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Saturday, March 08, 2003

Planes, Brains, and Gibberish

Roll over, T.S. Kuhn.

Don Tapscott's a smart guy who has been writing interesting things about digital music lately. But I just about choked on a peanut a few weeks ago when I read a short piece by him in EnRoute, the Air Canada in-flight magazine. Tapscott parenthetically apologized for having "helped popularize the use of paradigm as a buzzword."

But I suppose it may be too much to ask that our pundits be humble.

Posted by Andrew
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Sunday, March 02, 2003

Don't Look Now, But Web Firms are Making $$$

CNN.com published an inspiring story about a "pure-play" Internet company that is actually thriving: Salesforce.com, which makes a sales force automation web application. It's one of a growing number of tales about successful businesses that survived the dot-com shakeout and appear to be on firm footing for years to come:

"The San Francisco-based company is on its way to generating $100 million in sales this year, making it a hot candidate to go public.

From the get-go, Salesforce.com persuaded its audience to pay for its customer management services, enabling the privately held company to ring up $52 million in revenue last year."


Everywhere I look now, I'm starting to see the same thing. Net companies are figuring out ways to make money and are finally starting to realize the advantages of being a virtual company. Of course, that doesn't mean everyone will win in the end, but those agile businesses that truly find the best way to exploit the unique capabilities of the Internet will indeed be on top of the world when the time comes that almost all business is conducted over the Internet.

That time is coming, this much is clear. It's just a matter of when. And for true believers like me, it feels wonderfully vindicating.

Posted by Cory
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Brrrrr....

Today, I saw the president of this Ajax, Ontario- based SEO firm on ROBtv making an "elevator pitch" to some VC's asking for $500,000 to buy pencil sharpeners and hire more people. This is sort of a torture show where the host and the VC's sound unimpressed (with reason) and lob inconvenient questions at the would-be recipients of funding. Neat that the Canadian media are just getting all fired up about the venture capital phenomenon now... the week after Red Herring shuts down. It was like living in a time warp! And most uncomfortable to watch.

Nearly as unsettling was the prez of GotMarketing.com - an email marketing firm - making a similar pitch, though for a significantly larger sum of money. Problem is, when you go looking for firms that already went down this path (I happened to go looking for Sandy Bay Networks today - they received $6.5 million in venture funding in 2000, but like MessageMedia, FloNetworks, et al., they just didn't have the scale, product quality, or profit margins to justify such fast growth, and are no longer in business), you find a lot of broken dreams and burned VC's. Is GotMarketing different? I highly doubt it. All the arguments against making a business out of sending other people's email were waged long ago against MessageMedia (a firm that Steve Harmon touted as the "next AT&T") when it was publicly traded. You could look it up.

I really don't know much about venture capital (in spite of reading, like everyone else, way too much about it during the boom). But to me, the "pitch" aspect of this process seems too focused on the story. But surely the best kind of story shouldn't be a story at all - it should be about a history of revenue growth and key accomplishments that would naturally lend themselves to further (but quicker) growth. VC's, it seems, don't want to be like banks - they don't want to fund safe businesses that have already turned a small profit, preferring to ask about burn rates and time to profitability. It makes you wonder, what kind of a world would we live in if VC's were a little more like bankers, and bankers took a few more risks?

Posted by Andrew
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