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Second Time Around

These Internet pioneers hope to prove that lightning really does strike twice.

Three internet entrepreneurs who first made their marks during the boom years have come back for another shot at success with fresh ideas, new perspectives and innovative young companies. After reading about these Internet pioneers, you can find more on wireless start-ups in "Wireless Wealth."

Sky Dayton, 31
Claim to fame: Founded EarthLink Inc. in 1994

New venture: Boingo Wireless Inc. (www.boingo.com), founded last year; sells "universal Internet access" across thousands of independently owned wireless Wi-Fi hot spots. "With one account and one piece of software, you can connect wherever you go."

Why? Dayton says wireless connectivity is the most exciting thing to happen since the Internet took off in the early '90s. "[But], like the early days of the Internet itself, I found it too hard to connect to and too hard to use. It had to get a lot easier."

...and in 10 years? As wireless technology gets cheaper, Dayton sees the range of applications growing. "The Internet will be in the air around us, like oxygen. You'll be connecting to it from all kinds of devices-cellphones, cameras, MP3 players, toys."

Elon Musk, 31
Claim to fame: Founded Zip2.com Inc. (sold to Compaq in 1999); founded X.com Inc., which became PayPal and was aquired by eBay in 2002

New venture: In 2002, Musk founded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp., www.spacex.com), to build low-cost, high-reliability rockets for satellite launches and, potentially, human space travel.

Why? Musk wondered why the U.S. space program has never put a space station on the moon or a man on Mars. Careful study showed the cause was partly the expense of rockets. "We're talking $60 million to $70 million per launch." Musk believes he can slash that by as much as 70 percent.

...and in 10 years? Musk sees a return to space in the next decade, including missions to the moon and Mars. He believes colonizing other planets is an insurance policy against climate change, epidemics and nuclear disaster.

Sean Parker, 22
Claim to fame: Co-founded Napster Inc.

New venture: In 2002, Parker launched Plaxo Inc. (www.plaxo.com), a Web-based application that uses e-mail, natural language processing and synchronization software to let your contacts update their own information in your Outlook address book.

Why? "My address book was out of date!"

...and in 10 years? Plaxo users are true evangelists; their numbers are grow-ing with no marketing. Parker won't divulge specifics but sees Plaxo as a potential platform for all types of business applications. "The basic Plaxo you see today is only the first step."

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This article was originally published in the July 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Second Time Around.

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