From the September 2000 issue of Startups

Ads can be annoying--especially the unsolicited e-mail variety. But thanks to the patent-pending e-mail marketing technology created by toggle Entertainment Inc. (better known as togglethis.com), ads can now be . . . enjoyable? Yes. And companies like New Line Cinema, Lycos, Disney, Coca-Cola and AT&T might actually avoid the virtual trash bin.

Founders Paul Maya, 28, and Marc Singer, 31, were designing children's CD-ROMs around the time Netscape came of age. "Everyone was saying how great the Internet was, but it was all about static images," says Maya. "We wanted to take the best of the Web-that it's interactive and can be personalized-but make it compelling and rich."

In 1996, Maya and Singer incorporated their New York City company, spent three months writing a business plan and, with $50,000 from an angel, created the togglethis.com prototype.

By 1997, togglethis.com had its first client, Intel, and its first character, Bozlo Beaver, the star of a six-part interactive e-mail campaign for the Pentium II. Since then, the characters have become more recognizable and the campaigns more extravagant. More than 700,000 users registered to receive New Line's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me 12-part e-mail campaign, where recipients chose the fate of their favorite swinger. Subscribers to BMW's campaign can see the X5 in color and watch it conquer slippery roads.

From the start, clients have leaped at the chance to create "relatively inexpensive" one-to-one marketing campaigns bringing dynamic images generally only seen on TV to the computer screen. Needless to say, the potential for togglethis.com's services is great. But is the 45-employee start-up prepared to meet the demand? Says Maya, "You bet. We've just moved offices, and we're growing."