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MAKING MONEY OFF MOSAIC SILICON GRAPHICS' CLARK FORMS COMPANY TO MARKET INTERNET SOFTWARE

By Published on .

A potent partnership of a Silicon Valley pioneer and the young software engineer whose team wrote Mosaic, the leading way for non-techies to surf the Internet, aims to turn the free software into a business opportunity.

With James Clark's money and managerial experience and 22-year-old Marc Andreessen's technical vision, the not-so-odd couple thinks Mosaic Communications, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company they just co-founded, could generate revenue by the summer solstice.

It began with an e-mail message in February, as Mr. Clark was packing to depart Silicon Graphics, a firm he founded in 1982.

"Before I left, a friend mentioned [that] the guy who originated Mosaic was in the area," said Mr. Clark. "I sent Marc an e-mail, and now we are history in the making."

Mr. Clark is bankrolling the new company and will serve as chairman, president and CEO. Mr. Andreessen is VP-technology.

Also joining the new venture are five young colleagues of Mr. Andreessen from the National Center for Supercomputer Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

"Mosaic accumulated 2 million users in a year, so this is clearly an area with commercial potential," said Mr. Andreessen. "We want to leverage off Mosaic to build a company. We want to do what we should have in the first place-started a company."

But Mosaic Communications is not the only firm that sees potential profit in Mosaic. The non-profit Illinois computer center has licensed Mosaic to nine companies for commercial use. They include O'Reilly & Associates, a Sebastopol, Calif.-based consultancy that was among the first to put ads on the Internet and now plans to market an "Internet in a Box" product.

Earlier this month, two Phoenix lawyers who sent ads to thousands of Internet bulletin boards founded a company called Cybersell to help others advertise on the global computer network. The lawyers made headlines after being "flamed" by thousands of angry, ad-adverse Internet users.

Mr. Clark, who years ago was flamed for putting his own help-wanted ad on the Internet, agrees with critics of Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, the husband-and-wife legal team.

"Throwing unwanted ads on 5,000 bulletin boards is uncalled for," said Mr. Clark. "Advertising is going to be a natural thing, but it can't be done that way." He likened the efforts of Canter & Siegel to a truck driving down a street with its bullhorn blaring.

"There are ways to advertise on the Internet, and we think we know exactly how to pull it off," said Mr. Andreessen, who declined to divulge details.

Though Mosaic Communications has just 15 employees, its founding partners think they can generate revenues from a technical support service within a month. The support service, to be marketed by a direct sales force to subscribing companies that use the free Mosaic software, would help those who get lost in cyberspace or encounter obstacles.

Mr. Clark contends the computer-based Internet-not interactive TV-is the real information superhighway.

"TV hasn't changed in 40 years," said Mr. Clark, who courted cable TV operators for five years at Silicon Graphics. "The TV industry has some constrictions. You have to go through one or two organizations to get any changes implemented in cable TV."

By contrast, the Internet is booming. "The Internet will be the de facto standard," he said. "The Internet is going to be a commercial marketplace."

Mosaic Communications, Mr. Clark notes, differs from his earlier business.

"When I was with Silicon Graphics, we had to be evangelists to the world. Here, the believers are there, and we're ready to baptize."

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