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Quickdot: Demise Rumors Greatly Exaggerated

It's among the worst nightmares for technology company executives: you wake up to find your business prominently mentioned at everyone's favorite rumor site for dot-com demises, F***edCompany.com.

But there's a reason they call them rumor sites -- a lot of what gets posted there is baseless.

That's apparently the case with Quickdot Corp., a 20-month-old startup founded by John Wang.

According to the rumor, Quickdot was supposed to run out of money and close by the end of February. The company says those rumors are "absolutely false," and that it is planning next month to unveil a new service and revenue stream.

Back in 1999, while awaiting the birth of his daughter and wondering about a more efficient way than e-mail to inform friends and family, Wang came up with a messaging service that operates as a Web bulletin board. Group members can post messages instantly, but, unlike instant messaging, recipients don't have to be online to receive and read posts.

With virtually no dollars spent on advertising and marketing, Quickdot has attracted 8.5 million people to at least register for the free service, as well as more than $6 million in funding, primarily from Charles River Ventures, also of Waltham.

But as with so many Web startups scrambling for survival, Quickdot is having to shift its original business model, which sought revenue by driving Web traffic to online partners like MP3.com and other content companies.

Now, according to Ted Dintersmith, a Charles River partner and Quickdot backer, the company is looking to license its messaging technology with telecom carriers and other infrastructure businesses in both the United States and in Europe.

Dintersmith said that no carriers in this country offer "short messaging protocol" services such as Quickdot offers. And in Europe, he said, all messaging provided by carriers there is "point to point," or between individual users, rather than Quickdot's version of bulletin board service accessible by multiple users.

Quickdot won't comment on its impending plans. But company spokesperson Cindy Cantrell confirmed that it would offer its Web and wireless messaging service to companies in the telecom sector. She said the new service would be rolled out in March.

"We're not focused narrowly on telecom carriers," Cantrell said, promising more details next month. "We believe this will be an industry first."

The company, which has just under 40 employees, last month laid off two workers. "With the shift in business focus, these two positions no longer fit into our organization," Cantrell said, adding that no other layoffs are planned.

Dintersmith said that, as the online landscape shifted over the last 18 months, many e-businesses failed in part because their cost (in marketing and other dollars) to acquire each customer was between $50 and $100.

"At that cost, these weren't sensible business models," Dintersmith said. "But at Quickdot you have 8.5 million users with zero as your customer acquisition cost. That leaves the company in a very interesting position."

Now the company will try again to turn user numbers into usable revenues.



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