As I mentioned in my first post I think it’s important to first look back at the history of how things got to where they are today. On reflection it seems like such a long time ago, then I looked up the dates of when I registered the first domain and realised it was! In 2003 at the age of 14 a friend and I who were both into online gaming decided to start our own company to provide game servers, and I will use the word company loosely as you won’t find much existence of it! Pooling together our pocket money, we purchased the domain name hosting-4-you.com and setup a basic site based on phpBBFM, if anyone remembers the beauty of a site that could create! Those that don’t remember it, after 10 minutes of searching I was unable to find any examples to share that anyone has dared to leave on the internet!
So, website running and concept created we purchased a dedicated server from a company called The Planet based in Texas for around £30/month and setup our first few game servers to test the concept. Our key focus was Medal of Honor: Allied Assault which was the big World War II game that preceded Call of Duty and was PC based only as were all online games at the time. Within a few days just from the contacts we had in the gaming world we had sold a few servers and had covered what we had spent which was just as well as on £2.50 pocket money a week there wasn’t really a great deal of margin to not break even the first month! Our big marketing draw was that we offered voice servers free of charge for up to 10 users. This was before any online games had voice chat built-in and in order to play in competitive leagues you needed a way to communicate which is the purpose that voice servers served. At it’s peak we had over 1000 users on our voice servers which was leading to a fairly nice conversion rate for game servers. A few months passed growing the client base, growing our own skills and increasing the number of servers that we had from The Planet which lead to the point where as a 14 year old I was able to earn more in a month than I would have got in a couple of years of pocket money. That being said, I’ll leave you to do the maths to calculate how much it actually was!
At this point we decided to have a bit of a re-brand to a better name for the industry and created a custom website with some basic HTML/PHP skills. I now introduce you to Deadly Hosting! Which can oddly still be accessed today with it’s original content although neither of us own the domain. The page is a little broken however you can see a screenshot of it to the left. You may also notice some of the games listed are early iterations of games still available today such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. The last post shown in the nice big red text was just before the time that we decided to sell the “company” to another provider based in Chicago and pocketed a few hundred pounds each with the original intention that I was also going to work for them which I hope they didn’t realise I was only 15 at the time! At this point we each went our separate ways with my friend going off to work in London and myself having caught the business, and more notably, the money bug decided not to work for the company we sold to but to setup a new company in March 2005 which was the very start of VooServers!
We’re at March 2005 (Don’t worry I won’t take so much time to cover the remaining years!), VooServers.com is registered, my Photoshop skills are developing and I manage to create the master piece of a holding page shown to the right. Mailing list’s were all the rage at the time so I thought it would be a great idea to include one. I’m not sure it took a single subscription but hey, if the big companies were doing it then I was going to as well! The original intention with VooServers was to resell dedicated servers from another provider however after conducting my research and working out who I wanted to resell I had a conversation with the owner and he convinced me that there wasn’t really much money in it and not to pursue it. 12 years later it turns out for me that the advice he gave was pretty good, for him perhaps not so much! Again I had the concept, domain name but this time registered as a company with Companies House in October 2005 and also VAT registered to form my first proper company.
Shortly after I setup the very first VooServers website which can be found below. The next piece of the puzzle was to sell something and with some investment from my parents I purchased a couple of Dell servers and co-located them in a shared rack at Redbus Sovereign House in Docklands. With a little bit of advertising I picked up my first client from an industry message board and set about installing their server which is when the fun started! There I was, sitting in a data centre in London, server in front of me, client waiting for the details and me trying to work out how to get it to work! I was back and forth to the data centre over the next few days, including 1 day not going to 6th form to go to the data centre, and after about 20 hours of hard work and determination I got it working and delivered the server details to our first client.
Over the next few months things grew well with our first client placing several more orders, attracting other new customers and moving from the shared rack to a quarter rack and then a half rack which I wish I had some photos of as it had a CRT monitor in it! During this time I hit the very first time I nearly quit after having been to the data centre several times over a few days to fix a problem only for it to keep happening. On one of the trips where I was sure I had resolved the issue fully I had only shortly walked back through the door from fixing it for it to fail again requiring another trip back up to the data centre and me saying that I didn’t want to do it anymore. With some encouragement from my parents and I believe a reminder that there was some investment which needed to be repaid I dusted myself off and fixed the issue fully the next day. That’s the first few years of business for me and certainly the least glamorous but I will continue some of the later years in another post soon! I’ll leave you with a screenshot for the first VooServers website!