Seeing who can go the distance

Copy any word out of Webster's, add ".com," and you might well have just named an actual company.

With a computer, some software, and a decent Internet connection, we could all be in business in a few hours.

But how long would we last?

Dotcoms are to business what garage bands are to rock-'n'-roll. Not many of us will wind up playing to stadium crowds.

Who will hit the big time?

That question vexes investors. Many of them, stung by last month's stock sell-off, have become mighty cautious about technology firms, which make things that whir and buzz, and their sometimes shadowy cousins, dotcoms, which only "make it" if they create enough stir and buzz.

Handshake.com, featured in today's lead story, hits the one-year mark this month.

Six months ago, when its founders graciously let us in for a close look, the outfit was in early start-up mode.

Today it has: (1) nicer offices; (2) more "grown-ups" with traditional business experience on staff; and (3) still no profits.

In these respects - including not having taped up that first dollar bill behind the counter - Handshake may not be all that different from other maturing dotcoms. Will it be around when we come knocking in six months?

It may have to endure a serious shakeout. A study by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research says "most" dotcom retailers will be out of business by 2001. Will providers of services follow?

The survivors will be those who focus less on growth and branding and more on "hard assets," says the report. Those who nail down a niche and then master "scale, service, and speed."

*Reach us at work@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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