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Dotcom CEOs are vapid, empty, shallow – and that's the good ones

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The future of many dot coms is "hollow.com", according to George Colony, the chairman of Forrester Research. They are about to be exposed for what they are, says Colony: vapid, shallow and hollow. Forrester has interviewed 2,500 CEOs - 20 per cent of whom were running dotcoms - and the conclusion was that many dotcom CEOs are of "low quality": they lack depth, experience and common business sense, Colony says. Short-termism seems to be the order of the day, as they move from start-up to start-up in search of stock options. "Value" - what the customer gets - is always subservient to the "fanatical focus on valuation". Forrester sees four dynamics driving the mentality. History demonstrates that first-movers have done well, stealing the air from competitors, so it's a "go fast or die" world. Then there's the deadly sin of jealousy: the undeserving are getting rich. Third is the silliness of capital markets,where there's willingness to invest in "quarter-baked companies", and accompanying short-term thinking by venture capitalists. Last is greed, with the attitude that it's better to get rich quickly with less work. The resulting hollow companies do not have the resilience to withstand competition, Colony says, but those that are built from traditional ingredients like blood, sweat and tears will be OK, while the hollow.coms get trashed. Humble pie will be the tucker for former dot com managers, while strong companies will get stronger (Colony includes Jay Walker, Jeff Bezos and Meg Whitman amongst the management winners). There's also some hope for traditional companies: they could replace hollow.coms that don't have the sticking power. It looks like the next good business is going to be mergers and acquisitions. ®

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