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P.T., Cruisin’:

MetroProper is about to crush MySpace—

soon as Phil gets the vibe right.

                                      By: Hadji Williams


It’s mid-August and Phil Tadros is sweating out another day in front of his computer screen. isn’t ready; not in his mind, at least. "We pulled the whole thing down and started over!" That’s been his response to just about everyone when they tell him how cool MetroProper already is. He seems happier knowing that he’s found a glitch to fix. "But we’re going live September 1." He states, almost apologetically. You get the feeling that Phil will be chasing gremlin ghosts on 8/31.


Everyone who knows about MetroProper all agree on the same thing: It’s gonna be huge. Think: Phil "bought-my-fave-pro-team-for-the-cool-autographs" Tadros. Investors and corporations are eager to get ahead of the buzz. Motorola even sponsored a MetroProper beta test party this past summer. Rumor has it they want to do more than party with MP but Phil’s not for sale. We’ll get to that later.


The Heat


Why are the streets talkin’ so much? Well, here’s the early scope:


Let’s suppose MySpace and Craigslist had a baby—named it ChicagoProper. They throw a shower and CP gets a mob of interactive profiles for all—complete with blogs, pics, interactive business cards, chatrooms, bulletin boards, all kinds of bells ‘n’ whistles. [FYI: The penis-pills-make-millions-in-a-click-milfs-on-parade folks get locked out&ldots; The teenybopper pornstars and dirty old men get bounced, too.]


ChicagoProper grows into a cool online community especially for the much-ignored small businesses, artists and genuinely diverse communal types to vibe, do business and have fun together. Figure a million or so members in the first month.


Now somebody throws water on said gremlin and CP multiplies—one in every worthwhile town imaginable: LosAngelesProper, NewYorkProper, LondonProper, BerlinProper, TokyoProper, DallasProper, MiamiProper, MoscowProper, TorontoProper, ParisProper&ldots; figure 200 cities right out the box and 450 cities worldwide within 6 months from launch date.


It’s those broad strokes that’ve had heads buzzing for more than minute now. But it’s the fine-tuning that’s keeps Phil double-clicking 15 hours a day. That’s in addition to running Dollop—his hip, on-the-low coffee shop/vibe spot on Chi’s north side. Dollop’s like Phil—laid back, more upscale than it lets on and deceptively cultured.


Phil’s fam is from Jordan. He came up on Chi’s south side. He’s traveled a bit, too. After telling him of my roots he says, "You know the Horizon store on 95 th?" Yeah, a hood staple, I know ‘em. "My dad owned those." Seven Horizons plus other businesses. Pops was highly successful; I say "highly" because he passed away early.


"My father was murdered—shot in the head, stomach, and groin when I was 13." Phil notes mater-of-factly. If Tadros were an emcee, this would be in every other 16 he spits, plus videos. Instead it’s just on his MySpace profile and only in the context of praising his mom’s strength for carrying him through it.


"Yeah, I’m on MySpace." He admits. "It’s the only way I can keep up with people I know. But once this thing (metro) takes off&ldots;"


I’m always interested in what drives people to achieve, particularly those who don’t seem to need to be driven. His father’s passing aside, Phil Tadros is the American dream: His immigrant parents’ success became his. He’s well-adjusted, a respected, contributing businessguy, multi-cultured, still young—under 35. Likes a good time&ldots; "We were comfortable," he adds almost reluctantly.


Comfortable is a good word to describe Phil. Even as he spit-shines the web’s next-big-thing he seems relaxed. He hops over the back of the couch, finally detaching from his screen to so we can chop it up.


Welcome to Our Space.


So, how’s a guy with a coffee shop named Phil take on +100 million drones and their billion leader? One word: Dollop. Dollop is Phil’s coffee shop. It’s about as diverse a place as you’ll find in Chicago, a city known for being highly segregated. On any given day Dollop draws a cross-section of races ages and persuasions for seemingly no particularly reason at all&ldots; Other than Phil making it happen.


"I just like bringing people together," he notes vanna white-ing to Dollop’s hodgepodge of gay, straight, hipsters, random pooch-walkers, techies on laptops, older tourists sipping premium blends, alterna-types chugging smoothies&ldots; it’s a Noah’s ark of Chicago’s North side. "I just want to do it online&ldots; just build a place where people can be productive."


