Monday, October 16, 2006

Hype 2.0 in the UK

There's more blowing and poking of the emerging Bubble 2.0 in the Guardian today, with a YouTube-referencing feature on "British web entrepreneurs [who] are trying to catch the wave, while avoiding another dotcom disaster".

It's a fair general-interest article, though focusing on the "potential for deals worth millions, or billions, of pounds" rather than creating much of actual economic value. A lot of these 'Web 2.0' businesses are just enabling forums for fickle consumers, who could abandon them in an instant if they're subjected to conspicuous efforts to monetise them (a large part of the reason why YouTube proved more successful than Google's own video-sharing offering).

The 2.0 market is also throwing up a familiar complaint about the behaviour of VCs -
Sam Sethi, editor of technology news website Techcrunch UK, says the atmosphere has changed markedly. "We have seen in the last 12 months the big venture capitalists coming over to the UK to invest." Mr Sethi, a veteran of the first dotcom bubble, believes investors could endanger potential success stories by pushing for too much profit. "The trouble is that it's a bit like Dragon's Den. The minute there's a half-decent idea the venture capitalists want 100% of the company for very little money."

Compare with the sentiments in this Venturedome piece I wrote in the dying days of the dotcom bubble six years ago -
The most enthusiastic reception was reserved for Atari founder and serial entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell, who declared that a deal with a VC was a deal with the devil - and a particularly dumb devil at that.
Many of the entrepreneurial attendees shared Bushnell's lack of faith in venture capitalists - although some were also complaining that there weren't as many VCs available for pitching to as they expected.

The Guardian piece again notes how This Time It's Different -
The crazy days when heavy spending was not allied to profits are gone. "We're not at the level of 1999 or 2000, there's a lot more rationality," says Paul Lee, director of research in Deloitte's technology, media and telecoms team. "But there is quite a bit of money around at the moment. At times like this you get bigger winners but also more losers."

For an entrepreneur's introduction to tech VC, see the recent article I wrote for Real Business earlier this year.

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