Since I arrived in England 18 months ago, I feel as though I've been on a 200mph train. The hours dragged more slowly for my cats Pastis and Amaretto, which had to endure the quarantine system before they were permitted their feline green cards. Although I went to INSEAD, I knew that I couldn't work in Paris. It's a bit of a museum really - you go there because it's beautiful, but after a while you want to get on with it. I'm glad Earl's Court is now my home.
Things are pretty much non-stop at FirstTuesday at the moment as we are now in 38 cities around the world, raising dollars 15 million and up to a UK headcount of 15. In the first month of the year, I was in Tel Aviv, Berlin and Milan, and rarely spent a night in my SW5 flat. So my work/life balance is a bit off kilter at the moment, but then it always has been. Was it work to live or live to work? I can't honestly remember. In five years' time, I will look back and think that it was in the autumn/winter of 1999 when the internet really took off in London. Right place, right time.
Everybody I knew was getting funded or had just been funded. I love seeing people seize their own day.
As US venture capitalists arrive in town and consultancies lose their consultants in droves to start-ups, what is noticeable is how guerrilla warfare and internet hiring have converged. I call it 'guerrilla poaching'.
An incubator I know was actively courting the 'about to be hired' CEO of an internet start-up of a close friend. When rebuked for his behaviour, the former e-mailed the latter claiming: 'We would never compete with you for this person.' When the CEO later switched loyalties and jobs, all went silent. All's fair in love, war and the internet talent-grab.
No one is wearing only one hat these days and I'm regularly confronted by people with headgear aplenty. Their conversational opener might be to pitch sponsorship of FirstTuesday as a banker, then they hit me with their own business plan as an entrepreneur (enquiring en route how much equity they need to give away to get a decent chief technological officer), and finally wind up by asking if, by the way, there might be opportunities for them to work at FirstTuesday as the CFO. You need your wits about you for these chats. Every discussion seems to be prefaced by the phrase, 'this is extremely confidential ...'.
The CTO of a major US e-commerce company - lets call him Bob - was recently in town. Pre-touchdown, e-mails hummed over full of Bob's desire to leave his Grade A job in Silicon Valley to do 'something in Europe'. His CV was on the street for roughly 48 hours before he was snapped up in a maelstrom of introductions, meetings and offers. That's how much in demand people of his calibre are. When I introduced Martin Turner, former MD of Compuserve UK, to Ernesto Schmitt, CEO of peoplesound.com, it must have added a million at least to peoplesound.com's valuation.
Of course, there will be hiccups along the way. On a day that e-commerce shares dropped 25% and QXL took a big hit, I went on to Channel 4 News to do my bit. My attitude to this is simple - either you suspend disbelief and remember that we've shifted into a whole new economy or you don't. The only thing to do is be optimistic and build your company as quickly as possible, and remember: growth is more important than profitability; instinct counts more than research; and speed matters more than stability. You go for it or you get left behind. [QQ]
Outside our world, the widely held assumption is that all e-ntrepreneurs are just dripping with cash. People forget that for the most part, and for the time being, it's just paper money. The number of times I have to cadge a tenner from my assistant, Rebecca, either because I've maxed out on my credit card or I haven't put pounds 25,000 worth of travel expenses into FirstTuesday, would surprise people. Anyone out there lend me pounds 20 until pay day?