Mitchell founded MojoHost on April Fool's Day 2002, but wasn't fooling anybody with his business plan and drive. Taking a cue from his entrepreneurial father, he closed all his other online ventures when he realized MojoHost's potential, so he could give it his sole focus, and it certainly has paid off. His client base spans the globe — 35 percent is international — and about 80 percent of his entire business is focused on hosting adult-related sites.
"Adult has always been our target market will continue to be long into the future," Mitchell said. "I was a webmaster, affiliate marketer, domainer, paysite owner and affiliate program operator for several years prior to MojoHost. This is how I learned about the business and technical aspects of our industry, by throwing myself right into the fire and learning the hard way."
The fact that Mitchell unabashedly admits to his past failures — a word he's not afraid to use — as graciously as he is about discussing his successes sets him apart in the vast sea of adult industry entrepreneurs, and he attributes his humility and solid work ethic to the trials and tribulations he experienced before founding MojoHost.
"I don't believe in regret for failed ventures, bad decisions or hardships," Mitchell said. "I worked hard and threw everything against the wall until I found my success and I am very thankful for what I have today."
Mitchell's initial foray into adult was purchasing an adult paysite in 1999, only to have been defrauded by the seller and, later, by his then-business partner. He said he quickly learned to turn lemons into lemonade, and when the opportunity arose to form a business from owning a server in a local datacenter, he grabbed it.
At the time, Mitchell was offsetting costs by casually hosting a few friends on his own server, and when he realized the business potential growing from this side venture, he put his appreciation for technology — Mitchell says he's been a nerd since childhood — and eagerness to learn toward establishing MojoHost.
The company now provides fully managed hosting to customers that require one or more dedicated servers, and also offers co-location, bandwidth and server rental services.
"I did not start with a well-thought-out plan, only the goal of someday being the best," Mitchell said. "I actually remember having what I describe today as being a ‘Babe Ruth' moment. Proverbially speaking, I pointed to the outfield and declared that someday I wanted to inspire loyalty in my employees like the Cadwell family did at CCBill and be a market leader in hosting as I felt Tony Morgan's NationalNet was."
MojoHost's now 15-employee- strong company is growing exponentially, but regardless of the size of his client base, Mitchell makes a point to be available to each customer — and even nonclients — to talk about business, or life in general.
Mitchell also owns an alternative billing company called 123Bill, a service that Mitchell said validates age and identity in real time and extends terms to consumers for payment later by mail. Though it is still active, he said 123Bill hasn't accepted new merchants in several years, but plans to refresh the processor once he is able to focus on something other than MojoHost.
For Mitchell, he attends conferences not to gain new customers, but to make new relationships. Business will come as a result of the initial bond, and creating and maintaining a positive image within the industry is the most effective marketing tool.
"I try my best to keep a pulse of the whole industry from all perspectives so that we can guide ourselves and clients wisely through challenging times," Mitchell said. "And it is important to me that, no matter how large we grow, every client feels important and is not afraid to reach out to me, ever."
Mitchell understands the importance of relationships and their positive effect on life as much as business, which is made visible by the bright and eye-catching paint-splattered shirts he can be seen sporting at various industry events. What began as a simple Father's Day gift has become a trade show staple, and attendees take note when they see Mitchell wearing a shirt sans child-size handprint.
"My wife of 10 years, Melissa, and our three children hand paint all of my shirts," Mitchell said. "I fell in love while proudly wearing [my first shirt] at a conference and seeing people be very real with their responses to my decision to wear it, for better or worse. People adore the shirts but really it is that I miss my kids and wife so much when I travel that I can't imagine not always having them with me this way."
Mitchell has seen a lot of change within the industry, and especially with regards to hosting, he feels one of the most amazing changes is the amount of bandwidth consumed by web surfers. As a result, Mitchell and his technical staff are focused on scaling quality.
He also notes the astonishing number of free full-length movie content available online and the rise in consumer fraud. Mitchell's five-year industry projection includes belief that the business opportunity online will remain significant, but with significant change in technology and methodology — and possibly even change in the faces we see in the business today.
"I believe the total dollars spent online will continue to increase and thus that the overall opportunity is still quite large," Mitchell said. "The industry will continue to consolidate, as will avenues for digital distribution and traffic sources. Unfortunately this will lead to the continued failure of many who have had a long tenure in the industry who can't figure out how to reinvent or reinvest themselves as needed."
Mitchell of course sees the silver lining in all of this — his continual optimism and genuine positive outlook is refreshing — and he sees many of his clients adapting and handling these changes with creativity and newfound energy. He encourages everyone in the industry to reinvest their time, energy and money in order to prepare themselves for the future.
"Most of my clients are working harder than ever, and at the conferences the focus has changed dramatically to reflect an audience of people thirsty for new knowledge and growing their businesses," Mitchell said. "If you don't do this and approach your business with a true sense of humility, it will absolutely disappear."
It's essential to think ahead and look to the future to ensure success online, and to understand not only the technology and business behind the services one provides, but also have a true grasp and appreciation for what the client and consumer wants and needs.
"Everything we do is conservative and based on the long-term value of each client relationship," Mitchell said. "I learned early on that there are no windfall profits in hosting, it is an annuity-based business. Sell once and keep them happy forever — that's the ultimate challenge in a marketplace which never stops."
It's the relationships — and the state-of-the-art hurricane-proof datacenter that holds all of the company's servers — that ultimately keep Mitchell and MojoHost strong; the most important relationships being those he shares with his family.
"Every day I make a best effort to balance the needs of my family and business," Mitchell said. "I believe the final judge of me someday will be the relationship I have with my children when they are grown up. I hope to have their love and respect and that they have a childhood fill with happy memories."