Herd On The Street

And now for the next hot Internet play: small business. Or, at least, companies serving small business. First up was Onvia.com Inc., a business services e-commerce company that went public on Mar. 1--and, in true dot-com fashion, saw its shares soar 212% the first day and its market cap swell to more than $4 billion. Onvia will soon be followed by competitors DigitalWork.com Inc. and Staples.com, the online arm of the office-products giant. More deals are likely to follow, says Jupiter Communications analyst Melissa Shore. "By year's end, many of Onvia's competitors will be public," she predicts.

How's business? Each company's balance sheet is covered in red ink. In fiscal 1999, Onvia lost $57.4 million on revenues of $27.2 million. DigitalWork bled $15.3 million on revenues of $1.9 million, and Staples.com lost $16.4 million on sales of $94.3 million. Of course, in the tortured logic of the dot-com world, that's a good sign that you're hard at work building your business.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.