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Service Industries

Do you know a type of company that's underserved by the Net?

If you think e-commerce is merely using the Web to sell more stuff to more people, you're only seeing part of the picture. Internet-based services are needed to enhance collaboration in a ton of specific industries. And that creates opportunities for a whole new breed of business.

A good example is BidCom Inc., whose services help architects, contractors, suppliers and others in the construction business. Instead of exchanging faxes and phone calls to coordinate schedules, move documents and prepare forms, they can all use BidCom's Web site (http://www.bidcom.com) as a shared library, communications center and virtual office. When a delivery of I-beams gets delayed, for instance, BidCom will notify all affected parties who are signed up for the service by e-mail, fax or pager.

A company called Impresse (http://www.impresse.com), meanwhile, has created a similar setup to streamline document flow within the digital printing industry. Another firm, Celarix (http://www.celarix.com), is helping companies track all their ocean and ship-born freight shipments worldwide. Instill (http://www.instill.com) is automating workflows in the food-service industry, and Magnifi (http://www.magnifi.com) is helping marketing departments collaborate with ad agencies and other partners. And because these schemes are all Web-based, participation isn't costly, meaning even the smallest businesses are potential customers.

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: No Money Down.

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