Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Little Shelter From The Rain

I just returned home from the Montgomery Technology Conference, and to my surprise, the tenor wasn't all doom and gloom. In fact, it was downright positive with respect to online advertising and digital commerce. In addition to hundreds of private equity and corporate development types (whose mouths are watering at the prospects of lowered valuations), there were about 165 tech companies, of which I'd say roughly half were consumer internet plays in online advertising or digital commerce and services. To be fair, most of those companies probably are the better performers and potentials, as you wouldn't expect the dogs to be invited to an investor conference.

In any case, I was still surprised to hear how well most of these online companies are doing. Everyone acknowledged the challenges and realities of the current economic situation, but most also reported some level of growth (Technorati included!) and a few outliers even noted high growth. It wasn't at all what I expected -- that people would be negative, reporting decreasing results and sharing in a conference-wide group therapy (and I have been to a few of those the past six months...). In my own area of interest -- online advertising -- again I heard mostly positive things.

Don't get me wrong: no one was drinking Veuve and singing in the rain. That said, most execs were fairly upbeat about the way their companies were progressing, and were confident their 2009 numbers would exceed 2008. Let me repeat that: results better than 2008!

So while there is absolutely no way to ignore what's happening on the macro level, and as start-ups are metering their businesses accordingly (particularly operating expenses), our little online sector does appear to be doing better than the economy at large. And for a select few, doing much better, and perhaps providing a little shelter from the rain.

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