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Private Eyes

Professional Web researchers, auto-responders, virus hoaxes.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

The horrible reality of the Web is that, as it's undergone exponential expansion, finding anything useful can now take hours, and even then, you still may come up empty. Face it: You don't have the time to build a business and do extensive Web searches.

How do you get the info you want without cutting into the time you need for your business? Hire pro researchers who can often find in minutes what the rest of us may never stumble upon because they know all the slick search strategies. Go to the Mecca Group (, where, for a fee of $120 per hour, you'll get the research you want. A typical report costs between $120 and $600. Sample reports, along with search tips for do-it-yourselfers, are also available at the site.

To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at

You Rang?

Auto-responders--automated mail systems that send a form letter to all inquirers--are terrific timesaving tools that make it easy for a business to respond to prospective customers' questions. In the past, setting up an auto-responder has been technically demanding or costly, but no longer. Get a free auto-responder at MyReply ( You can set up several; for example, you could program one for customers, one for job applicants and one for general inquiries. You write the responses, so they say exactly what you want them to say. Then put these e-mail addresses on your Web site, and inquirers will get the information they need without you having to do a thing.

Fear No Evil

Don't you hate those breathlessly paranoid e-mail "warnings" that sternly inform you your hard drive will be obliterated if you so much as glance at an e-mail headed "Free Holiday" or "Hacky Birthday"? Scarcely a day passes when the e-mail box doesn't contain these types of alerts. And although virtually all of them are hoaxes, the maddening thought is, What if it's true? Stop fretting and get the answers at the Computer Virus Myths home page (, a one-stop catalog of the latest bogus virus scares. And breathe easier: Nearly all those doomsday warnings are just paranoid rants.

Fast Track

Name and age: Bill Lederer, 37

Company name and description: (, which bills itself as the world's largest art and framing gallery, sells prints and posters online, featuring everything from French Impressionism to sports heroes.

Founded: 1997. The Web site went up in May 1998.

Start-up capital: $700,000--"And it was all mine," says Lederer, who adds that venture capitalists recently ponied up another $11.5 million.

Site visitors: 100,000 weekly

Bits and bytes: Lederer's computer experience? "Very little. But I saw that the Internet was the place to deliver a better selection of art at discounted prices, and I hired the Webheads I needed."

Bitten by the bug: "I've been an entrepreneur all my life. In fifth grade, I mowed neighbors' lawns [and picked up mail while they were on vacation]. By college, I had 200 kids working for me!"

Online advantage: "We have more than 1 billion [art and frame] combinations and you can see your choices in real-time with a mouse click."

Master plan: "We want to be the of art and framing."

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