I caught up with Harrison Gevirtz at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami Beach.
He’s always had a penchant for 5-star hotels– since why not treat yourself for working so hard.
I first met Harrison 14 years ago, when he was a 16-year-old famous for putting all his expenses on a Black Card.
We spoke at all the major internet marketing conferences– SMX, PubCon, Affiliate Summit, you name it. We made millions doing affiliate marketing, which meant we hung out with the likes of Ryan Eagle, Jeremy Schoemaker, Larby Amirouche, Chad King, Tom Nyiri, Scott Richer, and so forth. Back then, the only way to do deals was to sponsor lavish parties since that would attract both the networks and the whales (people who had a lot of traffic).
Harrison Gevirtz’s lavish lifestyle
I first met Harrison in LA at an affiliate conference. He bought me a steak dinner using his father’s American Express Black Card, which back then was the status symbol of a baller. It was the credit card that was so heavy it wouldn’t bend. The Westin LAX was our favorite hotel since they had a jacuzzi that technically closed at 10 pm but which didn’t have enforced security. So we could order room service and then hang out all night– going back to the regular pool when the jacuzzi was too hot, then back and forth.
We normally were up until 3 am every evening. He and I would both be working on our laptops- not very exciting, I know. I’d be optimizing Google and Facebook ad campaigns while he would be building relationships with affiliate networks and affiliates. He was the one who taught me how affiliate networks cheat affiliates. And I taught him how to run large-scale ad campaigns.
His favorite brand was BAPE, which is a bathing ape. I couldn’t understand the overpriced t-shirts, but apparently, it was trending. Same for American Apparel, which was one of the “hype brands” of the time.
Harrison had multiple phones on him– his favorite was a Blackberry Curve. He was so fast at typing that he could put the phone behind his back and still type twice as fast as me on a laptop.
I don’t know how he was able to keep track of so many relationships. He had one secretive rockstar programmer named Austin, who, at the age of 16, built one of the 100 largest websites on the internet single-handedly. It was called DarkWars and cracked the Alexa 100 by being a gamified link network before link networks became a thing.
On our next trip to LA, we flew in this mysterious Austin from Iowa. And he became one of my best friends, who has rescued me from sticky technical situations. But if you try to look him up on the internet, you’d be hard-pressed to find him since he’s a recluse. I do have a few pictures with him, but I won’t post them on the internet out of respect for his privacy.
A year later, we got a mansion in Boulder, which had the foothills as our backyard. Austin had the master bedroom, which was an extravagant thing– a bathroom big enough to accommodate 20 people to have a shower if he wanted it. I spent most of my time working in the kitchen, which had a 30-foot island, allowing us to prepare any food we desired.
Austin invited his friend, Girard, who also was a 180 IQ type programmer, to come to the house from Detroit. And this kid smoked so much weed that it got me and the rest of us high via secondhand smoke. But Girard was so massively intelligent that he needed to work only 2 hours a week– getting more work done than any normal 9-to-5 worker, even though he spent most of his time in the basement playing GTA on a 12-foot screen and smoking weed. I bought weed to keep him happy, rationalizing this as a business expense, which made our accountant frown.
Harrison invited Chad King to the house, who was an awesome affiliate manager and relationship manager in general. We imported him from Indiana, so his accent stood out among the educated Boulder elite.
Harrison assembled quite the crew of internet marketers– the most non-corporate folks you could imagine. Yet we all somehow worked, ate, exercised, and partied together.
Once a week, Velina, our massage therapist, would come over and give everyone a massage. Even friends like Josh Fraser (now founder of Origin Protocol) would come to hang out. And we had an older Russian lady as a maid who cleaned up after us and even did our laundry, which was fantastic.
I wondered how Harrison could find such talent– it’s like he magically could attract the most talented people and get them on to his team.
We had a growing team of VAs from the Philippines and India. Because India is 11.5 hours ahead of Mountain Standard time, we often were up late anyway to be able to coordinate. I remember when Harrison and I spoke at SMX Singapore with Barry Smythe and Gillian Muessig. Then hopped over to Manila to meet a bunch of our VAs. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental both times— my favorite international hotel chain. We worked from our laptops in the private lounge on the top floor, on the plane, and from the hotel room.
Denver metro was a 30-minute drive from Boulder. So a couple of times a week, we’d drive down to Westminster to hang out with Scott Richter, who ran CPA Empire, one of the largest affiliate networks, as well as ringtones.net. We did so much business with Scott that he gave us office space downstairs in his building. But we did more work from the Boulder house since it was so easy to just roll out of bed and pop open the laptop lid.
Harrison Gevirtz in the Facebook era
In 2008, Facebook opened up the ad platform. We already were running a lot of direct traffic with publishers, then moving that traffic to Azoogle, NeverBlue, Commission Junction, or whatever network paid the most on that particular offer. I built an ad server with the help of another colleague, who was an engineer at Yahoo. But it wasn’t until we had Austin take over the engineering that we were able to scale, tune the user interface to handle complex transactions, and manage the money we were making.
We were making so much money that we’d bring our laptops to the sushi restaurant, hitting refresh every few minutes to see our earnings. Sometimes, we’d made $10,000 during our meal, which in our minds, more than justified the spending of $1,000 for Kobe beef on hot stones.
Some days we’d make close to $100,000. So it seemed reasonable enough to buy team members cars and big-screen TVs as bonuses. We flew the team first class to Ad-Tech New York, where we even had a booth. We didn’t know anything about sponsorship, so we hurriedly had a booth made and printed up a few hundred shirts to give out.
Harrison, as CEO of Ringba, today
Now Harrison runs a call tracking software company— like a Callrail, but performance oriented and with enterprise features for companies with sophisticated lead gen teams. They are the #2 player in the industry.
About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.