Alsop: The big Y2K scare is a hoax

Planes will not plummet from the sky at midnight, and other nuggets from the Big Thinkers profile of Stewart Alsop.

Stewart Alsop gave up being a high-powered high-tech journalist (InfoWorld editor-in-chief, Demo and Agenda founder) for life as a venture capitalist. He's the latest industry figure featured on ZDTV's Big Thinkers. What follows are excerpts from that interview, which aired Wednesday on ZDTV.

Big Thinkers: You like companies that excite you. What sort of companies make your hands shake?

Alsop: I'm sort of a typical venture capitalist in hot pursuit of electronic commerce companies that have the potential to be worth billions of dollars within a mere matter of days or maybe months if you're unlucky.

BT: ...You must see some trends.

Alsop: There's a process going on right now you might call the business model of the month club. If you go and look at the companies that have been successful in electronic commerce, each one ... proposed a different way of doing business. I think the most "au courant" business model is group buying, where you try to accumulate a large number of people who want one particular product and then go out and negotiate a really good price on that product and sell it to all of them all at once.

BT: You've been in the media business a long time. The conventional wisdom is that new media -- I'm talking about the Internet -- is going to replace old media ... that doesn't seem to be happening.

Alsop: Every new medium that comes along promises to replace the medium before it, but what really happens is they accumulate over time. The new media that we have now, you have to look at the characteristics of it that make it different. The new media is really interactivity. The ability to respond to what's going on on the screen and the community of people that exists that are tied together by this big network.

BT: Do you and your partners discuss the IPO market drying up and what the implications would be for you?

Alsop: (laughs) Yes, on a day-to-day basis ... you know, clench your fingers and hope that your company comes out and gets valued like those other companies. But the big perspective is: The Internet is a big deal, the World Wide Web is a big deal, electronic commerce is a big deal. I believe this very strongly now, not just because I have this stake in it, but electronic commerce ... is a change in our entire economy.

BT: Y2K: Hoax or Hype?

Alsop: Oh, hoax, very definitely. There's this sort of fearful scenario that on December 31st you're going to get on an eight-hour flight, and right at midnight or a minute after midnight your flight's just going to tip over and go tunnel right into the ground because all the computer systems out there are going to stop working, and it's just bull. It's not going to happen.

For the full Big Thinkers show with Stewart Alsop, click here.


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