Decisions: Tom Bureau - CNET networks UK
Friday, 01 June 2007
MD of the online publisher, and CO-founder of silicon.com.
was seeing the potential of online media early on. A friend who'd worked at CERN, the European nuclear research organisation, came back enthusing about the internet. From 1994, the online world became a big part of my life.
My partner and I created one of the first online advertising-based publishing products in '95. We sold it to Dennis Publishing but kept the online technology rights. That turned into silicon.com, launched '97 - and then we went on the full dot.com roller-coaster. We raised £25 million from venture capitalists and expanded into Europe.
My next-best decision was not leaving online publishing in 2002 when things went bad. I was CEO of Silicon Media Group and we were in the same boat as many publishers - last man standing survives. We sold the business to CNET Networks and at that point I could have moved on but my dreams of unimaginable wealth had disappeared, so I stayed. We'd had the chance to sell the business a few years earlier, but the value now was in the lessons we'd learnt. MY WORST...
was the launch of Silicon Media Group into France and Germany. We were acting on the old-world concepts of how to build a scalable business, but we'd have been better off staying close to home to create highly profitable businesses in our local markets.
It was an extremely gung-ho time to do business, and decisions were predicated on the need to have a strong geographical footprint, not financial results. We raised about £10 million to invest in Germany and France. In retrospect, it was not the greatest decision, because the UK market was actually where the real interest lay - it was ahead on digital revenues and still is.
It was also problematic to set up those businesses in terms of distance management and difficult European employment laws. We had been in Germany for a year and France for three months when the market started to crash, and we struggled on for a while. From a pure management perspective, we should have cut our losses much sooner as, inevitably, we had to pull the plug.