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ABOUT THIS COMPANY:iWon.com is a web portal with a twist - users are entered into sweepstakes to win cash prizes simply for surfing around the site. The privately owned company has given away over $26 million in prizes to date.
Surfing for dollars
Launched in 1999 by CTC Bulldog, Inc., a CBS-backed entity, iWon quickly gained exposure due to the size of its rewards. (iWon gives away a $10,000 prize every day, 30 $1,000 prizes every week, a $1million prize every month, and a $10 million grand prize once a year.) Aside from the sweepstakes, the site operates like a normal web portal, offering news, stock quotes, a search engine, and personalization options. iWon also offers free e-mail service, as well as free Internet access in a joint venture with OurHouse.net.
Critics have been skeptical of the company's business plan, often pointing out that due to its impressive prizes, iWon burns almost $27 million on top of its conventional expenses. Others questioned whether visitors would remain on the site after reaching the maximum number of entries in the day's contest. The site has defied these expectations however, attracting users very successfully. According to the July 2000 Media Metrix report, iWon was the 25th most popular site on the Web, with close to nine million unique visitors for the month.
Eye on CBS
The site received an infusion of cash and a major network backer in October 1999, when CBS came on board with a $100 million investment in cash, advertising, and promotion. The network's investment came a year after the other two major networks had purchased stakes in their own web portals (NBC in Snap and XOOM, and Disney/ABC in the Go Network). iWon not only benefits from the financial backing of the network, but also receives news from its subsidiary CBS News.
In April 2000, iWon signed a two-year marketing agreement with Sprint. Under the terms of the deal, iWon users who are also Sprint long distance customers will double their winnings from the site. The company also made an agreement in July 2000 to employ Ask Jeeves' popular search technology. iWon has also increased the site's offerings by securing partnerships with companies like AmericanGreetings.com, Associated Press, Globix, Inktomi, and Travelocity.
In April 2000, iWon.com announced its first $10 million winner during a 30-minute television special aired on CBS. Lee Huu Truong, a 24-year old graphic design student at San Jose State University, took home the grand prize. The Leeza Gibbons-hosted extravaganza was not without controversy - critics blasted CBS for disguising what appeared to be a 30-minute advertisement for a venture backed by the network as prime-time entertainment.
Working at iWon
Besides the company's Irvington, NY headquarters, iWon has locations in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is growing at nearly the same rate as its users, and now has over 200 employees. The company also boasts such perks as subsidized cell phones, on-site training, a park-like setting, and free bagels, as well as the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology.
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