Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Still cold / ancient history of web 1.0

It continues to be chilly in Hong Kong. If it carries on like this for much longer, somebody will have to turn the air conditioning off.

I struggled to work today. Both in the sense of it being hard to travel to work, and hard to get anything done. First thing in the morning I had a phone call to demolish most of the ideas I'd had about a possible promotion, which put me in a funk for most of the rest of the day, only really being lifted when I found out that today was the ten year anniversary of the dot-com bubble bursting.

Today was also the tenth anniversary of the day the dot-com bubble burst, or so I was told via Twitter. And it was the last day in 2000 that anyone could subscribe to's IPO. 11 days later we went onto the stock market, and then the share price started going down. And down. And down. Whoops.

Not that I should apologise. I didn't have that much to do with the share price being hammered, unless somebody somewhere had decided that my presence alone was responsible for the company's performance, and that that performance would be sub-par. Which it wasn't. I think in 2000 we may the same revenue as a good-sized pub; pretty good for 300 million pounds of investment, eh?

But it was a different time, a period when we all knew we were going to get rich from stock options, rich beyond our wildest dreams. Well, somebody might have done, but when the share price was 1.5 pence below my option price, it wasn't looking like that person would be me. Still, the dream continued; our CEOs were messianic, and we all spent countless days and nights in a bright pink office, selling holidays and stuff people didn't need to them, while my body revolted at working seven days a week and I succumbed to a year of sciatica and hobbling around like a septuagenarian.

But there were free doughnuts, so I could hardly complain.

There's always fallout though. Years later I applied for a job that was at odds with my beliefs; or rather, contradicting my badly argued MA thesis. But before I could raise these philosophical qualms with my future chairwoman, she was busy chastising me for working for a company that had hoovered up all the spare money from the stock market, and frightened every investor away from the internet for three years.

I'm not sure that you could blame the collapse of the bubble on one overhyped online travel company, but even if we somehow could have orchestrated it (and a bunch of ex-consultants and first-job graduates were unlikely to have the Macchiavellian prowess to do so) it should have been admired as a nifty trick, a cunning raising of the drawbridge before any rivals could gallop through and raise capital of their own.

That argument didn't get me that job. Probably quite lucky really.

Two years after the IPO, and almost three years after I'd stopped having fun, I phoned up an escapee from

"How's it going?" I asked, as I heard somebody mucking around with a Land Rover in the background. "How's that crazy guy that does your stats that you were telling me about?"
"He hung himself." There was a moment's pause. "Do you want a job?"

And that was the beginning of the end for London. Kent, and all it held, was the future. As futures go, a bunch of retirees by the seaside wasn't what I would have expected.


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