Productive. Maybe that’s what drives him. We talk about wasted time—something Phil hates, web stuff, etc. He likes Craigslist, tolerates FoxSpace&ldots; calls the rest lost potential. "I like to have fun, but what’s your purpose? I wanna help people get stuff done. Maybe that’s how I’ll leave my mark."


Phil’s timing couldn’t be better. For all their dominance both MySpace and CraigsList have big weakness, which Phil sees as MP’s strengths. For starters, Craigslist is more static online database than interactive community while MySpace is more gossip chatroom flick swap outlet than useful info exchange. (There’s already a bubbling MySpace backlash, too.)


Metroproper is also localized, which means every community will develop different from the next: The ChicagoProper fam will be look different from the NewYorkProper will be more varied than the SanFranciscoProper and so on. It’s market segmentation the likes of which hasn’t been seen yet.


MetroProper came from Phil struggling to find what he needed online one day. He’d also been starting up an online zine called ChicagoProper about local artists and cool stuff. If it did well, the plan was to do others. "I wondered if other names were available—NY, Moscow, Tampa&ldots;" So he scooped up 450 names, married the best stuff from his favorite productive sites. Then he cut, scratched, and transformed like a DJ&ldots;


Before MP and Dollop, Tadros managed CHASE CAFÉ, a successful multimedia performing arts center. It was in a 4000ft hotel ballroom; then he hustled wireless in Evanston with his partner, Verbal Kent. (Yes, wireless talk with a guy named "Verbal." Go figure.)


One day he was shooting pool with a T-MOBILE rep who tipped him off on a struggling tenant—a wireless retailer. Looking to make a move, of his own, Phil scoped the business. They had good product, decent prices. But&ldots; "I just came in and did what I always do—talked with people&ldots; we’d literally hang out with folks—just like here, man."


The registers got swole. "We sold more phones and contracts&ldots;" he half-giggles thinking back. Phil nearly-quadrupled his investment in about two years. Forget "customer service" this was vibing. Phil vibes with people. I think that’s why he’s still tweaking MetroProper—gotta get that vibe right.


Given my ad industry background I remind him of MetroProper’s potential on

Madison Ave.

"No!" Phil practically cuts me off. For the first time, he seems uncomfortable. "Who wants folks selling us out?! You want Murdoch knowing every move you make online and giving your info to whoever? I hate that. I won’t do that to people. This is for us."


If MetroProper works, Phil wants it to be because ‘the block’ holds it down. He figures to make plenty of loot by getting the masses to pay for select premium features (like being a featured member, etc.) and other MP-revenue angles that don’t involve selling users out for market research. Or banners. "No banners, man. I don’t want my box filled with crap [ads] either, do you? I don’t want to insult people; people are smarter than that and I’m sick of being lied to."


As he’s done with Dollop and wireless, Tadros is bringing a social vibe to business. Pairing businesses with customers on an interactive social tip represents a genuine paradigm shift for this evolving space. Plus, having an social network of this caliber that’s not corporate ad revenue-based or ready to cash-out could be a revelation.


That’s right; Phil claims that no matter how big MetroProper gets he won’t sell. I just can’t believe that this kid Tom [MySpace] had all those people; he coulda done something good but he handed them all over to Murdoch. He [Tom] was rich before. How much money do you need?"


450 Cities. Businesses kept on par with individuals&ldots; MetroProper as the hub and Phil at the wheel. When told about the millions of frustrated users on other sites that could to defect to MP he offers: "I’m comfortable. Long as I can pay bills and do what I like and get people together and productive&ldots;"


And just when you think he’s a little too cush for the room: "Time has no time, but I’m running out of time, you know?" He blurts out with a nervous grin.  We shake then he hops the couch and back onto his computer. The drive’s back.


Vibes wait for no man. Not even their creator.

For More: • • 312.799.0973 // Dollop Coffee Co. 4181 N. Clarendon, Chicago. 773.755.1955



This Distinguished Entrepreneur Interview Series article was written by Hadji Williams on 8/28/2006

Chicagoan Hadji Williams is a 15-year vet of the advertising and marketing industries. As a copywriter and brand consultant he has helped shaped such major brands as Aleve, Cingular Wireless, Ford Focus, Mercedes Benz, Radio Shack, SBC, and the William Wrigley Co., just to name a few. he can be reached at