Net Take Home–Web Q & A

“Dana Greenlee, right, at her studio, LoudVox Productions, Tacoma. (Photo by Bonnie West) (Editor’s note: Dana Greenlee, president of and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, will be writing a technology column for Friday editions of the Index. WebTalkGuys, which features technology news and interviews, can be heard Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma/Seattle area. It is also telecast via the Web at Dana GreenleeI would like to paint you a surfing picture. You are in a hospital waiting room, concerned about a family member being treated. You’ve read every ancient, germy periodical scattered on the chairs. What’s this? A bit of shining high tech to soothe your anxiety? You walk over to a computer mounted on the wall and start surfing the Internet for all sorts of information about just about anything, even illnesses. Very cool, huh?We have Surphoria to thank for this relief. This Tacoma, WA-based company has launched free-for-use Internet access SurfStations in hospital waiting areas and upscale sports-bar restaurants. Chris Akin, CEO of gave us 10 minutes for 10 questions on how this free net service is going to impact our lives:Q. Tell us a little bit about Surphoria?A. It’s very simple. People want to stay connected. So what we wanted to do was figure out a way we could actually bring the Internet to the masses and close that digital gap. So what we do is roll out a network of these free-for-use terminals that anybody and everybody can access in the places that they’re visiting.Q. What are your plans for rolling out in particular locations?A. Currently we’re in medical facilities and sports bar restaurants right now. Long-term we’re speaking with airlines, ferries…basically our biggest challenge is we can put them anywhere but we have 10 specific vertical markets we’re going to be targeting.Q. What does the actual physical SurfStation look like? A. It’s a wall-mounted unit in a general area where anybody has access to this. We’ve developed a kiosk-type casing that houses a proprietary piece of hardware and technology we’ve developed that allow people of any Internet knowledge level to walk up and use this thing. It’s a flat screen, 15 monitor. Q. How is the SurfStation being used?A. People can walk up and have access to news, traffic, sports, stocks, send and receive email. We launched one hospital and stepped away for five minutes and we had an instant line of eighteen people waiting to surf.Q. How does Surphoria make money? A. We’ve identified a number of revenue channels, the first of which is the business that has a SurfStation. It’s a value proposition that enhances the customer experience at these specific locations. The second is we’ve developed a proprietary interactive advertising model that essential allows marketers to now hit specific demographic groups in specific context. We developed i-board technology. Right now they are still-frame billboards that are played when the SurfStation is not being used. We’ve also built interactive sponsorship opportunities into our browsers. As of next year, we’ll be completely interactive incorporating Flash technologies that will allow the Surfstation to be full multimedia units.Q. Is bandwidth an issue?A. They’re on 24-7 so we have to have a dedicated connection. We’ve got a bank of DSL providers that will provide us connectivity in location that don’t already have an existing network infrastructure. We’re building our brand on speed, ease of use, convenience. Q. Is there competition?A. Not on our level. There are other kiosk companies that are launching places such as the airports – 99% of which you have to swipe a credit card or pay to use. We’re not ignorant to the fact that we’ll spawn competition because everybody wants this. What we’re actually doing is target specific vertical markets and signing long-term exclusive deals with these venues so that we can erect a barrier there.Q. How many SurfStations can we plan on seeing next year?A. Currently we’re launching our first fifty. End of year one, if we generate no funding, would be 250. End of year two would be 775. Five-year plan is 47,000.Q. What is your experience as an Internet business pursuing funding. A. People want to define us as an Internet company and also define us as a media company. Obviously, both of those markets are taking big hits. But the advantage we have is we’re not solely dependent on whether or not someone is using it or whether or not sponsors are actually sponsoring the SurfStations because of our diversified revenue streams. Because of that, I have actually gone out of the area to look for monies. The experience has been good. I’m expecting some good things by the end of the year.Q. Sounds like what you’re building is a network of these installations. Are there any other applications for this network that you’ll explore?A. We can do anything that is web-based with these SurfStations.Eventually we’ll integrate Palm Pilots. We’re looking at wireless technology, especially for the ferry systems and some the airlines we’re speaking with. Essentially, these can become your full communication tool. We can outdate pay phones by letting people make web-based calls anywhere in the world. The opportunities are endless. Right now we’re just trying to develop a product the market is ready for.Intrigued enough to do a little surfing while sipping your ale in a sports bar? You can find a Puget Sound SurfStation at The Ram Restaurants at the University Villiage in Seattle, and at the Ram’s Lakewood and Puyallup locations. Hospital waiting room locations include the Valley Medical Center in Renton, St. Joseph and St. Clare Medical Centers in Tacoma. Good Samaritan in Puyallup and the St. Francis in Federal Way.For more information, visit the Surphoria Web site at: “