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Online Consumer Technology Entrepreneur

How old you are doesn't have much bearing on what you can do with Internet business ideas. Sometimes you just need the right idea at the right time.

Just ask Michael Furdyk.

He's a teenager making the most of the online business opportunities opening up with the growth of the Internet.

Furdyk is indeed in the right place at the right time. He's working on a range of electronic commerce and information aids for the surfing public. Recent statistics say the Internet is exploding -- with new users and great potential.

"The number of Internet users in North America has now reached 92 million. The commercial growth of the Web is emerging as a dominant trend in the development of the Internet," says a study released in June 1999.

The research was conducted by e-commerce consortium CommerceNet of Silicon Valley, California, and Nielsen Media Research.

The study found that, "The number of Internet users age 16 and older in the U.S. and Canada increased 16 percent in just nine months, yet the number of online consumers jumped 40 percent to 28 million during the same period."

Loel McPhee is CommerceNet's director of strategic partnerships. She says she believes the variety of products being marketed online is increasing rapidly and will continue as more people hook up to the Internet.

"The range has already grown," McPhee says. "Back in 1995, the things you could purchase online were computer hardware, software and books. Now you can buy your groceries, your gifts, shop traditional catalogs. In the business-to-business world, all the things you buy in the real world are going online."

Furdyk is in great shape to be right at the heart of that incredibly rich Web commerce action. He's the chief operations officer of a company called MyDesktop Network. He co-founded the business with friend Michael Hayman after meeting him on an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) session more than two years ago.

He's 17 now, attending Martingrove Collegiate Institute. Furdyk says he enjoys lots of activities other than cultivating the business.

Like most teenagers, he says he enjoys movies and music. As well, he says, science and reading are high on his list of enjoyable pastimes. When it comes to sports, he's into tennis, squash, basketball and inline skating.

As a young entrepreneur, Furdyk was one of six finalists in the 1999 YTV Achievement Awards, televised nationally on the YTV cable network.

But when it's time to work, he's all for that, too. Furdyk is deeply involved in expanding the MyDesktop world.

MyDesktop's main site is a clean presentation. It gives visitors quick summaries of current events in the computer world. But there's way more under the covers.

Visitors can find information about how to build Web pages, or learn how to tweak their home computers to work better and faster. They can even grab useful -- often invaluable -- programs right from the MyDesktop site.

" had over five million page views in early 1999, from only a few thousand in early 1997 when the site was launched," Furdyk says.

MyDesktop makes money from advertising, thanks to deals with some of the largest Web advertising agencies eager to reach all those millions of visitors.

But Furdyk and his partners are not stopping here.

He's now involved with a new online business, expanding the MyDesktop model. is a service targeted directly at the world of Web shopping.

Visitors to the site can compare prices for all kinds of products. Along with comparison information are articles and reviews of products.

No matter what Web shoppers are looking for in computer gear -- from power supplies to toner for their printers -- BuyBuddy is set up to help. If it has the kind of success enjoyed by MyDesktop, Furdyk and the new business are in for a wild ride straight to the top of the class.

"We hope the growth will continue, and that, our new venture, will have the same amount of success!" he says.

Perhaps because he's got his finger on the pulse of this amazing new world of high-tech gadgetry, Furdyk has a pretty clear idea of where technology and the way people use that technology are headed.

"I think consumer technology will become friendlier," he says. "People don't want to take courses on using consumer technology like computers. I think we will see many of the problems associated with current consumer technology removed."

That, he says, will happen with the arrival of new versions of programs and hardware.

"Look at USB [Universal Serial Bus], for example. Thanks to Apple, thousands of USB devices are on the market, and soon FireWire -- an even faster version of USB -- will be mainstream. Technology like USB makes it very simple for users to install and use hardware."

That means computers are becoming a lot more "plug and play" compatible. Printers and storage devices, for instance, can be connected right along with communications devices or keyboards. That's been a complicated problem since the first basic personal computers arrived on the scene 20 years ago.

And, in a very real sense, online businesses like Furdyk's are helping to make computers, the Internet, electronic commerce and technology in general a lot more friendly.

He's seen great success so far, and he's only 17. But not everything has come easily. Furdyk points out some of the tough tasks of running a rapidly growing high-tech company. Curiously, the hardest parts of managing the business have little to do with the technology.

"It's been difficult to manage the accounting and legal aspects of the business -- I've never taken any formal law or accounting courses at school," he says.

However, Furdyk recognizes the education he's received from all of this.

"Thanks to the complicated issues we had to deal with, I developed a valuable understanding of many legal and accounting issues."

Furdyk readily admits that he's been fortunate to have plenty of help from those around him since getting involved with MyDesktop. Obviously, it's no simple task to juggle both school and a thriving business enterprise.

"I've had lots of support from my parents and guidance counselor. Without that, I don't know if I would have been able to manage," Furdyk says.

And what do his parents think of their son's skyrocketing Web business?

"They think it's great! They've always been supportive along the way, and I hope they will continue to support the decisions I make as things get even bigger," he says.

Down the road, Furdyk will be able to take what he's learned from his Web business ventures and apply it to any career he chooses. And it's not too far-fetched to think that those career options could take him to the far reaches of the universe.

"Long term, I'm considering the pursuit of a degree in some aspect of astronomy," he says. "But [I] haven't decided exactly where I will take my dream of having something to do with the exploration of space."

He's already conquering the exciting frontier of cyberspace. Perhaps it's only appropriate that he's also excited by the challenge of outer space, the ultimate and final frontier.


MyDesktop Network
The main Web site for Michael Furdyk's company
Furdyk's newest Internet venture -- a shopper's assistant site

The NRG Group
See what an Internet business incubator looks like

Number of Internet Buyers Jumps 40 Percent in Nine Months
CommerceNet and Nielsen Media Research report released

eCommerce Weekly
A newsletter for people interested in Internet businesses

eMarketer News
Current news and information about electronic commerce

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