A look at some dominant Web-based business phenomena that currently dot the cyber-landscape and the array of the start-ups that have sprung up to support or enhance them.
First companies figured out how to make money on the Web. Now they're making money from companies making money on the Web
The shape of the Web universe is becoming clearer every day. It is a rich habitat dominated by a few hardy life-forms: retailers like Amazon.com and auction sites like eBay among them. Around these life-forms swirl ever-more-diverse clusters of start-ups--some of them Web-based, some of them not--that live in a symbiotic relationship with their more-established hosts. These derivative start-ups deliver products ordered on-line. They provide quotes on up-for-bid collectibles. They syndicate articles from E-zines. They find bargains, fill in forms, and negotiate discounts for blocks of cybershoppers.
Below are some dominant Web-based business classes and a very modest sampling of the start-ups that have sprung up to support or enhance them. Clearly, the Internet is among the most fecund of start-up environments. And we're only beginning to explore the possibilities.
BIZRATE.COM Founders: Farhad Mohit, Henri Asseily Founded: May 1996 BizRate.com conducts on-line consumer surveys, then creates report cards rating E-tailers on selection, service, and price. It sells research reports based on the data it collects.
DASH.COM Founders: Dan Kaufman, Jason Priest, Josh Abram, Christopher Dowhan Founded: December 1998 Dash.com negotiates discounts and rebates with Internet retailers for its members. The company collects commissions on sales.
FLOOZ.COM Founders: Robert Levitan, Spencer Waxman, Dermot McCormack Founded: December 1998 Flooz offers digital currency--called Flooz--that on-line shoppers receive via E-mail and can then redeem at participating sites.
GATOR.COM Founders: Denis Coleman, Mark Pennell Founded: December 1998 Gator.com's browser-based tool stores customers' passwords and billing/shipping information, which it uses to automatically fill in log-in requests and on-line order forms.
ICANBUY.COM Founders: Paul Herman, Gayle Keck, Steven Carpenter, Ross Herman Founded: May 1998 The company enables kids and teens to save money, make charitable contributions, and shop on-line. Parents use credit cards to start iCanBuy accounts and designate which sites their kids can patronize. ICanBuy.com earns a commission from retailers for purchases made.
LINKSHARE Founders: Stephen Messer, Heidi Messer, Cheryl Ho, Horace Meng Founded: December 1996 LinkShare manages affiliate programs (in which sites refer visitors to other sites where they can buy things). It gives merchants access to its own network of affiliate sites and measures the sales each affiliate generates.
MYSIMON Founders: Michael Yang, Yeogirl Yun Founded: April 1998 Consumers tell MySimon what they want to buy. The agent then searches more than 1,300 E-tailers and returns with information on where the specified products are sold, with what features, and at what prices. The company also sells banner ads.
THE NET'S BEST Founders: Bill Weimer, Lisa Espinoza Weimer Founded: May 1998 The Net's Best publishes eight-page circulars featuring ads for E-commerce sites. Inserted in Sunday newspapers, the circulars provide an inexpensive alternative to spots on radio or TV.
SHIPPER.COM Founders: Alex Nesbitt, Tom Hansen, Andrew Krainin Founded: May 1999 Shipper.com will handle warehousing, fulfillment, and delivery for Web-based retailers.
AUCTIONWATCH.COM Founders: Mark Dodd, Rodrigo Sales Founded: January 1999 AuctionWatch.com began life as a message center where auction devotees could share their experiences at different sites. It now does image hosting (for sellers wishing to display their offerings). The company sells advertising space.