EasyEverything's empire of sprawling cybercafes has grown from three stores in 1999 to 21 today. The cafes buzz 24 hours a day, with folks sipping coffee while checking e-mail and frequenting online chat rooms. As the privately held chain grows, though, it faces some challenges:
GIGANTISM: The company's formula calls for giant shops in big cities. While cafes with hundreds of terminals thrive in London, some shops in smaller markets are proving too big. EasyEverything will shrink those cafes to make them profitable but could find some markets are just too small.
SATURATION: Given the limited locations that can support a big outlet, easyEverything is approaching saturation in some countries. To keep
growing, the chain must expand into new regions, but that's expensive. It plans to cut costs by franchising stores in areas such as Eastern Europe.
HOMEBODIES: Growing usage of PCs at home could mean more customers, but some folks will stay home to surf. The chain says 25% of its patrons have PCs yet still visit shops. But cybercafes in the U.S. have been hurt by rising PC use, and the same could happen in Europe.
NOT-SO-EASY MONEY: A plan to go public this year was scotched by the market chill. So far, easyEverything has had enough cash to expand, but may yet need access to public markets. Franchising will help, but the company needs a clear path to profitability before more outside money is likely.