Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why you should not build an internet service and drop out of school

Recently there was an article on Arctic Startup encouraging everybody to start an Internet Service. Being old and a little realistic and a father I think I should cool some of the enthusiasm. :-)

Firstly, don't drop out of school. Never! The higher your education the happier your life - the smarter the people you socialise with and the better you understand about what is happening in around. Don't do it even when you make it as an enterpreneur. Nobody likes an un-educated and ill-literate boss. An internet service is no different from any other traditional business and education is one of the few values that a person has. Giving it up just to make a few bucks would be stupid. Besides if we leave out some exceptions (like Bill Gates) then there are not that many rich people who don't have higher education. At some point you just need the general intellectuality. I have worked as a manager of IT specialists and I claim that there is a clear and visible difference between those who have higher education and those who don't. Not having higher education tends to results in a "ceiling of career and salary".

The other problem with Internet Services is the ease of starting them and their globality. If it is easy for you to start one then it is easy for everybody else also. This results in really harsh competition. There are practically no entrance barriers. Neither know-how, capital, geographical nor IP or licensing. You have nothing protecting your revenue. Actually I don't know if there is any other industry where you get so fierce competition. Even the cab companies and restaurants have more entrance barriers (a car, a drivers licence, geography) than Internet Services. As a result that even the profit margins of the PC industry (that are probably less than 5%) look really tempting compared to Internet Services. If every schoolboy can make a service on weekends with zero investment then you end up running the service for free for the rest of its existence. If on the other hand you want to make usability, features, marketing or a large number of users your advantage then be ready to invest - 10-s of thousands of euros.