The Freeserve stock market
flotation caused a frenzy as once-prosaic and sane City of
London business people performed the financial equivalent of
throwing off all their clothes and dancing in the fountains.
However, this was only some two years after our former
colonials of North America had started going barmy doing that
sort of thing.
Moreover, since they started, the
Americans have been repeating the exercise about 5 times a
business day for two years. It is because the whole of US
business and industry is seeking to reinvent itself, since
their financial community realised much sooner than ours that
the incumbent businesses pursuing traditional management and
development processes were carrying too much baggage to make
the necessary leaps of faith and other unconventional moves
required to catch the opportunities.
Worse still, the Gordon Geko-like
financiers realised that many (nearly all, if the awful truth
be told) traditional businesses were carrying huge overheads
that had been completely obviated by the internet. Staff and
premises were about to become the horse and cart of the cyber
age; and US financiers are not famed for sentimentality where
their bank balances are concerned. Businesses in staple
commodities like food and drink that cannot (yet) be delivered
via a modem have been marking time on the sidelines while the
retailers and service providers like banks and stock brokers
have been having the proverbial kicked out of them by the new
In the space of a few months,
companies like Amazon that cannot make a profit were worth
several times the market value of extremely well established,
but predictable and baggage-laden, businesses like Barnes and
The UK has been, typically, rather
more cautious. UK management teams are based on a generation
that simply has not (until very recently) seen the need to
understand IT at the level that the US management teams have
been absorbing for the past ten years. The UK educational
process is largely to blame – intensive cramming in narrow
subject areas until the ages of 21-23 – and then, having
done “their bit”, the products of this process
traditionally set the career cruise control and head off
towards their pensions, with as little distraction as
possible. The idea of ongoing education is a recent
phenomenon, as is the idea that jobs are now rarely going to
be for life.
Moreover, the UK is in real and
immediate danger of losing out to other countries. Not simply
because of the inertia of our system, but because the
government smugly believes that it is doing something useful
to create a haven for e-businesses in the UK. Boy are they
WRONG. The recent World Trade Organisation talks revealed just
how far out of touch economies with restricted and costly
practises have become with the real world.
The internet is the great leveller
– it means that we are heading towards a world where the
developed countries can look forward to a standard of living
equivalent to that of the average on the planet –
traditionally described as the lifestyle a small town Chinese
Meantime, UK markets, believing
that they are somehow getting the plot, have displayed a
quaint view of the new e-conomy, where one of the recent UK
signal events concerns some tawdry sporting pastime called
A web site called Football365.com
floated on the stock market. For those of us who can’t see
the point of a yet another game where the UK national team is
ritually humiliated from time to time by Johnny Foreigners of
all ilks, why anyone should give a monkey’s cuss about such
a thing was a big enough mystery in the place, but then, we
are indeed a curious race.
Shares in 365 Corp doubled within
minutes of going on sale at London Stock Exchange. At 259p per
share the company is valued at around £455m, compared with £285m
at the offer price. Little do these folks realise that it is
the work of about 4 weeks and $50k max for a team of smart
Chinese programmers to replicate then accelerate past anything
as simple as an information web site.
I expect that this plea will fall
on deaf ears, but please, let’s get back to basics.
The internet was/is hugely
exciting as it is every guerilla marketing person's dream, as
the epitome of interaction between vendor and buyer; and
although it's been through two phases: the early adopters and
gurus, followed by some incumbent brand consolidation, it will
eventually end up as the great leveller and it will
revolutionise business models, and not simply prop up existing
retail concepts or existing information sources (like those
used at Football 365) with “new channels”.
Ebay and other auction schemes
were a start of that “new” process, but it still has a way
to go. I can see the attraction of hitching web properties to
existing brands (but then again, so can everyone else with the
traditional commercial mindset), but I can also see a more
exciting future creating the new European net brands, since
there are almost none at all. Europe "got the net"
just after the US went from pioneer to first consolidation
phase on brands, and there is much evidence building that
Europe can support it's own net brands, but the challenge
across 20 countries and 5 core languages is considerable.
However the sites are developed,
the English language is almost certain to prevail, and guess
who handles that better than anyone? Correct, that’s us,
So pray for a government that is
not distracted and so far up its own arse trying to appease
every foreign faction that wants a piece of us from Ireland to
French beef to take its eye off this ball, and let dinosaurs
like John Prescott and his brainless transport strategies
distract the nation from the most pressing issue.
We don’t need two jags and his £5 gallon of petrol;
we need £5 a month 2Mbit internet connections. OK..?
Otherwise the UK’s contribution to the internet will be as
great as it is to the world of soccer – a hopeless national
team, a national league where all the star players are
foreign; but an ability to repurpose information from all over
the shop that is mostly going to be popular because of our
national language advantage.