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The Missing Link

Say goodbye to overseas phone calls.

Names and ages: Warren Adams, 31; Brian Robertson, 24

Company name and description: PlanetAll is an online service designed to keep people in touch. The service creates a network of links between you and individuals who may live thousands of miles away, as well as those you haven't seen in several years. "It's the ultimate address book," explains Adams.

Based: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Founded: 1996

1997 sales projections: $725,000

Inspiration: "[One time while I was in business school], I was traveling through Africa and ran into people I hadn't seen in five years. It made me realize there was no good way to keep in touch with that wider circle of friends," says Adams.

How it works: The information members can access with permission includes travel plans, birth dates, home and work addresses and phone numbers, and personal contacts.

Start-up costs: $1 million through angel investors. After five months in business, PlanetAll secured additional venture capital financing.

Vital stats: PlanetAll tallied 8,000 registered members by year-end 1996; the company expects to have 550,000 signed up by the end of this year. Approximately two-thirds of its members are from the United States; the other one-third hail from 120 countries worldwide. Every month, PlanetAll's home page gets an average of 15 million hits.

Miscellaneous offices: From a lakeside cottage to a friend's kitchen to an incubator. Now it's located in a historic church.

Secrets of success: The relaxed management style: Although many put in long hours, employees can crash on the office's futon for a quick nap.

An obstacle encountered: "When you have a vision that is radically different from what's out there now," says Adams, "it's difficult to convince people that vision can be a reality some day."

Future focus: Says Adams, "Ultimately, we're going to have tens of millions of people in PlanetAll." The partners are also developing alternatives to accessing the virtual address book for those who are not always at their computers.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Missing Link.

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