Alex Tew made almost £700,000 from a website he created as a 21-year-old in his Cricklade bedroom, has rubbed shoulders with Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg and moved to San Francisco – but he still misses British pubs.

Alex, now 30, struck gold in 2005 when he launched The Million Dollar Homepage, which consisted of 1m pixels he sold for $1 per pixel.

Buyers would upload their own image and insert a website link of their own choosing.

The idea generated articles on the BBC, The Guardian and The Register websites, which drove more and more traffic to the website, making the pixels ever more valuable.

Alex, who launched the idea with the hope of funding his way through university, eventually sold the final 1,000 pixels for £37,000 on eBay and filled the website before the end of January 2006.

After taxes and other costs, he made a profit between £600,000 and £700,000 and became an internet success story.

He gave up the idea of university and moved to London where he met other web entrepreneurs.

The original site,, remains active today.

“I keep it online because it’s fun to do,” Alex said.

“It doesn’t cost anything to keep it there. Someone pays for the hosting. I have a sponsor.

“What was interesting was making the money, but it wasn’t the biggest thing that came out of it. “The real thing was opening doors. It was about making friends. The fact lots of people knew about it and when I met them they would say ‘you’re the guy who did that.’ “It’s been a recognition thing for me. It opened lots of doors and became a learning experience.”

Of the many internet heavyweights Alex met, Cambridge’s Michael Birch was arguably the most important.

Michael, 44, founded the social networking website Bebo in January 2005, which peaked in 2007, when it boasted more than 45m registered users.

In March 2008, he sold the network to AOL for $850m, but continued to create web projects, and in 2011 finally convinced Alex to join him in Silicon Valley.

“I was tired of London. It’s a crazy place and I was up for a change of location,” said Alex, who had struggled to match the success of Million Dollar Homepage in London.

“For the first time in my life I wasn’t running a business or my own project, which was pretty stressful.

“I had been to San Francisco previously and loved it. The vibe and the entrepreneurial atmosphere was incredible.”

His latest project is a smartphone meditation app called Calm, which already has more than 1m users.

He says he is comfortable, rather than super rich, and lives in a one-bedroom flat while spending his days working alongside a team of five at Calm.

“There is nothing stopping any kid in a bedroom with an internet connection doing something crazy,” he said.

“The world is your oyster for making things happen.

“The idea is one thing, but you have to put that idea into action. Lots of people have ideas, but less people give it a go.

“I realised, no matter how harebrained it might be, if the passion is there, nothing’s too big.”