It is often said that becoming an entrepreneur is the modern-day equivalent of choosing to be a pioneer on the old frontier. Only people with certain strength of fiber decide to found companies. They tend to be forward thinkers by nature, natural born pathfinders.
But in age that loves metrics, how do you measure the extent to which the true trail-blazer is ahead of the pack? How prescient does a go-getter's prescience need to be to qualify for the label of business 'visionary'?
Well let us take the current new-media movement as one example. The precursor to that, undeniably, was the rapid popularization of Internet itself - without which New Media would not ever have been possible.
So who in the international marketplace of ideas were the true first movers, the ones who grasped, even in its early days, what the Internet was destined one day to become from a media perspective?
One candidate comes immediately to mind, and it is Alan Meckler*.
Why Meckler? Well, talking of metrics and empirical evidence of prescience, how about merely the fact that Alan Meckler obtained the domain name Internet.com already on May 7, 1997? Is there any clearer evidence of industry prescience than that?
Of course nowadays there are some 192 million domain names registered around the world. Or at least that was the figure at the end of 2009. By now we might be able to add a further few hundred thousand to that figure, and before too long the number of domain names is clearly going to surpass the 200 million mark. So it is easy maybe to think just "Big deal. So what?"
But the early history of domain names shows us that snagging Internet.com was the work of a master.
Things were already, after all, moving pretty rapidly in those years. By May 4, 1998, Network Solutions - at that time the sole domain name registry - had already registered its 2 millionth domain.
By August 2009, Meckler was able to sell Internet.com for an aggregate purchase price of $18 million in cash to QuinStreet, Inc. (QuinStreet also bought Insure.com that year for $16 million - with the purchase involving the transfer not just of the name but also of the established Web-based business associated with it.)
The important thing to note here is that Meckler actually took the $18M to the bank. Those would-be millionaires who are hanging on greedily to domains like dotcom.com, or cloudcomputing.com have not been so lucky. Their mistake? They should, like Meckler, have used the domain name they seek to dispose of, and thereby demonstrated its worth to whoever might seek to own it.
For example Business.com, which was purchased for $7.5 million in 1999 by Jake Winebaum, a previous chairman of the Walt Disney Internet Group, and Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink, and used as the domain name of the business search engine and web directory they built up, was sold to Yellow Pages publisher RH Donnelly for a cool $345 million in July 2007. For that Donnelly got the company as well as the domain name, of course. But even so, there's a moral there somewhere.
[*Anyone interested in reading an interview I did with Alen Meckler in 2006 can read it here.]
If you think you can do better, in terms of pinpointing the early sages of New Media, do please let me know. In particular if there are folks who you feel anticipated things way earlier than Meckler, again just please holler. "None of us is smarter than all of us," right?