Fans of the Harry Potter books and movies may know a lot about Emerson Spartz, creator of the most-visited Potter fan site, MuggleNet.com. That’s “Emerson 1.0.”
But a growing number of viewers are following “Emerson 2.0,” as he jokingly calls himself. That’s the 2009 Mendoza graduate, an Internet entrepreneur determined to give voice to hope in a skeptical world.
Spartz rose to fame at the age of 12, when as a home-schooled, basketball-obsessed youngster in La Porte, Ind., he created a fan Web site for the Harry Potter books, which chronicle the adventures of the boy wizard. As enthusiasm for the books and movies grew, visitors to the site exploded. Eventually, the site was receiving 40 million page views per month and drawing six-figure annual revenues from eager advertisers.
Spartz, now 23, has been featured as a new-media prodigy in publications such as BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal. He is still president and CEO of MuggleNet.com (which is owned by Spartz Inc., an Indiana for-profit corporation), though he has delegated the day-to-day operations to his staff of four employees and more than 115 volunteer contributors. Though the last book arrived in 2007, the Potter phenomenon rolls on, with a theme park opening in Orlando this year and the next-to-last movie in the series opening in November. When that happens, expect to see Spartz in nonstop interviews across the airwaves, explaining J.K. Rowling’s fictional world of villains and heroes.
Spartz attributes MuggleNet’s success to engaging other Potter fans as contributors to his site through promotions and partnerships. “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I brought the prin-ciples of management to the Harry Potter online world, and organizing a large volunteer staff gave MuggleNet the manpower it needed to explode past the other sites,” Spartz said.
Still, MuggleNet was just Spartz’s opening act.
In 2009, with Gaby Montero, he created the Web site GivesMeHope.com, where people share one-paragraph inspiring stories in a Twitter-style format. Drawn from moments of everyday life, these stories tell of forgiveness, courage, love and heroic self-sacrifice.
GivesMeHope.com responds to a need in our trash-talking world, according to Spartz. “The problem is, our society celebrates people who are cynical, people who criticize, who are sarcastic. Why is it that we are so free to criticize, but are so hesitant to share praise?”