"Go into CyberSpace." More than a century ago, Horatio Alger pointed budding entrepreneurs west. Today, his finger would be aimed at a modem. The Internet has been the entrepreneurial gold rush of the 1990s. From Amazon.com to Yahoo!, young entrepreneurs have quickly latched on to emerging technology and almost as speedily amassed personal fortunes that extend into seven figures or more.
But are the glory days over? Not hardly. "Plenty of opportunities remain on the Internet," says Jaclyn Easton, a computer columnist for the Los Angeles Times who illustrated her optimistic claim in StrikingItRich.com (McGraw-Hill), a book that profiles 23 successful Web sites.
Even so, the days are gone when a business could just put up a site and expect traffic to show up. Bruce Judson, author of HyperWars (Scribner), logs 25 hours per week just looking at new sites, but most are failures. "Maybe 5 percent are good," he laments. With well over 100 million Web pages cluttering the Net, you need to put up a site that's a lot better than the competition's, says Judson.
The encouraging news is, other entrepreneurs are still doing it--launching Web sites that attract traffic and snare substantial revenues. Read on to discover how five thriving Web sites--some that already have high Web visibility, and others that are likely to soon--are distinguishing themselves from the crowd. They've all staked out a niche, then pursued it energetically and creatively, with their focus on giving customers services and products they can't easily get elsewhere. Can you do the same? You bet--just study what the following winners are doing, and apply those lessons to your own niche.