The Dot Com bubble burst…finally. No big surprises there, but it was disappointing to see how little planning had gone into contingency.
Most of us knew that too many dollars chasing too few investments would somehow translate to over-investment and poor investments and the market dip was inevitable. It was painful seeing how the industry founded on dynamic change, was so slow to comprehend and react. The stock market has been on an incredible upward spiral since the late 80’s and most investments seemed incredibly over-valued compared to traditional industries. Maybe now is finally a break for some wise long-term investments.
As with every boom throughout industrial history, there has been collapse and consolidation once the market became over saturated. Like railroads in the 1800’s, oil in the 1870’s, radio in the 1920’s, or airlines in the 70’s; every industrial innovation from automobiles to media has seen similar patterns. Taking a walk through an auto museum will show how many companies existed in the 50’s while only a few global brands and specialized vehicles exist today. Like all of those industries, the innovation did not go away, but the strong and enduring players eliminated or absorbed the fragments and a few developed niche specialization.
I have mixed feelings about the effects of this on quality and selection for the consumer. One view is that it means broad selection becomes generalized and choices narrow, but it also means there’s opportunity for standardization. Remember laser disc vs. beta vs. VHS? There are both good and bad examples of this and for many of us, Microsoft comes to mind, but I also think about mobile standards in Europe vs. those in the US. Coming from a legacy of state run telecoms, Europe has consistent GSM throughout rather than the over complicated and over competitive standards issues in the states.
The industry has taken a blow from over-speculation and over-expansion, but technology will not recede. The Internet, email, and computers are not going away. I still remember going around with my first business plans and having people tell me that only students use email and others telling me that the Internet was just hype. Hyped, sure, but definitely not solely hype. I see some of those same people now making decisions that rely and invest on that “hype.” Working in the start-up and tech industry has been a great experience. I’m truly grateful for the people I’ve met, lessons learned, and not least, an opportunity to live in Europe for an extended period. While it’s been a lot of hard work, it’s also been a lot of fun and looking back, it’s been better than any study abroad program could have offered- real life and business experience with a nice vacation at the end. I’ve always felt that I learn more from the things that don’t work out as the things that do. It’s easy to take the things that go well for granted and not truly realize how or why it did so, often because of factors not related to my effort. When something doesn’t go right it’s apparent, and that’s always motivation to learn.