There's a new word for the e-commerce dictionary -- "souk", derived from Arabic, now refers to the electronic marketplace. eSouk.com provides a forum for entrepreneurs to create their Internet startups from scratch -- from the idea stage right through to developing a business plan and raising sufficient venture capital. So far it has successfully launched nutravida.com, netimperative.com and 123immo.com.
eSouk aims to give its startups everything they need to be successful; most recently that meant a deal, announced this week, with Web-hosting company Globix. Globix, which delivered the technology to Web-cast Bill Gate's keynote speech at the official launch of Windows 2000, will now provide ready access to the company's Internet connectivity and high performance Web-hosting capabilities.
techTrader spoke to Graham Hodge, eSouk's co-founder and director, about how startups can take advantage of the Internet boom.
With the current Internet stock frenzy over the IPO of lastminute.com, do you think that the Internet bubble will burst?
It is misleading to call it a bubble, as at the moment we are just experimenting with valuation models. An Internet business exists when a business makes more sense on the Internet than offline. lastminute.com, for example, is bubble-proof because it is more convenient to sell leftover inventory online. All of the companies that we build are working to this same model. In the case of Hotmail, no-one could have copied their idea from anywhere, especially not a bricks-and-mortar business.
What is your opinion on the amount of venture capital that is reaching Internet startup companies in the UK at the moment?
Over the next six months, $15bn (£9bn) is going to be made available to Internet startups within the UK, which will open up 30 new funds for entrepreneurs. The Internet is growing in its savviness each day, with investors like Softbank and E-Ventures closing in on the market. There will always be talk of bubbles, but venture capitalists are becoming increasingly clued up on the fact that this isn't the case.
Why did you choose to target entrepreneurs within the Internet industry?
The Internet industry was the sector that we knew -- all of the founders of eSouk had worked for an Internet company at least since 1995, and I personally love the diversity that e-commerce can offer. After working at Forrester Research, I realised that anything is possible on the Internet. Through writing about e-commerce business models with Forrester, I have learned what works and what doesn't online.
You call yourselves a business "accelerator" rather than an incubator. What does that mean?
What we are good at is building Internet businesses. We don't differentiate between whether we build businesses that are initiated internally or externally.
An incubator provides a service for entrepreneurs, and that is not what we are about. Our role is to provide fixed core skills to entrepreneurs, offering great expertise in technology, human resources, mindshare, legal, financial and office support. We are an accelerator for startups because our focus is on speed -- our processes and partnerships allow us to build companies quickly. We aim to build businesses in no more than four months, which is a big improvement on anything that has been done before.
Startup Spotlight is a weekly feature on ZDNet UK News and ZDNet techTrader, featuring the bright sparks of the UK's high-tech startup industry. For more of the faces behind the news, see the Startup Spotlight archive.
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