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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Those good old memories... read this if you want to understand the old 2000 dot com thinking.

This is cute. So i am looking back at an article i wrote. And in that article i was looking back another 5 years. The major difference between now and then is that today, the startups are having to make a lot more sense before we can raise money. In addition, the business models are a lot more developed and targeted and definitely there is a lot more talent available in the market compared to 2000. Interestingly, the idea of doing side software or service projects to make ends meet still applies esp for more bootstrapped outfits.

And even better, some names still exist! Catcha is now back in the game as the originator of iProperty, dealmates, icarasia... Kudos to Patrick and team from Malaysia. Job portals still strong as ever and i believe we are still the most profitable of internet plays. Hardwarezone and Shareinvestor both sold to SPH already. I will analyze those sales in another posting. ================================================================================================ (Article first published in sgentrepreneurs back in 2006)

Sharing my own experience on the topic written before as it got me thinking a fair bit more. JobsFactory was started as a job portal back in 1999. During that time, there were lots of start ups in Singapore which were in dot com. It was our own dot com boom. Companies like Interauct, Commontown, Wizoffice, eJazz, Nececity, Myscissors, asiastockwatch, catcha, zingasia, earth9, surfgold etc etc all raised lots of money and were advertising like crazy in mass media just to get “eyeballs”. The idea was that we got lots of traffic first and IPO. We can figure out the revenue side later. It was really a fun period as there was a strong buzz and young fellas under 30 were sitting in board rooms making contra deals that inflated each others revenues while adding no actual cash flow. Its damn funny now looking back.

We attended quite a few parties and opening ceremonies and they spent so much money on the marketing and image and yet spent so little resource thinking about sales and business model. A typical consequence of cheap money. My list above is for pure dot coms, i am not including players who closed like MPHonline, asiaone.com etc. These have parentage and roots in profitable businesses. Fast forward to 2001 in the aftermath of the dot com crash. Funding all dried up and very quickly those without a revenue stream crashed and closed down. The survivors tended to be those who :

1) Moved into corporate market by tweaking their C2C or B2C software into a purely software vendor for large firms in specialized fields. Example :

a) Surfgold – from online currency type consumer model to loyalty and CRM software vendor for large MNCs. Doing very well now if I may add.
b) Earth9 – from some community C2C site to a CRM software provider for Starhub and others. Doing quite okay too. This company cute, their CEO used to be called DNA.
c) Commontown – Still around. They were some C2C community too and now are software providers for web sites which revolve around community. But i think this one not doing that well.
 d) Of course, you got the suppliers of software like Adroit Innovations, managed to list but also died as nobody wanted to build expensive web sites after 2000. Can’t think of others. That is how few survivors there were.

The other category that survived and doing quite well are those that were in B2C or C2C and went deep into media area within their area of expertise. This group all making $2M – $10M range.
1) Hardwarezone – From just a site, to magazines and events and regional.

2) Catcha – From a yahoo wannabe, gave up online, moved to Malaysia too and now a decent sized publisher of magazines. Juice, Stuff, etc.
3) Shareinvestor – from community of investors to community + investor relations software provider + magazine publisher (new one).
 4) Jobsdb, Jobstreet, JobsFactory – Job portal is a proven business model. So still job portal but branched into running events, magazines etc. So if I do some projection.

Fast forward to 2008, I believe the 2 models will still be there. One as specialist software vendors, the other as media companies who are rooted in online mediums but who also cross synergize with events and print and maybe even TV production (I know catcha is doing this). In a sense group 2 are doing web 2.0, cuz they will be forced to be ever more interactive in their chosen channels.

For my side, job portals which increasing allow users to feedback and interact among themselves about companies and jobs? Or to allow them to search for referrals (ala social networking sites) ? These are all possibilities. One thing for sure, all the surviving companies listed above are profitable already. Sharing my experience. Make your own conclusions

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