What It's Like to Work at Beenz.com Inc.

Interviewee: Neil Forrester, co-founder and vice president of development

Company: Beenz.com Inc., a global digital currency site. "That's officially. Unofficially, we're a thinly veiled cover for world domination."

Location: Based in New York, with headquarters for all technical staff and operations in London's West End. The company also has offices in San Francisco; Sydney, Australia; Paris; Stockholm; Singapore; and Japan.

Weren't you in the cast of MTV's Real World London? "That's unfortunately true. I was a rock 'n' roll man, but being a geek pays the bills better. I did the show in '95, and I was already doing Web scripting and design, but that didn't make it to TV. But now the Web is cool, so I was able to come out."

Number of information technology employees: 20, divided into three teams: developers, systems and security and enterprise applications (responsible for internal IT). "We started with just two geeks. I wrote the first version of the site in my bedroom."

Number of employees (end users): 263 as of the end of last month

IT hiring plans: "We may hire four to five more tech staff max by the end of the year."

Major IT projects: "We have an ongoing internationalization project, so now we're focusing on translating the system into Korean. The back end has to be able to handle Korean characters, which is tricky because they look funny and none of us speak Korean. We're using Unicode, an international standard for character representation, and then having it checked by the staff in Korea.

We're also building our WAP and iMode [Japanese wireless standard] versions for handheld devices, and we're doing some R&D into interactive digital TV. And we're launching some off-line implementations of the product - ways to spend Beenz away from the computer."

Site traffic: Almost 1.9 million visitors hit the site last month, up 103% from 936,178 in June. "Our biggest base of users right now is in the U.S., but we have a very healthy European contingent. And Asia-Pacific is doing great."

Dress code: "Geek chic - anything but a tie. I make it a matter of course to employ freaks. Today, I'm wearing pink jeans, a black T-shirt and blue nail varnish. We have a long-haired hippie type who dresses up as a wood elf on the weekends."

Workday: From 10 to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., "depending on their enthusiasm. By English standards, it's a fairly long day."

How do you deal with the time difference between your various offices? "If it's the U.S. calling, we're usually drunk by then. If it's one of the Asia-Pacific offices, we're usually asleep. We're big fans of e-mail and ICQ."

Decor: "An inflatable moose head on the wall, an Elvis clock with swinging legs, an interactive talking Yoda doll and an inflatable pink man that we got for a party. His head lights up."

Any interesting views from your office? "Well, the building opposite of us has two ladies of . . . 'professional status,' shall we say."

Compensation and bonuses: "The original developers got options, and we have an ad hoc bonus system that may be cash, options or toys."

What was the most unusual bonus? "It's not one we can publish."

A trip across the street? "No, unfortunately. We don't know their number to ring them up."

Favorite gossip topics: "The geeks are probably the least gossipy group in the office - we usually discuss Greek mythology or the latest Aphex Twin album."

Little perks: "We operate outside the law. . . . We go out for curry dinners and booze and a lot of other things I can't mention. A relaxed atmosphere - we're all friends outside the office. We're a motley crew."

How does working at Beenz.com compare with being in the cast of The Real World? "The pay is better."

- Leslie Goff (lgoff@ix.netcom.com)

Focus on Workstyles

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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