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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 24, 2000. All rights reserved.
Cal Newport is headed to Dartmouth, but first he has
to find a replacement CEO for his business, Princeton Internet Solutions.
Newport and his friend Michael Simmons, both seniors at Hopewell Valley
High School, started the firm last year. Rather than shut it down
in August, or even sell it, they have hired a headhunter to locate
If it sounds topsy turvy — start a business and then leave for
college — that’s the topsy turvy world of the digital marketplace
today. Forget basketball players who go pro before they graduate:
Colleges and graduate schools around the country are desperately trying
to staunch the flow of young entrepreneurs who leave the classroom
to strike it rich in the dot-com gold rush.
The company that Newport and Simmons founded, Princeton Internet Solutions,
began with a web site, an ad in the yellow pages, and a partnership
with Princeton Online (www.princetonol.com). Responding to E-mail
on a message board, they assembled a six-person design team from Kerala,
in southwest India. Newport is the second of four children; his father
is the chief editor of Gallup Poll on Hulfish Street. Simmons is an
only child and his mother is a programmer at the Naval Air Warfare
Center in Lakehurst.
"They offered their design services to me and were very conscientious
and timely," says Peter Gibson of Princeton Online. "I didn’t
pay them less because they were young, I paid them the same amount
as any other designer. They were excellent designers and very professional
in all their dealings."
The client base for this young firm includes corporations that need
a professional web presence on an aggressive schedule. "We have
a new client communication model — we cut out the layers between
clients and design teams," says Newport. "In this model the
client receives personalized attention from a dedicated project manager
who is a direct link to the development team."
"Most of the companies we target have existing marketing concepts
but need topnotch websites, so we work with their current marketing
strategies. This seemed to be the market with the highest growth,"
Clients include an engine reseller in Union, a technical institute,
HumanWrites.com in Saudi Arabia, Advertising Research Corporation,
and an herb firm in Princeton. For Princeton YMCA the company built
infrastructure so the Y could, for the first time, accept registrations
They networked at Mercer County Chamber of Commerce and on the website
of New Jersey Technology Council, where they found a reference with
McGrath & Associates. McGrath has been hired to assemble a team carry
on while they go off to college — Newport to Dartmouth, Simmons
to New York University.
"We are looking for a CEO and people experienced in building teams,
someone with outstanding sales ability," says Steve McGrath.
"The intent is to bring someone in to lead the sales charge."
"Because they have cut a deal with some resources offshore, they
can offer a lower price," says McGrath, who helped the pair with
their business plan. "They claim they have people managing that
resource in such a way that they work exclusively with this company.
They have been able to sell contracts so there are some beliefs out
there. Whether there remains a sustainable competitive advantage remains
to be seen."
McGrath is working on the basis of retainer plus equity.
"We have taken a little risk ourselves with the fee arrangement,
and I have done that with other clients as well. If I were approached
by a 30 year old I would help them too. These guys have a kernel of
an idea and they need to build a team — that’s what we do, and
if it takes a little extra effort to do that, then we do it. I have
a soft spot in my heart for the entrepreneurial spirit."
One caveat: this company’s current logo bears a resemblance to the
logo of the five-year-old on Roszel Road, Princeton Internet Group,
known as "PInG" (www.PInGsite.com) Newport and Simmons are
using PInS as their logo with www.princeton-netsolutions.com as the
web address. This similarity could cause a problem.
For a company like this, one must ask: Did you found this firm because
you wanted to get into business or because you wanted to get into
Dartmouth? Entrepreneurship, after all, looks great on a college application.
Absolutely for business reasons, they say. "It was before we got
interested in the whole college thing. It’s been a long 15 months,"
says Newport. "At our age either we knew what we were doing or
we were right out that door."
Hopewell 08525; 609-466-4476. Www.princeton-netsolutions.com.
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