Section E: Net Skater - E-Commerce fever

Section E: Net Skater - E-Commerce fever - It's 5 am. I'm sweating in an air-conditioned Miami hotel room on South Beach, staring at the ceiling, grinding my teeth, heart twitching, about to have my third cigarette in 10 minutes. My head's pounding, my li

by ANDREW WILEMAN, a strategy and organisation consultant. Contacthim at: wilemanae@aol.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's 5 am. I'm sweating in an air-conditioned Miami hotel room on South Beach, staring at the ceiling, grinding my teeth, heart twitching, about to have my third cigarette in 10 minutes. My head's pounding, my lips are dry, and I feel sick in my stomach.

I'm coming down with a bout of e-commerce fever. This is a bad bug for someone who makes his living from consulting and venture capital. I've had it before (actually, every day for the last year), so I know what's going to happen. I know, but I can't stop it. It comes in waves. Shit, here comes the first wave ...

I've got this great e-commerce concept. If I tell you what it is, you'll steal it. But I can tell you it's very radical, it's a paradigm shift.

I'm going to deconstruct the value chain. I'm talking the five Cs: content, community, commerce, communication and chemicals. You're stuck in the 'old world', you just don't get it. I'm talking fractals and nanobots.

Eyeballs and affiliates. I'm talking ... Uh-oh. Second wave. This is a nasty one - fear and inadequacy.

I don't get it. All these e-companies advertising in Red Herring, and this list of the month's hot IPOs - I've never heard of them. What do they do? I'm out-of-date already. What the hell is an e-commerce solution, and how do I get one quick? Why am I in Miami, why do I live in London when I should be on the West Coast? I can't get the columns thing in Word to work, and I can't download pdf files off the net (yes, I have opened up Acrobat). Why didn't I finish my business plan yesterday - I've missed the window, now there are 10 competitors, the VCs will say it's too late! I just deleted two days' worth of e-mail by mistake. Third wave ... envy and loathing.

It's a bubble. It's going to burst any day now. All those net-slave option schmucks and day traders will get their come-uppance. They'll wish they had my 6% savings account at First Direct (well, 5.5%). The techies will creep back into their cubicles, and the CTOs back to the IT department in the basement - they were nerds before, they'll be nerds again. Harvard MBAs will come crawling back from their start-ups, begging for a job in the mail-room at Goldman Sachs. Bezos, bozos FirstTuesday will be the saddest experience on the planet.

I've just got to stick it out. I know what's coming next ... Ahhh, here it is - the fourth wave - irrational euphoria and ambition. OK, I'll tell you my concept. It's a no-brainer. What's the net good for? Buying and selling stuff. That's the concept: buyingandsellingstuff.com. It's like Amazon plus eBay plus Yahoo!. I've got Claudia Schiffer and Keanu Reeves signed up (well, I'm waiting for them to get back to me). I'm loading it up with fractals and bots, and it's dripping with eyeballs.

What's the market space? World GNP is around dollars 10 trillion. All I need is 0.1% of that and I've got a great business. That's - hold on while I get my calculator - that's dollars 10 billion in sales. Give it a Yahoo! revenue multiple and it's worth over dollars 300 billion. Who's not going to invest in that? I've already got the business developed to the pre-revenue phase. All I'm looking for is dollars 100,000 angel money, so I can get an office in Battersea (and hire some nerd who knows how Word columns and pdf downloads work).

I'm coming down now. The sweats and shakings are subsiding. The sun's coming up over South Beach, the skateboarders are out. I'm thinking about coffee and bagels. That was a bad attack. I must remember to take more melatonin tonight.

I'm dressed, I'm driving over the Miami causeway, then I'm in with my VC client on Brickell Avenue. He wants me to evaluate some dot.com business plan. The entrepreneurs (one geek, one suit) walk in to make their presentation.

'Andrew, we're very excited, and we know you're going to be very excited too. Let me tell you about buyingandsellingstuff.com ... '

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