The big argument in some circles these days is whether January 1, 2000 begins the new millennium, century and/or decade, or if it simply begins the last year of the old ones. There’s no argument around here… but it’s not because of the compelling arguments for the latter. It’s because we all believe that to order your life around a date simply because it’s a round number is pretty silly. If we were to make a big deal about a date that began a new “age,” it would have to be January 1st, 1996.
1995 was the year that many of us discovered this thing called the Internet. And for most of us who saw it, we immediately suspected it was going to change everything. That’s why my New Year’s resolution on that first day of 1996 was to begin a company that would take advantage of the opportunities the Internet held.
Our predictions have turned out to be correct.
The Internet has provided a virtual Gold Rush of opportunities. From the very beginning, my growing staff (as well as other Web developers and Internet visionaries around the world) has been shouting that message of opportunity from the rooftops. As evangelists of the Internet, our job has been to point out and help develop those opportunities, and over the years, we have encountered three types.
The first one is the missed opportunity.
These are the first guys who thought of doing online auctions, indexing portals and e-commerce sites, but decided against it, only to watch Ebay, Yahoo and Amazon.com become household names (even in households who don’t even know what the Internet is).
Or the dozens of entrepreneurial start-ups and small businesses who came to us with great ideas back then, but weren’t willing to pay the price to do it right. They settled for doing it “cheap” and have seen their Internet results range from disappointing to disastrous because they opted for a Web development partner with less experience and knowledge.
And how about the folks back in 1995, who passed on cheap shares of stock in a new Internet start-up financier named CMGI. Those shares have since grown at a rate of over 69,750%, a percentage that made a $5,000 investment turn into $3.5 million in four years!!!
These missed opportunities all had one thing in common… the Internet had no track record of success. And that lack of certainty kept cautious people from taking any chances. And while it’s hard to blame them for the caution, some people sure made out!
The second is the realized opportunity.
Not everyone just watched from the sidelines. Usinger’s has seen their Web site evolve over the past four years to experience nearly exponential growth in the amount of e-commerce over the holiday seasons from year-to-year. It took courage to move this old-world company onto the ‘Net back then, but no one there is regretting that move today.
Adkins Collectibles had a visionary view of what the Internet could do with their collectibles business. Unfortunately, their first attempt to capitalize on the Web fell short of their expectations. But instead of just packing it in, they re-evaluated their plan, got it right the second time, and are just coming off an unbelievable season… one that they could very well have missed had they not stuck with their vision.
When I began my compnay four years ago, I had to sell just about everything I owned to get it started. Scary? You bet! But, 4 years and 150 wonderful clients later, do you think I’m having any second thoughts?
These realized opportunities also had one thing in common…a tenacious vision despite a lack of a successful track record by this emerging medium. And that vision kept any of us from quitting.
The third opportunity is the wasted opportunity.
Today, it seems as if every company in the world has a “dot-com.” That’s a misconception. Actually, less than 33% of all American companies have their own Web site (and less than 20% have their own dot-com address. As late as a year ago, over 50% of all businesses surveyed in the Milwaukee area still had absolutely no intention of EVER getting on the Web. While many of these people will eventually wake up one morning and ask “what was I thinking?” a significant percentage will simply never have a Web site, an email address, or even a computer. Not only are they missing the opportunity, but they are willingly and deliberately ignoring its knock.
A lot of people feel that because they missed buying AOL at $16 a share, or Yahoo at $20, it’s too late to get in the market. To this day, I STILL have stock brokers telling me to stay away from Internet stocks. And while there are people who weren’t even in the stock market a few months ago who have doubled and tripled their money by investing in the Internet stocks, many will say the opportunity has passed. These also will, with forethought and intent turn their back on tremendous opportunity.
These wasted opportunities also have one thing in common…a fearfulness in spite of a successful track record by this now established medium. And that, to us, is hard to understand.
The bottom line.
There are tons of great ideas out there looking for realization on the ‘Net. Some of them may even be rattling around in YOUR head. Brick and Mortar companies can still be johnny-come-latelies and make a significant impact on the Internet economy next Christmas. If planned, executed and funded properly, even an e-commerce site that right now is still just an idea could be a CNN story next holiday season.
And we’re not just talking about business to consumer, business to business has just come over the horizon as the next big Internet explosion. Tremendous cost savings realized because of business-to-business applications that use the ‘Net to streamline operations will turn industry positions upside down.
The biggest opening day IPO in the history of the stock market still has yet to happen, and it will be probably be Internet Technology related. Huge Internet-based businesses are yet to be developed. Dark Horse companies will eliminate their competitors through their new and novel ways of using the Internet.
Just because you haven’t been in on the Internet economy since its beginning don’t think that you’re too late. Don’t use the excuse that you’ve already missed any chance you may have. Don’t fall for the line that you never got into the nineties technology, so it’s too late to think about getting into that of the new millennium.
There’s an Internet opportunity out there (actually it’s probably already in you), and it doesn’t even need to be a new idea (execution ALWAYS beats creativity). Don’t fear it, find it! Don’t dismiss it, develop it!
And above all, don’t give up because you’ve missed the dawning of the new millennium. The good news is this. If you believe like we do that the year 2000 is really the last year of this millennium, and that 2001 is actually the first year of the new one, then that even gives you an entire year to stake your claim to an Internet fortune and be poised to make your mark on the new millennium! Go for it!