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Budding entrepreneurs are increasingly keen to start up online businesses, suggesting that the dotcom downturn is over, new research has found. A survey of MBA students by Palo Alto Software found that 74 per cent were planning to set up a business after graduation, with six in ten of those wanting to start up on the Internet.

According to the research, young entrepreneurs appear to have learnt the lessons of the dotcom boom and bust, with three quarters claiming that their top priority would be "planning ahead for opportunities and challenges rather than following mad hype".

Palo Alto said that this optimism was well-founded, pointing out that online businesses are enjoying a period of profitability after the downturn of the late 1990s. Many small businesses have found it worthwhile to go online rather than have "bricks and mortar" stores, citing lower overheads and a decreased risk of crime. Ecommerce spending has rocketed in recent years, with growth in online shopping outstripping traditional high street purchases for the past two Christmases.

Tim Berry, chief executive of Palo Alto, said that the new breed of entrepreneurs are intelligent and cautious: "There is no question that setting up an internet arm to any business is appealing and a good business model - with it you gain an international shop window and global reach. However, as young entrepreneurs dip their toes back in the water, I hope they remember the lessons they claim to have learned from the dotcom boom and plan, plan, plan to make their businesses a success."

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