Fair Lawn, N.J.
Alex Melen founded T35 Hosting in 1999, at about the same time that a number of free Web hosting sites were beginning to be bought by corporations (for example, in 1999 Geocities went to Yahoo! for $3.57 billion). Melen was clear about how he differentiated his site from competitors: T35 provided unlimited space and bandwidth for free. The more traffic each member’s site gets, he figured, the more revenue his ads will generate—so why place limits?
That formula met with success, though after seven years, T35 finds it difficult to keep up in a field dominated by conglomerates. Melen has been approached by several companies interested in merging with or buying out T35, but he refuses to relinquish control for fear that someone would “kill the free hosting” that makes his site unique. He has outlined three specific strategies for his company’s near-term growth: Begin to market and advertise rather than rely solely on word-of-mouth, allow members to have their own .com domain name, and boost features to its paid hosting offerings—the real cash cow for his business, which netted $40,000 total in 2005 and Melen estimates will net $45,000 in 2006.