From the September 2000 issue of Startups

Damn, Tina Imm's a lucky duck. Entranced by everything hip-hop growing up, Imm, at 25, is director of operations of Platform Network Corp. (www.platform.net), a portal where all walks of the urban subculture can buy clothes, link to sites like Urban Latino (www.urbanlatino.com), get an e-mail account, download MP3s and find out who's spinning where. With offline properties in the works and a compilation CD due out this fall, she and creative director Ben White, 30, hope the Brooklyn, New York, company they started with a shared PowerBook 540c will surpass MTV in terms of its impact on youth culture.

It went like this: The suburban girl seeking her spot in the entertainment world "got tired of going to school" at Brown University and moved to Los Angeles a year shy of graduation to work for International Creative Management. (She got her diploma via mail in 1997.) Imm met White, a composer for commercials and TV series, and, in 1995, the emerging techies commenced their collaborative efforts by erecting a Web site for a friend's L.A. music publication. "We took code from existing Web sites, downloaded it and started teaching ourselves everything," says Imm. Soon, AOL and Capezio were paying them for Web development, but, by 1996, they wanted their own gig.

Both Imm and White were down with the hip-hop scene, so it wasn't hard to convince Platform.net's first partners to trust two of "their own" with the task of amassing their hip goods on one Web site. "Kids can access [the goods] globally without having to remember 50 different names [and URLs]," says Imm.

When former Interview senior editor Stephen Greco signed on as editorial director in mid-1997, he brought original content and perks, like a feature spot on MTV in 1998. A small seed investment from acting CEO/"heavy-hitting music industry guy" Michael Tannen and an investment from Sony followed. Now, with 10 million page views a month and a second round of financing underway, Platform is extremely selective about who they choose to sign and keep as partners.

"We're dealing with a cynical audience that loves one thing one minute and doesn't the next," says Imm. Someone's got to have the last word.