A Salute to the O.G.

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Before Google: How an adventure seeker and online pioneer
founded the premier website for Smith Mountain Lake in 1998

Brian and Lisa Raub on deck overlooking the water
Photo courtesy of Lisa Raub

Brian Raub was an adventurer to his core. He once completed a solo, 13,000-mile road trip to visit 22 of America’s 63 national parks. In his 60s, he hiked 450 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

A graduate of Yale and Harvard, Brian also was a pioneer in the online vacation rental industry. He founded A1Vacations.com, which he and his life and business partner Lisa sold to HomeAway (now Vrbo) in 2005.

So it should come as no surprise that this serial entrepreneur would launch a website dedicated to Smith Mountain Lake at the dawn of the internet era.

Circa 199 version of SML Insiders' Guide with basic text and grainy photos
A screenshot of the SML Insiders’ Guide circa 1999

After discovering the lake in 1997, the Raubs dove head first into lake life, exploring everything SML had to offer—boating, hiking, wildlife-watching and watersports, among other things.

He launched the Smith Mountain Lake Insiders’ Guide on Aug. 16, 1998, eager to share his insights in a digital landscape where publishing was still very much a novelty.

At that time, there were only around 2.4 million websites, a fraction of today’s approximately 2 billion. In fact, Google wasn’t founded until Sept. 4, 1998, a full 17 days after Brian’s launch.

Before his passing from a rare form of cancer in 2021, Brian entrusted us with ownership of SML Insiders. In return, we pledged (in a signed document!) to continue the site’s mission to provide timely and essential lake life resources to locals, visitors and prospective residents.

Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the platform, overhauling the design, refreshing content, introducing new features and ramping up our social media.

And our efforts have paid off, with the site experiencing significant traffic gains and leading to the advent of the printed magazine.

Like the Raubs, we are enthusiastic champions of the SML community and feel incredibly fortunate to earn a living by serving it. We will always be indebted to them for their support and inspiration.

Brian, we hope you would be proud.

SML Insiders owner Andie Gibson and Jennifer Church

Andie & Jennifer

Smith Mountain Lake Insiders’ Guide

Find out more about us and our love of Smith Mountain Lake, gleaned over more than 30 years of living here.

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