Stelios launches US cybercafé empire in New York

HP's Fiorina drops in to cut ribbon

London-based EasyEverything opened the doors to its first cybercafé outside Europe today.

Entrepreneur and EasyEverything head honcho Stelios Haji-Ioannou flew to New York to launch the Internet café, which has 800 computer terminals open 24/7, and to kick off his US e-empire.

Suited and booted Hewlett-Packard chairwoman and CEO Carly Fiorina also dropped in to cut the orange ribbon to open the extravaganza. Meanwhile, representatives from the Guinness Book of Records were on hand to declare the venture the universe's biggest cybercafé.

Rates at the 18,300sq ft building, located just off Times Square, will work along the same lines as the company's other Internet cafés in Europe - and vary depending on how full it is. Punters, who today queued outside for hours to grab the promotions on offer ($1 gets five hours of Net access for the first week), will get between 15 minutes and five hours for their dollar.

The company aims to open a another café in New York next year (in Union Square), and then spread across the US to San Fransisco, Miami and Chicago.

"The mission of EasyGroup is to make the cost of living cheaper," said a beaming media-savvy Stelios who, despite his celebrity status in the UK, is relatively unknown in the US.

He reckons there are three main groups of customers that visit his 15 cybercafés in Europe - people who cannot afford Net access in their homes, people on the move, and punters who use the cybercafes as a "social hangout" and stay in the building virtually all night.

The venture should give the city's cybercafés a run for their money. Despite Internet access being generally cheaper in the US than in Europe, most cybercafés in New York are relatively pricey - with one hour of Net access generally costing around $15. ®

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