Thursday, January 11, 2001

WWWAC is Back

While wind and rain and snow and sleet fell, melted, fell again and melted again, New Yorkers braved through the week. On a relatively dry and moderate night, Thursday, January 11th, the WWWAC group held a smashing panel and election for their new board. Sixty or so WWWACies heard author and writer Michael Wolff; Sonata's CEO and Co-Founder Owen Davis and Primedia Venture's Venture Partner Jason Chervokas deliberate on the past and future of the Internet industry's success and failure in New York. The comments revolved around how there are no more "happy accidents" to save us (Chervokas), and that things are going to get worse (Davis). Michael Wolff held his traditional view that the Internet is going to go away, and that media failed on the Internet. Davis went on to say that we will see more companies fail over the next six months than we've seen in the previous six months. However, Davis said the market will turn around by the summer/early fall. Davis echoed Wolff's comments regarding media, and said that we're not yet in the George Gilder age, where we have unlimited bandwidth. But once we do, media will be able to take off better.
On the topic of money, Chervokas said that one of the problems with the environment we came out of was that equity financing was available and that venture capitalists' expectations were so great because there was such risk involved. Wolff added that things will go back to the pre-funded model of business - where companies can get by with a small staff and are cost-conscious. Businesses can explore who and what they are, and grow organically -- as opposed to suddenly mutating after vast cash infusions. Wolff went on to say that "Internet companies" will go away and will migrate to old economy companies. New media will become a tool of existing media and retailers, just as print, TV and collateral are support media.

I disagreed when all three said that Internet veterans (people who've worked in the industry since about 1994) have no marketable skills to offer other businesses. I argued that those people weren't "internetting" - they were selling, creating, programming, servicing, etc. They used skills they already had or that they developed. And they will be able to translate those skills to traditional clients. I also disagreed that people who've only worked in the Internet industry, ie. students who never worked in any other industry or medium, have no skills to bring to traditional industries. Again - the skills that people brought to Internet firms weren't "Internet skills" per se. Sure, there is a whole new skills set that has evolved from the work people have done in this new industry. But it's the same as learning and using the newest office machine, network, communications device available. People were doing their jobs - in an Internet company. They weren't doing Internet in a job.

In any case, typical for WWWAC meetings, questions from the audience ranged from disgruntled, pointed, argumentative and philosophical. Banter ensued between the panelists and audience. Then it was election time.

WWWAC Board candidates that were present spoke about their platforms. Attendees could place their ballot that night or go online for more information or to vote.