Founded by Calvin Lui, former director of operations and strategic planning for Lycos, TheMan launched last month to, as one investor put it, "help a man get his act together."
Although it's targeted at heterosexual men aged 25 to 44, TheMan wants to distinguish itself from male magazine Web sites such as MaximMag.com, Rouze.com and Playboy.com. Using a panel of men and women, TheMan tries to reveal the secrets to being a caring companion, a great dresser and just an all-around great guy.
The company plans to launch city guides and sections such as the "Social Man," which will help men plan and shop for bachelor parties and camping trips. TheMan calls this strategy "solution-based content." In other words, it's trying to make men's lives easier.
"It's not your typical boobs and beer site," said Lui, TheMan's chief executive. "We're an integrated online resource to help men get things done in their personal lives. Our goal is to be a major public company in the media and retail space."
TheMan's business model has attracted seasoned Net investors.
"The approach they are taking makes assumptions that are dead on: that men are clueless and we need help with decisions," said Keith Benjamin, who sits on TheMan's board and is a general partner at Highland Capital, which recently invested in the site.
Although men dominated the Net in its early days, women's sites have carved out a category of their own. Eyeing the successful initial public offerings of MarthaStewart.com and Women.com, analysts and investors say that although TheMan is fresh out of the gate, its formula could lead to the same success.
"I hope [an IPO] happens," said Benjamin, whose firm has investments in Ask Jeeves, eToys, Lycos and Staples.com. "What I look for as an investor in this area are two things: Can we get commerce activated by the site, and can you get a piece of the transaction?"
Strong e-commerce is the linchpin of TheMan's strategy. For instance, a feature titled "Screwed up?" points a user who needs to make amends with his sweetie to a shopping area where he can buy a dozen roses or book a romantic getaway. If that doesn't work, the guy can browse TheMan's luxury goods, which include diamond earrings or a more than $4,000 gold choker provided by Mondera.com.
Depending on the retailer, TheMan can take home either the full revenue or a percentage from an online sale.
"We only invest when we think the company can be a category killer; that is what we liked about TheMan," said Eric Chin, who sits on the company's board as managing director of Infinity Capital, which has invested in Net firms such as Egreetings and NetCentives.
"We don't like pushing companies off for an IPO when they aren't ready, but maybe next year," he added. "Sometimes you go out to deter competition."
The male-driven Playboy.com, which has sexier content than TheMan and gets 70 million to 80 million page views per month, already is set to offer a minority portion of its Playboy Online unit to the public early next year.
But TheMan's suggestive selling is what has caught the eyes of analysts.
"You need to be able to read and buy," said Jeff Hirschkorn, an analyst with IPO.com. "This site would be a real winner. They are on their way to an IPO."
Others say the site is moving in the right direction, but that an IPO will have to wait until TheMan has more to offer.
"It's not the first time we've seen this demographic targeted, but this is the first time it's been targeted so directly," said Steve Lacey, managing editor of IPO Reporter. "They still have a way to go, though."
Although it wants to become a primary destination for men, TheMan insists that it will not resort to cheeky content to drive traffic or sales. The fact that it doesn't want to compete with online men's magazines may be one reason, but another reason is that women also visit the site.
"Twenty-five percent of our emails come from women," Lui said. "There will never be nudity on our site."