The E.Biz 25: Masters Of The Web World

There's nothing like a little stock market panic to put things in perspective. These days, a lot of dot-com entrepreneurs, not to mention the investors who bet on them, are walking around with gaping holes in their psyches--and wallets. Chances are, they'll never again feel quite as bulletproof as they did last January. For others, the stock shocks are like a double shot of espresso. They've been battling skepticism for years. Now, they're more determined than ever to deliver on their promises. Take Jeff Bezos, CEO of Inc. "We started focusing on operational efficiency a year ago, and every day we focus more on it," he says. "The market is going to reward companies that have sound business plans and deliberate strategies."

The wild, drunken party on Wall Street may be over, but e-business marches on. Indeed, many Internet companies seem poised for a new surge of growth. Commerce One Inc., a maker of software for e-marketplaces, for instance, reported on Apr. 19 that its quarterly revenues soared 1,564%, to $35 million. And according to market watchers, the prospects for e-commerce are more robust than ever. On Apr. 20, Forrester Research Inc. predicted that $4.017 trillion in business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-commerce will be conducted in 2003. That's a big jump from the $3.2 trillion forecast the firm offered 18 months ago. And Forrester took into account the stock market swoon. "This is the next phase of the Net economy. We really get down to business," says Forrester Chief Executive George F. Colony.

Not every dot-com is going to get an equal share of the e-commerce bonanza. You can have only so many pet companies online. "The world doesn't need all these companies," says Roger McNamee, general partner of money-management firm Integral Capital Partners. "We'll see a relatively rapid thinning of the herd." So, what separates the winners from the losers? A me-too strategy is certainly a recipe for failure. Beyond that, it's clear that organizations and ideas won't thrive without talented, tough, and persistent leaders. Those are the kind of people who made the cut for this year's 25. Meet the class acts of e-business.

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