It’s the truth that every kid has big dreams. When Michael was growing up, he’s dream was just to be really, really good at something. Which was: business, which he learned through gaming.
He was also highly dyslexic. Though he had trouble with reading and writing in school and needed to find a place where he could show his value and feel accepted.
For a while, that place was on the swim team at Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club in New York. He wasn’t even into computers yet—he was too busy beating records in backstroke. When he was 11 years old he moved to Florida, and started swimming at a new country club. He befriended the IT manager there, a guy named Jeff Barrett, who told him about this incredible game called StarCraft. Naturally, as any kid would, he immediately told his mom he wanted to play. Jeff and his colleague Clint White came over to their house, built his first computer, and started playing the game 40-plus hours a week.
Needless to say, Michael Cammarata got really good at it. He was working his way up the ladders on battle.net, playing ranked games, and he caught the attention of a clan. In StarCraft, these are groups of recruited players with similar interests and skill levels, who engage in multiplayer games. The other members of his clan taught him not only how to program and build websites, but also about the values of a community. He finally found the meaningful friendships and confidence that, as a result of his dyslexia, which previously eluded him.
With their help and knowledge, he was able to build and monetize a network of gaming fan sites, including a site that created one of the first gaming music videos (later merging into Gamespy Network). To counteract mounting web-hosting fees, He then developed an automated hosting solution that made him a multi-millionaire at the age of 13. By this time he had also hired some of his first employees—Jeff Barrett and Clint White. Soon his network reached nearly 10,000 sites and was, at its peak, the second-largest provider of advertising inventory to Advertising.com. At 17 Michael moved to Laguna Beach, California, where he started to invest into other online businesses and got involved in the entertainment industry. Today he’s the Chief Global Strategy Officer at Schmidt’s Naturals and Angel Investor, while maintaining active involvement in a number of other companies.
He credits StarCraft, and the people he met playing it, with opening an entire digital world to him and teaching him the skills that enabled him to become the entrepreneur he is today. It was more than a game for him—it taught him about focus, emotional control, patience, persistence, networking, multitasking, micromanagement, teamwork, and above all, strategy. He discovered an ability to excel that the conventional education system could never have taught him.