Takes On Top Tier Services contends it can rival
top tier Internet service providers and Web portals by offering average
American’s a unique blend of technology with a human touch.

The new firm last week launched its bold business initiative designed to
provide face-to-face support for access to its ISP services, as well as its
general information and financial service Web portals. is positioning its Internet services to take on America Online Inc. (AOL),
and Prodigy Communications Corp. (PRGY)
through its in-house technical support offering to subscribers. The firm
figures it will rival Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)
with its Web portal by instilling brand loyalty in its Web-novice
customer base.

Atlanta-based formed alliances with several key companies to
lure people who are not online into becoming Web participants in its
business venture. The firm provides nationwide dial-up access through a
strategic alliance with MCI WorldCom
. Through its deal with direct marketer Inc.,
it’s constructed a lifestyle Web destination portal.

John Benham, chief marketing officer, said its target
audience made an intriguing partner in the Internet
e-commerce marketplace.

“Our target audience is the vast unwired of America. All they need to
realize the incredible potential of the Internet is someone to walk them
through step-by-step and help overcome any barriers they may have,” Benham
said. operates an integrated sales force of more 30,000 Internet
Associates. Its I-Associate army provides face-to-face Internet coaching to
demonstrate the power of the Internet and to promote the user’s comfort
with Web usage.

Benham added that is the only ISP of national scale to opt
for human distribution of its services over traditional marketing channels.

“The true power of our business model is the ability of our I-Associates to
penetrate all markets and show the power of the advanced, yet easy to use
technology of the DotPlanet site and services,” Benham continued. “As the
only ISP that is distributed primarily through human interaction rather
than a direct mail campaign, the service is bridging touch and technology.”

By catering to first-time users, the company becomes an intimate support
system for new users to overcome their fears of technology. The marketing
plan substitutes the enormous advertising expense typically associated with
e-commerce start-up ventures with the expense of sending one-on-one support
to subscribers’ homes. believes that it will instill brand-loyalty within its
thankful subscriber base through personalized care provided by its
technical sales force. was founded in January and is led by President Jonathan W.
Berger, who must orchestrate the company’s quest toward becoming a leader
in the emerging Internet economy. Berger served as partner in charge of KPMG International’s corporate finance
practice in the Southeast for nine years.

Berger said his experience with KPMG has offered him the opportunity to
learn from other Web companies mistakes.

“In 17 years of investment banking, I’ve seen a lot of companies fail
despite costly marketing and advertising efforts,” Berger said. “Wha

t has that no other company does is a built-in marketing force
at its core that has direct contact with its customers.” aims to utilize its field force to extend opportunities for
non-Internet users and Internet novices to successfully join the new
e-business economy. It believes that providing individualized support and
customer intimacy is the key to overcoming technological barriers to new

Each of’s 30,000 I-Associates would only need to connect
about 733 subscribers to rival AOL’s 22 million members. That equates to
about 2 hook-ups a day for each I-Associate to equal AOL’s subscriber tally
in one year. Even if achieves such a connectivity success
rate, it remains to be seen how it would equal Yahoo’s Web popularity as
the search site receives more than 145 million individual visitors each
month worldwide.

News Around the Web