Speed wins in the New Economy, but the windows of opportunity are forever shrinking; partnership deals — which range from handshakes to contracts — today are inked in a few days, not months. Even giants move fast. In May 1999 Hewlett-Packard, Qwest Communications, and SAP formed an application service provider alliance in just 60 days. Nimble online firms move even more quickly.

In late 1998, Driveway.com, a Web-based file storage company then called Atrieva, found itself sinking into online oblivion. Selling online storage wasn’t keeping the business afloat, and mutiny was spreading among its investors. Larry Barels, then acting CEO, and Mitch Tuchman, a vice president, dumped the sales model, offered free services supported by ads and sponsorships, and turned to partnerships to build the critical customer mass. An alliance with Linkshare, an ebusiness affiliate program specialist, generated a network of affiliates that funneled customers to Driveway.com for a referral fee.

“We got 4,000 affiliates that other competitors are locked out of,” says Tuchman. “We got there first.” Then came the clincher: an alliance that Barels inked with Microsoft in just 45 days to include Driveway.com as a “Save As” option in all Windows 2000 products. Driveway.com’s valuation rose from $5 million to $150 million in less than a year.

Students purchase prepaid phone cards to connect with their friends, loved ones, in the most inexpensive method possible.