Graham Hill founded TreeHugger in 2003 as a blog about all things green. He expanded the business organically, hiring 10 employees and about 30 freelance writers, and, in 2007, sold it for a reported $10 million to Discovery Communications. Hill also runs a second virtual company, We Are Happy to Serve You, which manufactures ceramic coffee cups sold at design stores and other outlets. Here's his philosophy on why it pays to be virtual.
"There's a lot of pressure to have an office, but if you can trust your employees and if you don't have a lot of physical stuff like prototypes, then it's a great model. You're going to save a bunch of money on real estate, and it's going to be good for the environment, because you're not commuting, and you're not using an office. You can also live anywhere in the world. I conceived of TreeHugger while I was living in New York, but I fell in love with this Spanish girl and ended up founding the company in her apartment in Barcelona. It was all contractors for the first two and a half years. Writers were paid per post, with bonuses based on traffic. Every two weeks, they'd send me an invoice, and I'd pay them with PayPal. While I ran the company, I lived in India, Argentina, and Thailand. I'd get my laptop set up with an Internet connection and sublet a furnished apartment. I didn't have a lot of friends in these cities, so I'd get a lot of work done. I was a total workaholic, but then I'd get to go out for lunch in Bangkok. I could have just stayed in New York, and maybe it would have been even more successful, but I wouldn't have had such an interesting experience."