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Wine buyer Peter Granoff was looking for a way out of the restaurant business, he never dreamed his future lay in cyberspace. Then one evening over dinner as his brother-in-law Robert Olson sketched out a plan for starting a company on the World Wide Web, Granoff had a vision. Olson, a former marketing executive at a Silicon Valley computer maker, wanted to sell an easy-to-distribute product with a large, passionate, and geographically dispersed buying audience. He believed the ideal product line for the Web was one whose customers needed extensive information to guide their purchasing decisions. An excited Granoff said, “You’re talking about my business. Inspired, Granoff and Olson launched Virtual Vineyards, a rapidly growing online vendor of wine and one of the first of a growing number of companies that are illustrating the revenue-generating potential of putting a storefront on the World Wide Web.

Companies that continue to do most of their sales through conventional channels are setting up Web sites as promotional and corporate image tools. At the same time, the Net has given birth to a rising number of Web-only enterprises.

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