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My name is Dan Amato, better known as Digger. I was born in upstate New York in the 1970's. Both of my parents are military and I ended up moving around as a military brat for my whole life until I finally moved out myself.

Some of the places I lived during my childhood include:

  • Middleport, New York (5 years)
  • Ft Lauderdale, Florida (2-3 months)
  • Fort Sam Houston, Texas (6 months)
  • Fort McClellan, Alabama (4-5 years)
  • Rockville, Maryland (4-5 years)
  • Newport News, Virginia (2-3 years)
  • Glenns Falls, New York (3-6 months)

From there I got my degree, took some electronics correspondence courses when I was 15, CLEPed out of my general college courses at 16 and then went into the US Navy at 17 as an Electronics Technician.

My homes during that period included:

  • Orlando, Florida (6 months boot camp and Basic Electronics)
  • Great Lakes, Illinois (6 months Advanced Electronics)
  • Mare Island, California (6 months Data Link Communications Specialist Training)
I graduated near the top of my class and picked my first duty station, which was Yokosuka, Japan, aboard the USS Blue Ridge LCC-19 (Flagship of the Seventh Fleet).

I spent about 2-3 years there. Some of the places I went when I was onboard:

  • Pusan, Korea
  • Pohang, Korea
  • Subic Bay, Philippines
  • Townsville, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Sasebo, Japan
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • New Caledonia
  • Bali
Bali was my favorite.

After my stint in the Navy my wife and I settled in Vallejo, California in 1991-1992 for about a year (she has family there). During that time I did some sales work.

There was a nasty recession going on back then and I decided after our time there that we'd move to Rochester, New York where I had some family. We spent about 3 months with family while I got everything situated with an apartment and picked up a job doing prototype boards and prototype test equipment and card cages. This was through a temp agency and the company ran out of work so they laid me off after 3 months. I quickly got another job as an Electronics Tech/Assembler.

I've always been the Entrepreneurial sort and during this period began looking at houses and real estate. 8 months after we had moved into our apartment I closed on our first house.

I continued working that job for several years and got into Multi-level marketing during that period. It wasn't for me, but I learned a lot doing it.

After a few years I got online. During this period I started picking back up on programming (I had been doing it since I was 10). I started learning C and released a few games. Siege and Capture (an internet enabled Stratego game) was probably my most successful title winning a "best release - Golden Calf award" from tucows.com in October 1997 for best win32 release. It was even distributed worldwide on computer magazine CD-ROMs.

Diving headfirst into web programming I picked up PERL, CGI and database programming. I then took a bold and risky move and quit my electronics job to study programming more and start my own contract web company (Reality Enterprises). I worked on my own administration systems and developed newsletters, message boards, chat systems, pay systems through I-bill (when they were just starting) and all kinds of stuff. I learned EVERYTHING I could, spending days at a time, without sleep, at the keyboard.

I managed to barely survive for 2 years during this period. I learned everything backwards and forwards in preparation of landing a "real" computer job.

I landed my first job at a small business doing work for Xerox. I wasn't sure if I was good enough for them or not. I found out when I was assigned the lead programming position on Xerox's worldwide Sales and Maintenance reporting project. I was there for about 6 months bringing it from a project several months behind to a project ahead of schedule.

Things got really loopy around this period. I had been doing small contracts after work during this period and one of the clients whom I'd done work for kept making me offers and calling me.

Finally in December of 1997 a serious offer came from them to work at their small sports news website, but there were a lot of ties. I had two daughters by this point and it would require dropping everything and moving to California. After a lot of thought I jumped into the waters of risk again, submitted my resignation and was in California 2 weeks later, just after Christmas.

I lived at that job and must have spent weeks at a time in the office, even sleeping there. I was sharing an apartment with a net buddy of mine. It was a glorious time.

I loved Silicon Valley, it had been a lifelong dream of mine to live there since I was about 10 or so. Things were hopping, entrepreneurs everywhere and there was electricity coming off people.

I finally got an apartment and the wife and kids came out a couple months later. There were a lot of internal politics at the company though and eventually it got busted up by majority shareholders that destroyed it.

In the end it was snatched up by vulture lawyers and the advertising portion of it was raped off into another company (which went IPO and then got bought by another company).

I partnered up with two of the execs at the company and started a new startup dot com in May-June of 1998 called Spotlight Interactive Inc. I took on the role of Founder and CTO. Starting my own business has always been a dream of mine. We started several websites and then got sidetracked into the satellite communications and networking business. All three of us were tapped to work for a company as interim execs. I did not like it there and left within a week after deciding to work more on Spotlight properties than to stay there.

I ended up back to contract work to support myself while I worked on the properties. 4 months later word started floating around about us doing a partnership with another company willing to put a million into a new sports and entertainment website. We struck a deal and I started working on this 100% of my time, avoiding the bill collectors who were pretty pissed off. In December 1998 that satellite company was bought out by another company and my two partners wiggled their way out and came back to the fold.

I had done all that work in Silicon Valley and now things were changing. We decided to move Spotlight to Sacramento, California in order to save on overhead. I picked up my stuff and moved up there renting out a house. We launched the sports website soon after that as I had completed most of the work over those 3 months. It was an AP news feed and ESPN SportsTicker feed website and that had consumed most of my time since back then there were no packages for handling that stuff.

I built an administration system from scratch that allowed us to eliminate our overhead and requirements for personnel (most places had 250 employees editing the pages in HTML by hand back then). There were contests, polls, message boards, auctions, team stats, team pages and the constant real time news coming in over the wire. It was quite a bit to keep track of. The company grew to 14 employee in total and we had a small suite in the Microsoft building. About 1/2 of the employees were administrators and story people rotating on a shift. The rest were biz dev and sales, office manager and execs. I had a software engineer working with me as well.

We were pretty tame compared to most of the dot coms back then. We didn't blow a massive amount of money. We had a launch party at the Oakland Coliseum and I got to meet the owner of the A's and several ball players. We were invited back a week later and I got to go down on the field and sit while they sang the National Anthem. That was pretty cool and exciting. After our first year in business we won the Entrepreneurial Business of the Year award from the SBA. We had grown from a startup to the number 5 Sports website on the net with 13 million users a month running through my software.

During this time Spotlight was pretty stagnant. We had a greeting card site, a pro cheerleading site, StarInsider our entertainment website and an auction website. Most of our time was focused on the sports website, much to my dismay. I really wanted Spotlight to move forward more during this period. I felt it had real good potential, especially since the net was new and no one had dominated yet. Ebay was just starting to grow up during that time.

Alas, that was not meant to be.

Things fell apart all across the country. The markets started tanking and things went into the gutter. The politics started between the company we had partnered with over numerous offers to buy the sports site. Apparently none of the offers we had managed to put together were good enough for them. Eventually everything came to a head. We finally ended up closing up shop in December of 2000. it was a two-year run of constant going. I was a burnt out person.

We went back to Spotlight and started working on StarInsider where I have been on and off ever since. Off mainly due to not being able to get paid, but still doing some work on it gratis. One of the partners ended up leaving after awhile for good.

During this period I started working on Web Services and we launched a subsidiary company called Red Cyclone. It is a total web services package that supplies all the backend operations for StarInsider now. It supplies all the services from message boards to general administration duties such as content editing. It also supplies statistics and all sorts of web services plugins from polls to newsletters to contests. It's really sweet.

As you've probably guessed this site is running off of the Red Cyclone system as well.

Recently I have stepped in with other shareholders and we have restructured StarInsider, so things are back to moving forward. We moved all the StarInsider sites to using Red Cyclone and have been growing things forward. That's where I'm at now.

Still working on my company.

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