Services & Software

Start-up to support site owners

A former top executive at Ziff-Davis is unveiling his own Internet company to serve the vast number of midsized Web sites.

A former top executive at Ziff-Davis is scheduled to unveil his own Internet start-up tomorrow to serve the vast number of midsized Web sites.

William Lohse, who left Ziff late last year after an unsuccessful bid to become CEO of the publishing and trade show giant, today said he has founded NetWeb, which will offer Web site builders advertising, sales, marketing, and e-commerce services.

NetWeb will focus on the needs of Web sites, not their visitors, Lohse said, adding that only a handful of such companies exist today and that few have seasoned executives who understand the crossover between publishing and business.

"The Web has been so focused on the top 10 or 20 sites, especially from the analyst and advertiser point of view," he noted. "But there are tens of millions of visitors visiting other sites. We will deliver a set of services for the rest of the Web."

He listed others in the services category he's targeting, saying they could be partners or competitors: DoubleClick, an Internet ad services and banner sales network that went public last week; GeoCities, a "community" site where members create their own Web spaces; LinkExchange, an ad network for smaller Web publishers; and FlyCast, an ad services/auction firm; and Submit It, which publicizes Web sites by submitting their URLs to search engines or trading links.

Lohse is vague on which services his firm will offer, saying its direction will become clearer when he announces an acquisition in the next few weeks. He also said NetWeb will have an "Internet-organic" business model similar to GeoCities or LinkExchange. Lohse is obviously interested in LinkExchange, where he interviewed recently for CEO without getting the job.

Michael Moritz, a partner at LinkExchange's venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital, declined to discuss Lohse or his plans.

"It's so dramatically different to have a generation of businesspeople grow up with the idea that not only should a service be free, but prove to me that it's worthy of my time to take your service for free," Lohse said, hinting at NetWeb's revenue model.

He might take in-kind payments, as LinkExchange does for its service, then resell ad banners to generate revenue. "We're going to be an Internet-type company."

NetWeb also can work as a partner: "A joint association doesn't have to be 100 percent ownership."

Lohse is bankrolling the company himself for now to the tune of $1 million-plus, but he plans to seek venture capital and eventually take the company public through an initial stock offering.