After being left behind the velvet rope, this entrepreneur created a hip online destination for nightclubbers.
Description: Online nightlife destination service
Founder: Andrew Fox, 33
Location: New York City
Projected 2005 Sales: $22 million, including Fox's other businesses
All Access: In 1995, this oft-rejected newcomer to New York City's club scene found a way to get past the doorman of every hot club he longed to enter--start a website offering club-goers free club reviews and information. The now-savvy Fox recalls his earlier, awkward days: "I showed up at a club wearing green shorts, and everyone was in black. The bouncer looked at me and said, 'There's no way.'"
A-Lister: Working on the website in his off hours at first, Fox chucked his investment banking job in 1997 to give Clubplanet.com (then ClubNYC.com) his all. Volunteers provided early club reviews, until Fox hired a full-time editorial staff in 1999. Then he came up with a new idea: Start a guest list on his site for access to otherwise hard-to-get-into clubs. By offering a discounted cover charge to those who both signed up on the site and arrived at the club before midnight, Fox helped enhance the exclusivity of the clubs as well as increase revenue. Club owners were dubious about Fox's concept at first, but when hundreds of club-goers who signed up showed up at their doors, the owners gladly forged relationships with the innovator and paid him a "bounty" for every head he brought in.
Fight Club: Fox installed a management team for Clubplanet.com so he could focus on two other businesses he was involved in, but he admits giving up control was a mistake. Upon learning of Clubplanet.com's mismanagement and financial woes, Fox engaged in a bitter struggle to regain control. He ultimately won, but the battle took its toll on the company. He was forced to lay off employees he had never met. With only two employees, Fox started back at square one, selling his other companies to refocus on his "baby."
The Party Syndicate: Clubplanet.com has grown to include thousands of club listings around the United States and the United Kingdom, and now syndicates its content to Citysearch, newspapers, Yahoo! and other third-party clients. Fox also recently launched NocheLatino.com, an upscale, urban Latino version of Clubplanet.com, and is working on a version for the gay community. He's since expanded his empire to include a New Year's Eve event ticketing site, NewYears.com; an exclusive club access site, CoolJunkie.com; a ticketing company, WantTickets.com; and an offline event and marketing company, Track Entertainment.