In 2004, as the number of text messages sent in the U.S. climbed to 2.5 billion per month and common short codes became available to license, Zaw Thet spied his golden opportunity. That was the year he founded 4Info in Palo Alto, California, and established a natural language search engine and automatic alerts tailored to cell phones. By sending a text message to the short code "4INFO," users can tap into discrete pipes of data feeds for sports scores, weather forecasts, the current TV lineup and more.
Meanwhile, 4Info has made it possible for other companies to build their own search or alert services and has created new advertising opportunities in the mobile space, attracting major players such as Chevrolet. "What we have is a very targeted, contextual advertising engine in SMS," says Thet, 26, who expects 2007 sales to reach seven figures. "The average [rate of] recall for consumers looking at an SMS ad is much higher than it is [for ads] online or anywhere else."