Life on the dotcom gold run

Only a short while ago, dotcoms were the place to be for IT professionals. The perception was of a dynamic, creative environment...

Only a short while ago, dotcoms were the place to be for IT professionals. The perception was of a dynamic, creative environment where you could get rich quick, while having a laugh. However, we all knew it sounded too good to be true and now that the bubble has burst, the attraction has worn off for many. A fair number still have their hopes pinned on the new industry though and are busy setting up enterprises. We spoke to four readers who have already joined the e-commerce bandwagon to find out what it's really like and what the pitfalls are

Paul Kostic, 26, director of new media and co-founder of Psi-Weavers, a company that provides e-solutions to businesses

Two years ago, I left university as a nobody. I went to work for Royal Mail as a junior programmer and then as a programmer for an engineering firm. I was also the manager of a band and was torn between working in computers or going into the music industry.

I wanted to do something different, so I rang up an Internet consultant who I worked with at the Post Office and we came up with the idea of starting a Web site. Later we came up with Psi-Weavers and three of us set it up. We started in January 2000 and officially started trading in March. We had a projection of £250,000 turnover in the first year, but have already exceeded that in the first six months.

We have worked on many different projects for small Internet start-ups, consulting on large projects, and we have just written an Internet fax system for a large dotcom in the City. I have worked hard to get where I am and there is a sense of personal achievement.

Kostic's top tips

  • Be honest with your customer and always keep them informed

  • Don't try to rip people off with inflated prices

  • Be informed of what you can provideAdam Reynolds, 30, co-founder of Internet consultancy company Craze

    Adam Reynolds, 30, co-founder of Internet consultancy company Craze

    My brother-in-law and I set up Craze in 1995. I was interested in Web site design and e-commerce and wanted to have my own business. I hoped that setting up a business would eventually enable me to stop contracting and become successful as an e-tailer.

    It doesn't really work like that though - e-commerce has been overrated and it doesn't make a lot of money, even for something like Amazon. There are high execution costs and you can't get instant results. If you have a traditional shop that is complemented by the Web shop, then it can be profitable.

    I don't think we have achieved the goals that we wanted to, but we haven't made a loss. One of our projects is the site www.extremesports.co.uk. I felt I needed to skill-build into doing dynamic Web sites when I started doing this and chose to get into Allaire Coldfusion last year. It is also important to understand Web marketing techniques. We do a lot of cross linking with other sites as the more links you have on other people's sites, the more hits you get.

    Reynolds' top tips

  • Be a realist. It is all about long-term growth

  • Know the availability of your product

  • Understand the environment into which you are selling

    Anthony Babasola Kuti, 29, director of IT infrastructure at Web design company Arocom IT

    I set up Arocom IT in 1997 with my sister, sister-in-law and a family friend. In November 1998, we set up www.afriproducts.com, an import and export site between Africa and the rest of the world.

    It is generating a lot of interest, but we are still funding the site from the proceeds of Arocom IT.

    However, we are in talks about partnerships and are doing a lot of networking now. I thought I could just sit at home, look after the Web site and check my bank balance regularly but I'm working 12-hour days.

    Sometimes you are ready to give up, but it has been a good experience and I still enjoy it. I was also very surprised because it has to be approached in the same way as a traditional bricks-and-mortar business. You need specialists for different areas.

    We started off doing the media relations, but now we have marketing and sales experts. Also, you can barter with companies.

    For example, you go to a company and say will you do my media relations and they might say yes, but can you do our Web design in return.

    Kuti's top tips

  • Get a lot of cash behind you

  • Get a good network of people

  • Persevere and be patient - don't think it will be an easy ride

    Nigel Billingham, 33, co-founder of Loads2go.com

    I was the e-business manager for a vehicle leasing company, but I wanted to manage my own business. So, with my business partner, I set up Loads2go.com to provide the logistics industry with an Internet marketplace where shippers and carriers can trade online.

    We have gained praise from one of the leading industry consultants, but we haven't achieved our original goals. But, as in all businesses, these goals have changed as we have learnt more about the market in which we are trying to operate.

    Probably our biggest mistake was that we didn't start looking for investment until way too late and other companies were starting similar initiatives. When we started, it was down to having awareness of commercial opportunities and system development skills. Later, we needed far more business acumen - building a comprehensive business plan. The key skills we have really been missing are marketing and financial expertise.

    Billingham's top tips

  • Convince a senior figure in the industry of your idea and find the right person to talk to

  • Build partnerships with people or companies who can offer you the services you need

  • Go out and test the market - find out what your potential customers think

  • Read more on IT jobs and recruitment

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