QE old boy goes from strength to strength with online business

Former QE pupil Alex Halliday made his first forays into online business while still at the school – and now, at 25, he is the youngest CEO of a company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Alex, who left QE after his A-levels in 2003, has created SocialGO.com, which allows groups and organisations to create their own social networks and even makes it possible for them to make money from these networks.

He set up the company in 2007 with Dominic Wheatley, the founder of Eidos, a company well known for games such as Football Manager and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. SocialGO launched its premium services in 2009 and has recently raised $2.2million to fund version 2 of its platform.

Writing on his own blog, Alex recalls that when he was only 13 he began building ‘fan sites’ for TV shows, pop stars and other people with a fan base. “It started as a hobby, but once the traffic started to flow, I became involved in selling ads and monetising these networks. The business grew and by 2000, we where serving nearly 30m page views a month and selling ads through agencies like Valueclick, Engage and Doubleclick and we were building an interesting business… This came to an abrupt halt in 2000 when ad rates went from a ridiculous $12 CPM [cost per mille, or per thousand, views] to (a rather more justifiable) $0.60. Suffice to say that business was no longer viable…boo hoo, back to school work!”

Notwithstanding this setback, Alex’s interest in the internet continued unabated and after completing his A-levels at QE, he spent six months in Dubai developing a news website. At the same time he started to develop the prototype of the social networking technology that became version 1 of SocialGO’s product.

The Shoreditch-based company now provides software as a service which allows groups to create, manage and control their own private social networks and provides the members of these networks with the ability to communicate with like-minded people in a controlled and secure environment. SocialGO derives its revenues from subscription premiums paid by network owners and from selling value-added services. If they choose, SocialGO’s customers – the network owners – can, in turn, make money from their networks in a variety of ways: by charging members for access to the entire network; by creating premium areas of the network that are restricted to paying members, and by hosting advertisements.

In a recent article published on Proactiveinvestors.co.uk, former Daily Mail City Editor Ian Lyall noted that in the course of his interview with Dominic Wheatley, the SocialGO chairman repeatedly likened Alex Halliday to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg – the billionaire subject of the recent blockbuster film, The Social Network.

Lyall adds: “For every Facebook there is a Bebo or Buzz that fails to scale those heights, or an expensive white elephant such as MySpace that illustrates just how difficult it is to make money from the worldwide web. However the operative word here is difficult – it is not impossible to make money from the web, so long as you have an innovative and original way of doing business.”