Last week the PROSH students were out and about in their fancy dress, collecting money for charity ($150,000 all told) and distributing their newspapers at almost every intersection into and out of the city.
Every year this gives me flash backs to the time I first noticed PROSH, Easter 2000, and the accompanying tech wreck that had happened the day before. I was on a bus going to my dotcom company, and the dotcom bubble had well and truly burst that week. I had shareholders on my tail, a rapidly declining company bank balance, and I wondered if the business would survive the next few months.
As I reached for a regular newspaper that day, I read all about the doom and gloom of the global stock markets. Most commentators seemed to be revelling in the destruction all around them. “No more stupid ibusiness this and ebusiness that,” they crowed, “we’ve seen the last of these ridiculous companies with silly names and even sillier business models. Let’s get back to reality, and real business.” In the weekend papers that week, some real estate agent poured scorn on dotcoms, advertising properties that rise in value, unlike shares.
Well, we made it through that time, as did many others. Still others were to form a few years later and sweep all before them. No doubt many of the late 90s’ dotcoms had no realistic business model and were doomed at the start (just like most businesses in fact). But the shift to the internet economy was only just getting going, and 15 years on, we still have ebusinesses and ibusinesses with silly names (Apple, iTunes, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Uber…), and many have multi-billion valuations. Most of these businesses had not been born in 2000, or even 2005. Today, most have piles and piles of cash and are amassing fortunes the size of a mid-sized country’s GDP.
As I read those papers back in Easter 2000, I was infuriated by the hubris and arrogance of the traditional media. In many ways, I still am. Ever year, I watch the PROSH students in their crazy costumes, and I smile to myself (not just due to their silliness). Great change happens slowly, so slowly that you can ignore it for years, putting your head in the sand and carrying on as before. The true visionaries jump on the trend and build the future. The sad Luddites throw spanners in the works and decry and rail against progress.
In which camp are you?