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Got Net?

Dotcom Delivery

You probably never imagined you could make your fortune by running around town, fetching things for people. But some of these urban gofers are making millions doing just that.

"People don't like to wait for things they order online to be delivered," says Ross Stevens, 30, chair, CEO and co-founder with CTO Mike Prindle and vice president of strategic development Fred Tausch of Urbanfetch Inc. "We saw a huge opportunity to provide a service where you can get things the same day, or even [the same] hour," says Stevens.

Currently, the New York City-based company offers free one-hour delivery on a variety of items, from bagels to electronics, throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. It hasn't taken long for the idea to catch on among busy New Yorkers: The company has only been making deliveries since October 1999 and already expects to earn sales of about $30 million this year.

Urbanfetch defines itself as an online shopping service. It warehouses inventory in low-cost areas of the city, allowing a cost savings not available to storefronts on Fifth or Madison Avenue.

Considering that the number of home deliveries is expected to more than double by 2003, the field may offer ample opportunity for start-ups. Those with less logistical expertise, however, may do better with a more simplified delivery business. Christopher Kelley of Forrester Research believes start-up businesses should focus on delivering packages from a local mail hub to consumers' houses, or on establishing relationships with and delivering products from local businesses. Warns Kelley, "They should stay away from trying to be a retailer."

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got Net?.

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