Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley

Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Web Alley - TURN TO CHAPTER 11

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


Cutbacks. Crashes. Consolidation. Cashflow crises. Cash burn rates. Ah, the buzzwords of the new economy. The shakeout from the stock market rout earlier this year is intensifying at a pace like that of the frenzy that spawned 100 new businesses a day. Now another sector can be added to the early winners - advertising agencies, old media and stockbrokers - in land; that of insolvency agencies. Their trade is roaring as firms crash at an alarming rate. Irrational enthusiasm for ventures among money men has been replaced by irrational despondency; from hubris to panic in a few short weeks. It's true that companies have gone under and more will follow, but not everything that has behind it is a turkey. The lessons to be learned by those that survive are to manage expectations, both internally and, crucially, with outside investors (if I hear someone say 'These forecasts are, of course, conservative' again I shall scream), and to combine old-economy skills - prudence, cost control and selling - with new-economy innovation and speed. Despite this, new online ventures still receive funding and new web sites emerge, of which my personal favourite has to be It's a crap job, but someone has to do it.


In the light of the current market, I wonder how both sides in the great AOL-Time Warner merger/takeover feel now. Might they have assessed each other's worth differently if they were doing the valuations today? There are undoubtedly huge business benefits (putting Time Warner's content into AOL's internet service, AOL accessing Time Warner's cable networks), but most of them favour AOL. Might some Time Warner shareholders now secretly be hoping that EC and US regulatory clearance is not forthcoming?


I am off for my first holiday in 18 months. Holiday? The CEO of a start-up internet business taking a holiday? If I had a pound for every time someone asked me if I was sure it was a good idea to take a break, I'd have enough for a new round of financing. With my new WAP phone, however, I shall be in touch as if I was sitting in my office. Lying on the beach, tapping into, placing bets, trading stocks, buying some new clothes. Well, that's the theory. So far my experience of the much-vaunted new network is disappointing. If only the WAP hype bore some semblance to reality. Consumers will be groaning with frustration, I fear, when their huge phone bills arrive. A rich multimedia experience the WAP phone ain't yet, and won't be for some years to come.

Richard Ellis is chief executive of

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