While studying for their MBAs in Washington, DC, Scott Mitic, 29, and Peter Mellen (far r.), 32, decided to burn their resumes and go into business. Inspired by satellite-powered distance learning, they hatched Headlight.com in mid-1999. "Headlight is the leading source for online training for small and midsized businesses," explains Mitic. "We provide a library of more than 500 courses in everything from how to use Microsoft Word to how to prevent sexual harassment. We don't create the content; we just merchandise and sell it."
With $10,000 of their own money, the co-founders moved to San Francisco after an initial home office stint in Washington, DC, and hired a Web site designer. Their backgrounds helped--Mitic, a former high school teacher, had set up corporate training centers; Mellen had worked in IT and Web production-but the two also "spent a lot of time getting our business model straight," says Mellen. "We talked with CEOs and founders of two dozen Internet and training companies." And although it's too soon to predict sales, the partners' idea was impressive enough to win a round of angel funding.
Mitic and Mellen chose a fast-growing area of the Internet, one with few major players. Market research firm IDC predicts the Internet-based training market will explode to $7.1 billion by 2002. Mellen agrees: "There's a trend toward technology enabled learning--specifically, learning over the Web. This will be one of the key forces moving the Internet forward over the next 10 years."
While the field is still wide open for all types of online learning, business training should be one of the biggest markets. College and university courses will be hot, too, as more schools seek to offer online education.