The Missing Link
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Names and ages: Warren Adams, 31; Brian Robertson, 24
Company name and description: PlanetAll is an online service designed to keep people in touch. The service creates a network of links between you and individuals who may live thousands of miles away, as well as those you haven't seen in several years. "It's the ultimate address book," explains Adams.
Based: Cambridge, Massachusetts
1997 sales projections: $725,000
Inspiration: "[One time while I was in business school], I was traveling through Africa and ran into people I hadn't seen in five years. It made me realize there was no good way to keep in touch with that wider circle of friends," says Adams.
How it works: The information members can access with permission includes travel plans, birth dates, home and work addresses and phone numbers, and personal contacts.
Start-up costs: $1 million through angel investors. After five months in business, PlanetAll secured additional venture capital financing.
Vital stats: PlanetAll tallied 8,000 registered members by year-end 1996; the company expects to have 550,000 signed up by the end of this year. Approximately two-thirds of its members are from the United States; the other one-third hail from 120 countries worldwide. Every month, PlanetAll's home page gets an average of 15 million hits.
Miscellaneous offices: From a lakeside cottage to a friend's kitchen to an incubator. Now it's located in a historic church.
Secrets of success: The relaxed management style: Although many put in long hours, employees can crash on the office's futon for a quick nap.
An obstacle encountered: "When you have a vision that is radically different from what's out there now," says Adams, "it's difficult to convince people that vision can be a reality some day."
Future focus: Says Adams, "Ultimately, we're going to have tens of millions of people in PlanetAll." The partners are also developing alternatives to accessing the virtual address book for those who are not always at their computers.
Helmet maker has a head for business.
Name and age: Troy Lee, 36
Company name and description: Troy Lee Designs primarily designs customized graphics for racing helmets. It also makes apparel and accessories for auto, mountain bike and motocross racing and is currently working with Mazda Motor Corp. to design a truck.
Based: Corona, California
1997 sales projections: $4.4 million
Early start: Lee picked up his first paintbrush at age 4 and began racing autos in his teens.
Timing is everything: Lee and three other artists collaborate on each helmet. Basic designs take approximately four hours; more intricate ones, such as a recent helmet design created for Las Vegas' New York, New York hotel, may require up to 40 hours of work.
Clientele: Indy Car winner Paul Tracy; snowboard champ Shaun Palmer; the Andretti family
Keeping count: His company completes anywhere from 15 to 20 helmets every week.
New view: Using 24-carat gold and sterling silver to adorn helmets; designing with holographic flakes to reflect a rainbow of vibrant colors in the sun; painting on top of chrome- and gold-plated helmets for "a real wild reflection"
Quality control: "When you work with the best helmets, the best racers and the best sponsors, everything all comes together."
In the works: Testing fins to increase a helmet's aerodynamics; continuing to try to make helmets as lightweight and safe as possible; experimenting with special displays in the helmet's shield so racers won't have to look down to see their gauges
Future focus: "We're just trying to push the envelope and stay on the edge with everything we do."
PlanetAll, 17 Sellers St., Cambridge, MA 02136, http://www.planetall.com
Troy Lee Designs, (909) 371-5219, http://www.troyleedesigns.com