Roll-Your-Own Internet

You could almost call Atlantic.Net the anti-dot-com. It turned a profit almost immediately, was completely self-financed for its first five years, and last year brought in revenues of more than $10 million. With its own network, little debt, and 50,000 subscribers, it's well-insulated from the problems plaguing other Internet service providers. But co-founders Manoj "Marty" Puranik, 27, and Jose Sanchez, 26, didn't start their Gainesville (Fla.) ISP to be an overnight success. Back in 1994, the duo simply wanted to get online themselves, but the University of Florida didn't allow all students Web access.

A computer repair shop run out of Puranik's dorm room paid for their first Net hookup. Within a year, they had eight employees and 2,000 customers in the Gainesville area. Atlantic.Net focused on overlooked second-tier markets, while venture-financed competitors "did irrational things, like spending $600 to get a $20-a-month customer," says Puranik.

Now the company is ramping up in big cities and selling business services. It seems like a good way to stay online.

By Kimberly Weisul

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