Sunday, June 03, 2001

New Economy

2 startups pick city as their home

        For all the efforts to boost Cincinnati as a home for high-tech businesses, there haven't been many immigrant firms putting down roots here. That's fine, because in the past 18 months, no one anywhere can claim much success.

        But there are two dot-com businesses that have chosen Cincinnati as the place to be. Both businesses are small — just a few local employees — and being here hasn't shielded them from the trouble many dot-coms have seen. But they're still in business and moving forward:

Playing the middleman

        • Jonathan Ehrenkrantz was living in Boulder, Colo., when he saw an opportunity: Wholesalers with Web sites were getting e-mail from shoppers who wanted to buy their wares. He said the wholesalers are reluctant to sell directly because they don't want to anger their retail accounts, and they don't want to bother with filling small orders from individuals.

        He decided to start Ship The Web, and use the Internet to fill orders for those wholesalers. But where? He chose Cincinnati, he said, for all the basic chamber-of-commerce reasons, that it's accessible to most of the nation's population.

        “We wanted to be here because it's a very good place to do fulfillment from,” Mr. Ehrenkrantz said. Warehouse space is cheap, and there's an active Internet community.

        He started the business with $125,000 from family and friends. The Web site — — went live last May, and he moved his office to Main Street last fall. Eighteen companies use Ship The Web, selling pressure cookers, potato sacks, insulated picnic backpacks and more. He said another 10 businesses have signed up. He'll be profitable if he can have 50 signed by the end of the year.

Photo editing offered

        • So you've got this great photo of you in front of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The only trouble is your ex is also in the photo.

        No problem: Upload it to DigitalCustom Group ( in Cincinnati, and they'll take him out. With a worldwide network of artists, the company will edit or fix images for as little as $10, with an average cost of $25.

        San Francisco entrepreneur Jeff Makoff chose Cincinnati as the location for the business because of the low cost of doing business, a good supply of artists from the University of Cincinnati, and a location in the same time zone as a major market, New York.

        The Image-Edit consumer business went live two months ago, and version 2 was set to be unveiled this weekend, with a better Web site design.

        “We haven't marketed it heavily at this time, because we're gaining more and more artists, and we didn't want to get too big for our britches,” said Jeff Busdieker, the company's local creative services manager. “We're working on better turnaround times and of course, better prices.”

        E-mail John Byczkowski at or call 768-8377. Find a list of local New Economy companies at


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