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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 24, 2000. All rights reserved.

College-Bound Dot-coms


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

a CEO.

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 ( 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,"

he says.

Clients include an engine reseller in Union, a technical institute, 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" ( Newport and Simmons are

using PInS as their logo with 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."

Princeton Internet Solutions, 108 Grandview Avenue,

Hopewell 08525; 609-466-4476.

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