Thomas Hollowell - Author, Athlete, Entrepreneur, World Traveler

The Dot-Gone Era

As the proverb goes: If we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. The infamous dot-com era spanned roughly from the mid-1990s to the early 21st century and taught us much we shant forget: companies spending fruitless millions, expansion, and growth; all for the bottom-line. While only a few survivors of the dot-gone epoch remain with us today, a new generation of savvy online entrepreneurs is willing to take risks. But this time, they are following a business model based on lessons learned.
When the dot-com bubble burst, who was left holding the pin? Some programmers-turned-millionaires scurried off with winnings while investors were left empty handed. Venture capitalists stood awe struck, vowing that they’d never make such grave mistakes again. No longer would an idea sell on its own merit. A new, smarter genotype of investors has sprouted and what they desire is a clear game plan and someone with a proven track record.

Before dot-com became dot-bomb, the central focus of online business was to attract consumers. With a mantra of “grow ginormous in the least amount of time,” these companies were establishing an identity before they even had a surefire line of products or services to offer. The virtual business world learned that out-of-control growth was almost as bad as no growth. What makes companies successful on the ground is what makes them successful in the virtual world: a solid mix of proven business strategies with sheer entrepreneur integrity.

The Big Dogs

With Google’s recent acquisition of YouTube, throngs of surfers went to see what all the hype was about. Google has big plans for the company. The search-engine behemoth is carefully accessing and test driving new advertising schemes, attempting to maintain and not interfere with the user’s end experience. Learning how to monetize a self-broadcasting platform takes time and we all know that Google doesn’t purchase websites arbitrarily.

Whether we admit it or not, we are in the midst of the next generation of the Internet. Dubbed Web 2.0, the phenomenon deals with the virtual evolution on websites like YouTube – communities bridged by freedom of expression, collaboration, and ideas. Web 2.0 focuses on what we’ve learned and where we are going more than it focuses on any major changes in technology. Therefore, adroit online companies keeping up with the Web’s evolving mentality will succeed.

Hope for the Under Dogs

With online giants such as Google and eBay buying up all the cool websites and technologies, the arena might seem saturated for all those mom and pop businesses out there. The majority of online companies will not have a billion dollar bid come their way, but that doesn’t mean the sky isn’t the limit. Venture capitalists are starting to put their faith back into online businesses. In fact, in the last two years, there has been nearly a 20% increase from investors willing to move on from our plagued past.

Small online businesses have many advantages over larger ones. The time between an innovative idea and its implementation is often quicker. Additionally, they focus closely on a niche market dedicating resources to focused activities. Small businesses can offer a responsiveness that online consumers appreciate. This translates into return business and word-of-mouth advertising – the best kind. Finally, with organic listings and cost-effective advertising schemes, small businesses can prevent being lost in Internet oblivion.

Going Green

The dot-com boom is breeding a dot-org explosion. New companies are keeping up with society’s demands to offer something alternative, something green – a fad that isn’t going to fade. A service or product that benefits mankind or the Earth is not only noble, it’s eye catching. Apple, for example, has finally grasped the “A Greener Apple” (www.greenmyapple.com) concept (see ComputorEdge, Volume 25 Number 11) and has started to offer mercury-free screens in their units. Additionally, they are increasing the ease of which consumers can recycle their products. That’s Kudos for all.

Now that we have a second chance to make it in the new dot-com era, innovative ideas will now have the proper time to blossom. While money may not be the root of all evil in business, it helps if companies have to prove themselves before they obtain large amounts of it. Companies will rise and empires will fall. It’s the way of the World Wide Web. The survivors will be those companies who have upgraded with the times, aware of a virtual history chock-full of lessons learned.