XLNT? Or WTF? Trying to Catch the 'Consumer-Generated' Wave

For 'Listen' Chapter 4: Spot On

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Until recently, Conshohocken was a moldering mill town on the western outskirts of Philadelphia, notable for its abandoned factories, overgrown rail sidings and rusty water towers. Now it is still mainly a former mill town, dotted with those oxidized artifacts of the long-departed manufacturing economy, but also suddenly thick with office condos and low-slung ultralight-industrial parks.

Conshohocken's biggest asset is proximity to the crossroads of I-476 and the Schuylkill Expressway, a mile from which -– in a nondescript small-business complex -- is nestled a startup called XLNTads.com.

The walls are beige, the carpets are industrial. The contemporary artwork is not from Sotheby's but Marshall's, and the loading dock is the floor next to the front door. In early spring, a few weeks after the move-in, cartons of copy paper are stacked pretty much exactly where you'd expect to see a potted ficus.

On the other hand, observes acting CEO Neil Perry, "Not a lot of start-ups have a coffee maker and a hot-water dispenser, so..."

So, relax. It's a joke. The guy's not really boasting about instant hot water. He's being self-deprecating, because he's a funny guy. Which is good. He'll need a sense of humor trying to get XLNTads.com off the ground. As we shall soon see, this venture could go either way, but undeniably Perry and his partner, entrepreneur Rick Parkhill, are on to something -– and that something is consumer-generated advertising.

Over the next few days, weeks and months, we shall monitor their progress.
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