Mr. Van Wagener started his career as a self-described teen-age geek; he had access to one of the earliest time-share computer networks based at Dartmouth.
"I would go to my dad's office at night and teach myself Basic," he said.
There wasn't a thriving computer marketplace in the early '70s, so Mr. Van Wagener completed an accelerated MBA program, and landed a job in package goods. He stayed until 1996, when he quit to explore Internet business opportunities.
"I thrive on being on the learning edge of things," he said.
In the year since Mr. Van Wagener has come on board, he's founded and built the company's advertising sales program, which now has more than 80 advertisers, including American Express Co., Charles Schwab & Co.'s Schwab Online, and U S West.
InfoBeat (www.infobeat.com) also has signed a one-year deal with ZDNet to manage the company's e-mail subscription service; introduced e-commerce and incentive products; and bolstered its content offerings through InfoBeat Select, which includes content partnerships with sites like MSNBC, People and Fortune.
One of the easiest things to do was change the name of the company, originally founded as a paid subscription service called Mercury Mail.
Soon after, it switched to an ad-supported model and last August it was renamed InfoBeat to better reflect the company's new image.
"We're pleasantly amused by how hot e-mail has become," Mr. Van Wagener said. But then again, he added, the company was founded on the belief "e-mail is the killer app."
Betcha didn't know: Mr. Van Wagener played the saxophone in a high school band. "I played sax in soul bands before Bill Clinton ever dreamed of it."