by January 2, 2000 0 comments

There are dot com companies, and there are dot com companies, and there are dot companies. But how many of them will succeed? How many will make it big? How many will sell out for big bucks? And how many will close shop unsung and unheard-of ? How many will survive if and when shakeout time comes?
In short, if there’s a formula for success in the uncharted waters of Internet commerce, what is it?
If you look around at the names that have made it big: Yahoo, Hotmail, Amazon, eBay, etrade…you’ll soon notice an emerging pattern.

Each of them was first off the mark with a new idea, or a new modification of an existing idea. And each one of them leveraged technology to get there quickly.

Look at Hotmail. E-mail has been around for ages. And so have Web pages. The big idea was to combine the two and make it available for free. Soon, Hotmail became the hot destination on the Net. And when it looked as if portals were going to be the next big wave on the Internet, Microsoft bought out Hotmail for a cool $400 million and added it as a service to its portal, MSN.

Many have trod the same route since, creating free, Web-based mail services. But none of them acquired the visibility or the big bucks that Hotmail did.

Look at Yahoo. As Web pages began to proliferate, the unique idea was to index them into categories. In the beginning, the indexing was done by humans, and Yahoo even claimed that as a USP. There have been many search engines since then–faster search engines, more intelligent search engines–but none of them have had quite the success that Yahoo enjoys, particularly at the stock exchange.

Or look at Amazon.com. The idea of selling books is nothing new. There must be a billion book stores that already do it, and at least some of them must be doing it better than Amazon. The unique idea was to take book-selling to the Web and to build extensive cross-linkages with other Websites. Amazon was perhaps the first business to identify itself completely as an exclusively Internet business. Another unique idea? It also ran an aggressive publicity and PR campaign, and came up with umpteen discount offers to attract customers away from brick-and-mortar stores and competing Internet setups.

eBay took auctions to the Net. It provided a forum where any Tom, Dick and Jaani Janardhan could put stuff for sale. The Website has suffered numerous outages and other problems, but none of the other auction sites, including the ones by regular auction houses and even by Internet majors like Yahoo, have had quite the mind or market share as
eBay.

If eBay took auctions to the Net, eTrade took the stock market online. eTrade was where you went if you wanted to dabble in stocks on a small budget, and without having to pay brokers’ commission. With the American stock markets enjoying a healthy run, eTrade and similar sites have had a good showing. It needs to be seen though, how they’ll perform when the markets take a downturn.

An e-com site could list hundreds of products, some of which could be similar to each other. The same product could be listed at different sites with different prices. So how do you find out the best deal? That’s the idea behind Junglee–software to nose out the best deal. And the idea came good when Junglee was bought out by Amazon.

I can go on with more examples, but I guess the point is well borne out. All of you netrepreneurs out there, dreaming of making it big in the Internet world, do you have that unique idea? Or can you twist an existing idea just that little bit to make it the next best hit? And can you get moving with it really, really fast?

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