What sets Rones apart from most entrepreneurs is his maverick method in tackling everything from business to life in general. After launching WorldFootprint.com in early 1999, Rones and his partner, Eric Davis, 35, decided the ideal event to entice dotcom advertisers would be the Olympics. And why not? After all, an estimated 3.2 million people were scheduled to attend and cheer on the 240 countries represented in Australia.
Upon landing in Sydney for negotiations, however, Rones endured his share of problems. He encountered Aussie "cronies" who threatened his life for a percentage of his company and elbowed with local monopolies that dominated the advertising industry-the latter not too keen on the idea of a foreign company potentially moving in on them. Both factors made the proposition of packing it up and returning to the States a reasonable option. But Rones thrives on roadblocks and recenters them as motivational tools. "If there weren't any obstacles, I probably wouldn't be as successful," he explains. "Rejection makes me more gutsy and passionate. And I use that energy positively."
Using several Australian connections he had made while playing baseball in Brisbane during the early 1990s, Rones took advantage of the misconception that advertising rights for the Olympics were already taken. The fact that Australians found it difficult to sell the choice ad space also helped matters.
In a little over a year's time, Rones succeeded in landing the rights, making WorldFootprint the only source for dotcom companies to gain exposure without having to be an official Olympic sponsor. The company offers advertisers the opportunity to purchase space and market their URLs and products all across Sydney on taxis, buses, trains, billboards and buildings-using almost every vehicle imaginable but the country's kangaroos and koalas. Rones anticipates selling $25 million in advertising space, and once his corralling of Sydney is complete, he plans to set his eyes on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as well as the 2004 Olympics in Athens.