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Zappos.com’s story reads like many dot.com startups. Founder Nick Swinmurn couldn’t find a pair of shoes he desperately wanted at local stores or even on the Net. So, in 1999, he founded Zappos to spare others his frustration. His timing was perfect. Zappos’ gross sales have increased at a compound annual rate of 119% to an estimated $1 billion this year, making it the No.1 Internet shoe business.

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