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On The Internet, The Sexes Surf True To Form

Bits & Bytes

On the Internet, the Sexes Surf True to Form

THE NET HAS REDEFINED ROLES IN THE MARKETPLACE IN JUST A FEW YEARS. Changing roles within families, however, looks like a tougher nut to crack.

With 34% of U.S. families now online, New York research firm Cyber Dialogue says that when mothers and fathers piled onto the Internet in 1998, they sought content reflecting traditional roles that decades of feminism have not, apparently, reversed. Moms went for health and parenting sites; dads loaded up on news, games, and money. Both visited movie, TV, and travel sites in almost equal numbers. "It more or less affirms the obvious," says Cyber Dialogue's Tom Miller. "Women are traditional caretakers of health and kids' learning. Men are the traditional investors."

Miller expects men's greater comfort with online investing, bill-paying, and other financial-services sites to be short-lived, even as the Web's other gender splits persist. In the aggregate, mothers have been on the Web for a shorter time than fathers, and experienced surfers are more comfortable with online finance regardless of gender. "Those numbers are going to change," he says.EDITED BY TIMOTHY J. MULLANEYReturn to top

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Your Business' Worth--in a Jiffy

WHEN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS WANT TO FIGURE OUT THEIR WORTH, they've typically got to juggle spreadsheets or hire an accountant. Now comes an alternative that could spare entrepreneurs both headaches and cash. It's BallPark Business Valuation, a $29.95 CD-ROM from BulletProof Business Plans Inc. in Denver that went on sale in mid-April.

Using BallPark, business owners can plug in basic revenue and expense numbers, then answer questions about taxes, accounts payable, and projected cash flow. The software makes the calculations. The whole process takes less than an hour, says BulletProof President Lorenzo Carver. With a shortcut, users can get a rough estimate in two minutes.

The lure of instant gratification--plus the software's baseball-theme packaging--give this product some of the feel of late-night-TV special offers such as Popeil's Pocket Fisherman. But fans swear by it. Says Kirk Lapour, controller at Mountain Sales & Service Inc., a Denver wholesaler of kitchen equipment: "This makes it a lot easier for the person who doesn't have a degree in finance." Maybe. But only time will tell if it's truly bulletproof.EDITED BY TIMOTHY J. MULLANEYReturn to top

Drive-By Chutzpah in Silicon Valley

BETWEEN ALL-DAY TRAFFIC JAMS and an assault of incomprehensible and downright weird high-tech-related billboards, driving in Silicon Valley is like a nightmarish amusement park ride through Nerdland. "Time to upgrade?" asks Chipshot. com's billboard, showing a golf club wrapped around a post. "Experience Extreme Knowing," a woman on another billboard urges.

But now, boys and girls, we are entering the sheer chutzpah portion of our ride: In mid-April, New York entrepreneur Lewis Schiff posted his own huge image on a billboard along the Valley's Highway 101 with the message, "I'm building www. into the Yahoo! of personal finance. Interested?"

Translation: Send money. The 29-year-old Schiff and his partner Douglas Gerlach spent $20,000 on this plea to attract venture capital. They want $5 million to add original content to four-year-old Investorama, now a directory of financial-services sites.

Says Schiff, Investorama's chief executive: "It's going to be difficult to differentiate ourselves." He claims the stunt has brought inquiries from potential investors. Apparently, some drivers do want to experience extreme knowing--even of unknowns.EDITED BY TIMOTHY J. MULLANEYReturn to top

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