Venturing onto the Net

By Peter Carty, 13 January 2004

The rise of First Tuesday, a network hooking up venture capitalists with net entrepreneurs, is one European answer to the challenges posed by America's lightning-fast digital economy. Peter Carty does the introductions

As the Net comes to be seen more as a commercial opportunity than a creative medium, new financial institutions and networks are facilitating net business start-ups. One of these is First Tuesday, which links up net entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Its name relates to the network's scheduling of events on the first Tuesday of each month, though with expansion some locations now host more than one monthly get-together. “We create a meeting place for people, ideas and money,” says co-founder John Browning .

First Tuesday originated in the UK but is now global, active in 23 cities at the time of writing. In London alone, 1,200 people met at Lord's Cricket Ground at one of the earlier sessions in October and, while networking, listened to Dafna Ciechanover of Excite talk about building a successful European internet brand. As well as entrepreneurs, business angels and traditional venture capitalists, attendees include professionals hoping to provide legal, consultancy and other start-up services .

“You can innovate in business as much as in art,” asserts Browning. He says that First Tuesday's activities boost jobs. This is moot: companies using the Net to cut sales and marketing costs for conventional products reduce employment in the absence of overall demand expansions. Other businesses marketing net-bound services, such as search engines, typically employ small numbers of executive and technical staff. Net business might actually cut overall employment and exacerbate inequalities of wealth, though there may be indirect employment benefits relating to increased computer manufacture. Browning says that technology expands economic activity, and points to the thriving employment market across the Atlantic: “The US is the most automated society in the world.” Meanwhile, First Tuesday is planning to move into another 12 cities by the year-end, and will soon bill for services. “As we start doing stuff where we add a lot more value we'll start charging,” says Browning .

Peter Carty<peter AT>