make some actual money doing it.
Still, I wouldn’t characterize this as wanting to be an entrepreneur—not yet. It was a mixture of being a naive teenager wanting to demonstrate my own independence, while also doing something that I deeply enjoyed (unlike working as a busboy at the local Red Robin).