If I see another list of internet millionaires, I think I will
How many of these damn reports can one be exposed to before serious
feelings of inadequacy and penury set in? In the world of the
e-entrepreneur, making a million is barely enough to register on the
radar. Then there’s that dawning recognition that, since many of these
creatures are several years younger than me, not only am I getting old
but perhaps I’ve also missed my main chance.
Now The Guardian’s at it with a three-part series this week on the 50
net pioneers who have transformed the face of British business. Between
them, this bunch of e-magnates have amassed a tidy pounds 1.3 billion,
and that’s in little more than four years.
Reading these lists is a bit like picking a scab: it’s probably going to
hurt but you can’t help wanting to see what’s underneath.
And it’s all the more painful if you work in media, because there’s a
fair chance you will have come across some of these people and remember
politely, but blankly, nodding when they enthused about their
sports/travel site. Now it seems they’re made for life.
One erstwhile drinking partner of mine who used to bore me silly with
updates on his internet thingy now has pounds 10 million under his belt,
though admittedly many of these e-fortunes are nominal until the
founders sell out.
I have, however, found several antidotes to the envious drooling
inspired by lists like The Guardian’s. For a bit of real world logic,
I’d recommend taking a look at Freeserve’s maiden results.
In the 16 weeks to 21 August, the internet service provider saw its
operating losses grow by 600 per cent to pounds 5.23 million and its
share price has wobbled. OK, the company also saw revenues up by 100 per
cent to pounds 3.38 million, but sure-fire internet profits are not
quite as guaranteed as all those lists of internet millionaires might
As more of us are realising that there is money to be made on the net,
competition is beginning to run amok. The internet auction service, QXL,
has seen its value slashed in half in a matter of months because of
increased competition. The internet is, simply, still a risk.
Success, despite the hype, is not guaranteed and there will,
undoubtedly, be expensive and embarrassing failures. The press’s
obsession with the youthful contingent of the web millionaire’s club
(the ’I designed this in my bedroom when I should have been doing my
homework’ brigade) is also misleading. Most of the country’s internet
tycoons have already made their fortunes from rather more conventional
New-media players launching on the web with ready-made brand franchises,
long-term experience of their target consumers and an existing business
base outside the net may hardly be the stuff of racy make-a-million
newspaper reports, but they represent less of a lottery.
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