This year marks my 20th year in this industry, I can honestly say, I’ve been in this business longer than most. The 20 year realization came to me this morning while answering comments of some of my readers and it made me start reminiscing about the last 20 years, my most frustrating and most successful years.
The year was 1989 when I first considered selling ‘Internet services’ in the form of electronic mail boxes, but ended up just being part of a small group of business people using this ‘new’ technology – by dialing up and exchanging electronic mail. The advent of the World Wide Web utilizing hypertext documents, introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in the same year really sparked my imagination.
It would be a few years before the World-Wide-Web had developed to a point where my vision of having business solutions on the web became a possibility. But for me the Internet was always about small and micro business, following the big corporates into the global market economy and for the developing nations to participate in global commerce.
With this goal in mind I founded WinWeb.com in 1994 and we went live early 1995 with our first website, we had a news portal, job portal, online shopping world and much more. In the following years I would learn that having good ideas, that later on made many companies into global brands, is no good if you are too early and don’t have the funding to last until the technology is accepted by the mainstream.
In 1995 I got ‘distracted’, and worked with a great bunch of people to run Nacamar Group Plc., and we build one of the biggest and fastest growing ISP in Europe, which we sold in 1999 at the hight of the Dot-Com boom to become the international part of what remains of Tiscali today. Following the sale of Nacamar, I learned if you don’t have passion and drive, no amount of money in the world can make you a success. While the sale of Nacamar made me, and many others rich people, the development of Tiscali/World Online remains a big disappointment for me to this day.
BUT, I now had the financial resources to make WinWeb into what I always intended – a platform to help small business start-ups to run and focus on their business. And while I was still way to early with my online business services I now had the financial means to last the course and what a learning curve it has been.
So here we are today, the online software, web application, software as a service, web 2.0, cloud computing and many other names that have come and gone in the past decade, this market is finally maturing. WinWeb has been a source of enormous achievement for me and my team, we help small business owners everyday to stay in business and focus on their business objectives. I am proud of my team, spread over three continents, helping me to achieve my 20 year old vision everyday. As in any venture you can’t do it alone, I’m thankful and grateful to my whole team.
As always, some frustrations remain:
- 70% of small businesses do not have a web-site and losing out every day because of it;
- governments the world over still do not understand how to use online technology to help small business and business start-ups;
- SPAM and other online anti-social behavior is degrading all our online experience;
- many software vendors just try and port old software models onto the new Internet medium, these models are ultimately destined to fail;
- the battle between paid-for and free is raging, and I’m afraid it will lead to a new divide inside the information society;
- governments and telcos alike fail to provide internet back-bone services of enough capacity to help small business to compete no matter where they are;
- computer viruses and malware are a menace and I hope for better OSs and net-appliances in the future to deal with these issues before it gets to customers,
- many still do not understand that ‘working from home’ is now a real possibility, good for local communities, good for the environment, good for our family, especially the kids, good for the whole planet because it is eco-friendly.
These and more challenges remain, but we have come a long way already and I’m reminded of that often when I watch my son or his generation interacting the way they do, with global social networks, getting information, keeping in touch and many doing business online. In conclusion, I believe the last 20 years have been good years for the Internet society, let’s work on the next 20 years and tackle some of the challenges on my wish-list and those of others.
So, what next? I can’t wait to find out, can you?