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Mil Dot lessons

Our primary mission in creating the Business Plan Archive is to enable entrepreneurs of the future to learn from the lessons of the past. In the interest of sparking discussion and ideas, here are ten lessons we take from our observations of the dot com shakeout.

Ten Lessons from the Internet Shakeout
The past boom and bust of the Internet sector is one of the biggest business events of the past several decades. In the interest of finding lessons that help us avoid similar debacles in the future, here are ten observations about the dot com shakeout.
1) Nothing changes overnight. The single most fatal miscalculation investors made regarding the Internet was to massively overestimate the speed at which the marketplace would adopt dot com innovations. That assumption of speed dictated the rapid pace and scale of investment by both VCs and public investors - and the resulting over-investment led to the inevitable bubble and bust. We somehow believed it was different this time. It wasn't. It will always simply take time and lots of it for people to integrate innovations into the way they do things.
2) New stuff doesn't replace old stuff. History tells us repeatedly that innovations almost never replace existing products but rather typically worm their way into the mix and inhabit their own niche. Yet, many dot coms and their funders persisted in modeling businesses that assumed a zero-sum game in which, say, online retailing displaces a significant percentage of existing retailing. In retrospect, all we had to do was look at the history of catalog marketing to predict that e-tailing might wriggle its way into some minority of purchases, eventually reaching its natural saturation point. Recognition of historic precedent could have spared some large and costly investments.
3) Too early? Too bad. Timing issues continually pop up in the post-mortem of the dot com shakeout. Many of the web's wrecks came to market with high-cost products well before the infrastructure was ready to receive them. The digital entertainment category is one good example. Companies like,,, Digital Entertainment Networks and Pseudo Networks all may have had good products, but they were much too early for the broadband marketplace.
4) Many startups were fundamentally uncreative and "un-Internet." Many failed Internet startups began with ideas that involved little more than shoveling an existing business model onto a web site - or copying another company that did it. Just as "shovelware" in the...

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