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The New Guard

High-tech heavyweights may reign supreme, but some newbies have their eyes on the throne.

This story appears in the March 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Zannel Inc.
The company: Zannel's Instant Media Messaging platform lets users network from their phones with videos, pictures and text. It's positioned to take on textcentric social networking and micro-blogging leader Twitter.
The founders: CEO Adam Zbar, 38; CTO Braxton Woodham, 36; and vice president of Harry Evans, 32
The difference: Multimedia is key to Zannel's success. Its service takes advantage of the many that now come with still and video cameras, can embed updates on and , and is now optimized for viewing on Apple's iPhone.
In their words: "The good news is that a number of the major challenges facing mobile social networking--such as mobile web adoption, carrier walled gardens, 3G network rollouts--are rapidly disappearing as the mobile ecosystem evolves," says Zbar. "The remaining challenge is to create a true mobile social networking experience that leverages a phone's unique capabil-ities vs. trying to duplicate the online experience."

The company: Ning takes a different approach than social networking leaders Facebook and MySpace by allowing users to create, customize and control their very own social networks.
The founders: CEO Gina Bianchini, 35, and CTO Marc Andreessen, 36, of Netscape fame
The difference: In February 2007, Ning debuted a spiced-up and spiffed-up service with a new level of user-friendliness. The ability to customize the social networking experience appeals to a wide range of users and many potential niche networks.
In their words: "We love MySpace and Facebook," says Bianchini. "They have been fantastic for bringing people into social networking. The difference with Ning is that instead of joining a large, one-size-fits-all social network, you're creating your own--with your choice of features, your own look and feel, your own members, your own brand. With Ning, it's yours."

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