Unlike some Internet entrepreneurs who adopt cautious, "wait-and-see" attitudes, John Shriber didn't think twice about whether Netizens wanted his product when he launched Apartment Source in 1995. Shriber, whose New York City-based company e-mails customers lists of available apartments for a fee, was confident the Big Apple was hungry for his service. So when his online apartment referral business pulled in $3,000 the first day, "I wasn't shocked," remembers Shriber, 26. "I knew it was going to work-just not quite that well."
With three new locations (in San Francisco, Miami and Seattle) and sales of $2.3 million last year, Schriber has a right to be confident. While Internet commerce is an unpredictable industry that changes by the day, all indications suggest it will continue to thrive: According to International Data Corp., a market-research firm, worldwide Internet commerce is expected to grow from $32.6 billion in 1998 to $134.3 billion by 2000.
While books, music and software are still the most popular products on the Web, Shriber's success proves other ideas can work-especially if you target your niche. Shriber got the idea for Apartment Source while working in real estate. Relatively low overhead enabled him to start with just $19,000, borrowed from his father. A niche market, excellent customer service and a keen sense of the online community enabled him to succeed.
By freelance writer Pamela Rohland and staff writers G. David Doran, Heather Page, Debra Phillips, Elaine W. Teague and Laura Tiffany.