Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

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"In some situations, there are no revenues, so you look at something like registered users," says Taulli. "But an independent company doesn't have the ability to monetize those users -- to turn those eyeballs into cash."

Mark Stevens, executive vice president of business development at [email protected], demurs when pressed for the specific criteria his company used when determining what they were willing to pay for bluemountain.com. "You can assume we did the right thing for our investors," he says.

So now that [email protected] has bought those eyeballs, what is it going to do with them?

"This isn't about putting up big ads that say 'Go to Excite,'" says Stevens. The company, he explains, has plans to very, very gently coax bluemountain.com visitors to open their pocketbooks, all the while remembering that these are people who like their greeting cards to contain as much free mush as possible.

On the Web-portal side of Excite's business, the company already offers such features as Web-based personal calendars and reminder services -- perfect matches for a greeting-card site. The company plans to launch these features on the bluemountain.com site in hopes of generating interest in the rest of the Excite portal site and its advertisers. It also has the chance to market the broadband service to millions of potential Internet cable customers and sign them up on the spot.

One thing's certain: Even though the electronic operations will be owned by [email protected], bluemountain.com's cards will remain free on the Web.

That was important to the Schutzes. "We believe that if someone was acquiring us for a whole lot of money and they started to charge for the cards, then they would basically lose all the money they invested in the site because they'd undermine its value," Jared says. "If they were that stupid, then I don't think they'd be good owners for the site."

Jared says he and his parents will remain active with bluemountain.com for one year after the deal closes in December. He's particularly interested in pushing ventures with danschocolates.com, a former bluemountain.com subsidiary that now exists independently, and proflowers.com, taking advantage of those "gift solution" strategies that the greeting-card industry is eyeing.

As for his enhanced status as a many-times-over millionaire, Schutz remains nonchalant. He already owns a house and a car, and while he's interested in moving into the realm of "public service" at some point, he says, "I have no desire to spend massive amounts of money on consumption."

Besides, under Webonomics, Schutz has reason to be conservative with his cash. "Most days, I have no idea whether I'm a billionaire or bankrupt on paper," he says. "It's really hard to tell in this Internet industry."

So why not send him a sympathy card? It's easy online -- and thanks to the Schutzes, it's free.By Chris LaMorte

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Chris LaMorte