Whiz Kid Entrepreneur: Harrison Gevirtz

Harrison GevirtzEarlier this year at SMX West, I met (then) 15-year-old entrepreneur Harrison Gevirtz. He was on a panel with my (then) 16-year-old daughter Chloe Spencer the owner of the Ultimate Neopets Cheats Site. Harrison blew my mind. Here’s a kid who travels the world, often times makes six figures a MONTH, and lives the high life and he isn’t even old enough to vote let alone drink. I got a chance to chat with him and get a bit of an inside view on his rock star lifestyle. Read on and perhaps you can glean a few secrets to his success and perhaps repeat that for yourself…

For many self-made Internet marketers, Harrison Gevirtz is already a legend. He’s a whiz-kid 16-year-old globe-trotting Internet advertising genius who pulls in six figures a month. How does he do it? Is it legal? What about school? What are his secrets? The rules of online marketing have changed and it’s kids like Harrison who are driving this new future. If you are smart enough, and creative enough – with the tenacity to make your own rules – perhaps you too can drive this new future. So much for needing a college degree or to graduate high school to really get somewhere in this world!

You might guess that Harrison doesn’t think too much of school and may be a dropout. He tells me he goes to “Continuation School” and is in a special program called “Independent Studies”. This means he goes to school 1 day per week for about 45 minutes! He collects his assignments and then is done until the next week when he repeats the process. This program will allow him to graduate school normally in four years. Kids – don’t try this at home! Harrison has an unusual gift and this type of school arrangement is not beneficial for everyone. Most kids (mine for sure) need more structure to prepare them for college life and their career. Harrison’s lifestyle is the exception.

With this loose of a school schedule, what does a typical day looks like for Harrison and how many hours a day do he work? Keep in mind he is still a teenager, regardless of his genius – so yes – he does sleep late and starts his day around noon. The luxury of this income obvious allows him the ability to set his own schedule. He chooses to travel a lot too — whether it’s Taipei or Monte Carlo or the Bahamas, he looks for any excuse to hop on a plane. When he’s not on the road he works most of the time, ordering lunch, which he says, allows him to keep working at his computer. Yes, this is the picture of a young workaholic, potentially addicted to his computer and the Internet at the tender age of 16. He tells me though that he doesn’t live his entire life in front of the computer. “I do like to go out with friends, go eat out and have fun like a normal teenager does. But I’m still really motivated. I do most of my work during the night (which neither of my parents approve up), but usually end up going to bed around 2-4am.”

Harrison is a dealer-maker. He relies on old-fashioned networking to establish direct relationships with advertisers. He brokers out many deals with various advertisers ranging from small web stores having the privilege to market products exclusively, onto larger various lead-generation advertisers. His secret? You bet he’s not telling. He won’t deny though that he often pulls in six figures a month. He admits that affiliate marketing can be very fast-paced and not very consistent. He’s more focused on his work than the bottom line and admits that not every month is a whopper, “when I don’t make six figures in a month it’s OK; there’s always next month!” Ah – the role of youthful optimism comes into play for this Internet advertising hero. Harrison is known to be a Super Affiliate, yet claims he is not. Which networks does he prefer to work with? He thinks very highly of CX Digital and Neverblueads, but he’s reticent to go into a larger list or provide many details (and of course I don’t blame him!). Harrison emphasizes that he is focusing more on making deals directly through advertisers now instead of going the affiliate route.

In addition to having an unconventional school and work life, Harrison’s lifestyle allows for him to travel extensively. He tells me that about 90% of his travel is for business. At the time of our interview he was in Boston for a meeting. In 2008 alone he said he has been to Denver/Boulder, San Francisco, New York City, the Bahamas, India, France, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and London, to name a few! Of the more exotic locales, the Bahamas was for pleasure, India and Amsterdam were for business, and France was a mix of both (mostly for pleasure, but Harrison’s wise to the value of tax deductions so he worked in a bit of business there too). Considering the circles Harrison networks in, the super-exclusive Elite Retreat conference run by superstar online marketer Jeremy Schoemaker (“Shoemoney”) was — despite the $5000 price tag — a no-brainer for him. He found it to be well worth it: “Elite Retreat was great… the conference was very unique because all the attendees were willing to share information about what they do and not be secretive. I learned quite a bit, not only from the speakers but also just as much from my fellow attendees.” Clearly conferences are important for Harrison, to network and to strike deals. For him, ad:tech NYC so far has been the best conference for this. He is also very complementary of “boutique conferences” like the Elite Retreat which “provide knowledge on a whole different level.”

He may be a genius, but he still makes mistakes and learns from them just like the rest of us. He admits that being overconfident with various projects and campaigns has been a pitfall and caused him significant losses from time to time. One example of this was when he was first starting out and earning his first profits from PPC advertising. He had a small campaign that he was spending about $30 per day from which he earned only about $75 per day. In his learning process he thought the best way to scale it would be to double the bids because even with a double cost per click he figured he would still be profitable. The result was an increase in his budget from $30 to $1,000. He was overconfident in his strategy and quickly lost $1,000 in a single day. From this experience he learned his lesson about how to efficiently scale up a campaign. Harrison’s risk-taking has paid off for him though — big time. But there is a constant risk. He can’t take his eye off the ball; he works incessantly. He also has to hold his own in a business world full of adults who don’t take teenagers seriously — not a small feat. In fact, Harrison says his greatest challenge this year has been in negotiating with various online media companies as a youth. While he finds this to be very frustrating, often there’s not much he can do about it. It’s not personal, but the policy of many affiliate networks and ad networks requiring users to be 18 years or older is a serious roadblock. He’s shared in other interviews how in the past he has been terminated, not paid, and taken advantage of by numerous networks because of their legal terms and minimum age requirement. Harrison advises other entrepreneurial kids to demand respect despite their age.

