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Outblaze Debunks China Internet Corp-Ownership Myth

Yat Siu, the founder of Hong Kong Internet startup Outblaze, denied that the Chinese government owned China Internet Corp has ever had a direct stake in the company.

Outblaze is the developer of portals that offers two innovative services, a real-time Instant Portal and an a branded, customized portal product.

Siu has had difficulty shaking the commonly held view in the Hong Kong Internet community that Outblaze was a vehicle of CIC.

"CIC, through Hongkong.com Studios, only has a 2 percent stake," said Siu."That's it!"

"There has never been a direct financial link with CIC except that they are customers," added Siu.

Outblaze provided the free Web-based e-mail for CIC's Taiwan.com and messaging and chat services for China.com and Hongkong.com.

These deals were facilitated by the fact that Anthony Ip, the son of CIC head Peter Yip, is a 5 percent stakeholder in Outblaze. Ip is apparently no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Siu admits that the industry's perception that Outblaze and CIC are tied together has damaged the startup's image in Hong Kong.

CIC has substantial backing from Beijing's official news agency, Xinhua, which during the Cold War was the Beijing regime's unofficial embassy in Hong Kong, it's propaganda arm, and the aggregator of intelligence on dissidents and perceived national security threats in the territory.

"The false assumption of association with CIC has hurt Outblaze undeservedly," Siu pointed out. However, the image hasn't impacted Outblaze's success outside of Hong Kong.

According to Siu, internationally, the company has signed up 1,500 portal partners, including 200 premier partners, representing some 800,000 user members.

The Hong Kong startup targets a vertical customer base with its two types of Instant Portal services.

The premier partner service provides customers with a branded and customized portal with Web e-mail, message boards, and chat rooms. Outblaze provides this setup to any sites with 100,000 or more page views per month but takes 50 percent of ad revenue.

The second service is the real-time Instant Portal which gives users anywhere an opportunity to sign up instantly for their own portal.

The difference is that the service isn't as customizable and Outblaze takes the top banners, but customers can upload their own images, choose structure options, and can sell the lower banners ads to whoever they want.

The real-time Instant Portal sign up is at www.i-p.com which gives customers a any domain name with .i-p.com as a suffix.

The beauty of this product is that anyone can have a vertical portal, commented Siu."If for example you have a GeoCities home page for Jackie Chan, you can set up your own message board, chat, free mail, what have you."

Outblaze uses Flycast, Value click and 24/7 Media Asia to sell its ad space on these portal sites. Within the selection parameters, site owners can modify the portal any time they want. Siu said that Outblaze will shortly bring on a new angel investor and has some big client deals in the works.

The Hong Kong Internet entrepreneur has had previous experience with startups. He was a founder of a Boston-based 3D software company which was sold to Silicon Graphics in 1995 and, in Hong Kong, he set up a GeoCities type Web community called Hong Kong Cybercity.

In regard to CIC, inside source report that the company is looking to list on NASDAQ this month with the help of Lehman Brothers, will also announce a joint venture with Taiwanese CD-ROM CMC Magnetics to redevelop Taiwan.com, and launch the Aol.com.hk ISP JV with AOL.



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