21:16 PM

Carol Dukes, one of the savviest business leaders on this planet...plus find out what triggered the dotcom bust

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I have been making a pest of myself lately, haranguing my long-time friend Carol Dukes in London. It was her fault anyway.

In early December she innocently sent me a note asking for my new address and telling me what she had been up to over the past four years since we’d last met.

As I wrote a reply and told her about my media venture plans, it suddenly struck me that Carol would be the perfect person to help me build these ventures! Because Carol is one of the savviest business executives I’ve ever met--and I’ve met a lot--and is one of Europe’s top media executives. And that’s before you count the many gender-related accolades she has received.

Carol doesn’t need any gender-defined accolades, her record stands for itself. She has created and operated large online media groups for print and TV companies, and also took part in the dotcom races as co-founder of ThinkNatural.com--a leading natural health and beauty retailer that made it through the dotbomb fallout. Lately, she’s been doing consulting work for large European media groups.

Over the holidays I sent in some killer pitches to Carol, they were sooo good--I would not have been able to resist them myself. I would have been heading for the airport right away.

In a nutshell, I tried to explain that something really exciting is happening here in Silicon Valley, and despite reports she may have heard that I’ve lost it completely, this blogging stuff is the tip of an enormous game-changing iceberg.

There are some astounding opportunities to build some rock solid online businesses, without being encumbered with legacy costs and culture. And Carol is at the top of her form, with almost two decades of experience in media businesses and building several very large online groups.

A Perfect Storm is in the making

It’s the start of Internet 2.0 now, this time online gets done right: we have tons of highly reliable and cheap Internet infrastructure in place, lots of web apps and monitoring tools, etc, and, very importantly, as a society we have made the cultural shift to being comfortable in an online environment.

Now it’s time for innovation--business innovation that is, to take advantage of the business opportunities thrown up by the formation of this perfect storm.

(It’s going to be stormy for a lot of smug established companies...remember, dotcoms each lunch this time!)

Carol ignored my pitches for several weeks. I seriously suspected that maybe they hadn’t gotten delivered to her, because she hadn't shown up on my doorstep and was banging my door down. (Did I tell you how good the pitches were?)

She told me she had to carefully consider things before replying, and that she agreed that blogging was interesting and it had a place in the publishing world, especially in verticals, trade publishing, and the like. But she wasn't sure there was much beyond that. She said she would come out in mid-March for a working vacation of sorts and see for herself what all the fuss is about. Plus she offered to advise me on my biz-dev plans.

Excellent, I thought, once Carol is out here, I'll introduce her to a few of my favorite people, and I’m sure I can show her that these media technologies are more than just about blogging. And with her natural entrepreneurial talents, she will see the opportunities for herself.

Predicting the dotcom collapse

BTW, in 1997, Carol told me exactly when the dotcom bubble would start deflating, and she was dead right. She didn’t tell me the date it would happen, but she told me what the circumstances would be that would signal the beginning of the end.

She said it would be when a large new economy company acquired a large old economy company.

I thought, wow, that is brilliant. That makes perfect sense, because the investor philosophies of both sets of shareholders are so opposite to each other that they would move in opposite directions. And the loss of shareholder confidence in such a large entity would naturally shake investor confidence in all other dotcoms.

Yes, indeed...it was Steve Chase that lit the fuse of the dotbomb.

Some of Carol's bio:

·1983 First class honours, Oxford.

·1984-90 Joined IVS Enterprises. Director of IVS cable services in 1987.

·1990 Completed MBA at London Business School, joined Gemini Consulting.

·1993 Joined EMAP as Corporate Planner.

·1995 Director of new media within EMAP Computing.

·1997 Set up and co-managed EMAP Online.

·1998 Established Carlton Online.

·July 1999 Co-founded ThinkNatural.

·2000 Named 'Entrepreneur of the Year' and 'AltaVista digital business person of the year'.