So where does Harrison see himself in ten years? He hopes to be living somewhere abroad, preferably Europe. He’s not sure if he’ll be pursuing the exact same business model that is working so well for him now, but he hopes to stay in this industry and continue to have the flexibility to work from anywhere.

How can high schools and universities inspire and prepare more students to achieve what Harrison has achieved? In his opinion he doesn’t think schools inspire students to come up with ideas or to establish a drive to accomplish something. But, he thinks that some professors can be influential and help you make future decisions that can improve your life. He thinks high schools and universities should better prepare students by offering more real-world, relevant business curriculum, instead of useless broad information.

Harrison’s latest business ventures that he was willing to share include BlitzLocal, his local-focused SEM firm, and LeaderClicks, his social advertising network. Harrison also invites readers to check out his blog.

About Stephan Spencer

16 Comments

  • don says:

    Its Great to see that, we are now getting young people out there, who have tons of self belief and are reaching for the stars. Great Interview.

  • dennis yu says:

    Kudos to Harrison!

    Stephan, great article– it just shows that the successful arbitrage doesn’t require you to have a degree or be of a certain age. I am honored to be working with Harrison.

  • Harrison, my hats off to you! Six years ago I thought I mentored you, now you are mentoring me.

  • Hugh says:

    Great article! It goes to show that it is possible to live the life everyone dreams of.

  • I got to read his blog after this post and I think it is great. I do start to feel that there might be something pushing a little behind. But still this doesn’t take credit for his hard work. A lot of kids with rich parents drink their life away so….well done!

  • Great article, but the comments are even more interesting.

    Sandy, I don’t know if your research is correct, but if so, your comment says it all. It wouldn’t be hard to put a dog at the helm with that kind of backing.

  • boring says:

    Another non-interview with Harrison. I don’t expect him to share secrets, but I find it boring to always read about his personal life. I’d read proper travel blogs if that were my thing.

    And success/sharing are not mutually exclusive. Certainly I and others have learned boatloads from you, Stephen, and obviously you’re quite succesful yourself.

  • elocukwu okenwa says:

    you are a kind of inspiration, i like your determination and sharp mind,keep it up it will really take you at the top. and never keep off from good friend and and good advice man.

  • Matt says:

    Simply awful. I don’t see the word charity mentioned once in this article because we all know 16 year olds need to make $100K+ per month. And I love when he says that he doesn’t feel that schools inspire kids to come up with new ideas. I’m guessing that if you spend more than 45 minutes a week in school you might have a different opinion. It might sound like bitterness but I assure you it’s not. I have a real problem with giving a kid like this fanfare when he’s plain greedy.

  • Would you just read what these doubters and jealous zealots think???

    They should be taking notes and learning from someone as young as Harrison, instead of criticizing what he does. (Whatever he’s doing, is obviously working.)

    If you don’t get inspired from his story, I truly feel sorry for you because you must lead a very insecure and muffled existence. I hope your kids don’t think the way you do!

    My 10 year old loved your story, so keep up the good job Harrison!

  • June says:

    Good on ya! Hope you make a couple more millions. Great inspiration for all of us oldies.

  • Tracy says:

    Great to see this talented “self taught teen” so confident in what he does! teach some adults these skills, school in an institution is not for everyone, I have a son on the same path… step out of the norm and let these guys actually enjoy what they do! sham on any adult put downs!

  • Garrett says:

    I find some of these comments funny.

  • as@as.com says:

    Anyone who believes this kids bs has the intelligence of a rock. Post number 6 explains it all.

    People’s gullibility, sallowness, and greed never ceases to depress me.

  • Jerry Koch says:

    Great story! Great comments! No doubt, it’s easier to accomplish your goals and reach for the pinnacles of success with a little help from behind the scenes.
    Regardless of what you may think, it takes effort and initiative to attain success. It also takes “being knocked down” a peg or two to gain perspective on the REAL qualities of success ie. learning about the universal laws of attraction, gratitude and paying it forward.
    There’s more to success than meets the eye…more than a casual observer might expect.
    With that said, I wish Harrison a life filled with peace, joy and prosperity.
    I’m sure he will put his knowledge to good use.
    Jerry Koch
    Internet Marketing Whiz

  • Former Fan says:

    I knew this kids grandfather who was a mega-millionaire and former banker/money lender. It’s not like Harrison just came up through the public school system and decided to become an instant success story. If anything he’s parlayed his grandfather’s/father’s immense wealth into his own business…which is a good thing. But for the rest of you middle class working stiffs just remember this kid had a (9) figure backing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.