Marc Wallace, 29 (below right), CEO of SwapDrive.com LLC always wanted to be an astronaut, but instead, he launched his way into cyberspace. Along with five partners, Clyde Kunst, 35, Steve Birnhak, 31, Rob Duckwall, 34, Roland Schumann, 37 (l. to r.), and Scott Heifetz, 31 (not pictured), Wallace set aside his aerospace aspirations to go online with a free Internet hard-drive site. Users sign up for 25MB of space for storing and sharing files without having to download software or take up room on their computers' hard drives.
It took a basement full of servers and more than $150,000 in funding from the partners to launch SwapDrive.com in mid-1999. Wallace explains the idea behind the Arlington, Virginia, company: "More and more people use the Web on an almost full-time basis. They'll want to use a site like ours to store their files. This technology will become as commonplace as e-mail."
SwapDrive.com is part of the rising tide of Net service businesses, a market International Data Corp. predicts will generate more than $78 billion in revenues in 2003. Its services are free, so revenues are generated through advertising and premium services, such as extra MBs of space.
Launching an Internet storage site requires a hefty hardware investment and the technical expertise to fashion a Web file transfer interface. SwapDrive.com's client base, consisting of users as diverse as genealogists, fantasy football leagues and small businesses, is fairly representative of the target market for Web storage.
More than a dozen companies already exist, with such large presences as Yahoo! Briefcase and Imation Web Backup heating the competition to the boiling point. However, as SwapDrive.com's success shows, there's still room for a small company to muscle in. For this company, the sky isn't the limit, it's just the start.