Y2K an Entrepreneurs

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Y2K bug means a pot of gold for entrepreneurs

Fear of disaster has turned a computer glitch into a $600-billion market for nine months

Wednesday, March 17, 1999 MURRAY CAMPBELL The Globe and Mail

Toronto -- Kal Juman and Scott Covert had a dream they could make some money out of the anxiety that the world as we know it will be in serious trouble come the year 2000.

The jury is still out on whether the Y2K computer bug will wreak havoc on Jan. 1, or whether the sun will set that day with only the slightest interruption in daily life.

This uncertainty has companies around the world scrambling to tap into what is estimated to be a $600-billion Y2K market.

Mr. Juman, president of a Toronto consulting firm, Inteledigm Market Sciences, is gleeful as sales prospects pile up and he anticipates that his $1-million-a-year business will likely quadruple its revenue this year.

"We don't believe we will be able to keep up with demand," he said, noting that a midsized company would pay about $500,000 for his company's services in dealing with the computer bug. "We'll be maxed out by the end of March."

It's a different story for Mr. Covert, a Internet marketer in Peterborough, Ont.

Last year, he began marketing a computer game, called Uh-Oh!, that simulates surviving the Y2K-bug crisis. Despite a couple of electronically posted press releases, he has sold a grand total of 120 games at $10 (U.S.) and hasn't recouped the 50 days he spent developing it.

"I really thought there was a market," he said. "But it seems the more serious people are about it, they either want to ignore it or prepare for it. They don't want to play a game about it, I guess."

The anticipated huge pot of gold is leading established firms to spin off Y2K divisions and fledgling entrepreneurs to peddle innovative bits of software.

Nine months before the fateful turn of the calendar, there are more books, newsletters and Web sites than you can shake a stick at, and speakers and computer programmers who know the difference between COBOL and cobalt are in great demand.

"It's a huge market, but it's diffuse all over the place," said Richard Irving, a professor at York University's Schulich School of Business.

Figuring out who's making money is difficult.

The Y2K business began to build a few years ago.

CGI Group Inc., a Montreal technology consulting firm, announced two years ago that it had received a $4.7-million contract to help the Quebec Automobile Insurance Commission with its year-2000 conversion. Peter de Jager, the Brampton, Ont., man who has emerged in the past six years as one of the leading evangelists of the Y2K problem, has a full speaking schedule.

For most individuals and companies, however, the momentum is just starting to build.

A federal government task force noted last summer that 99 per cent of Canadian businesses are aware of the computer-based challenge they could be facing. It said that 70 per cent of these firms were taking action, compared with just 45 per cent in a survey eight months earlier.

This sudden burst of activity has been a boon to many companies.

Gerry Graham, who has been on the road for the past year as Canadian vice-president of Reasoning Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., recently landed a multimillion-dollar contract to ready CN Rail's computers for 2000.

The company promises that it can analyze in a month the 10 million lines of computer code that are needed to sustain a large corporation. At a cost of pennies per line -- "more than 10, less than 50" is all that Mr. Graham will concede -- it promises to be lucrative work for the next year.

But it's not just about big companies.

Ottawa's survey confirmed what had been found by the Gartner Group, the U.S. information-technology consultants with the best grip on the Y2K issue: small businesses are the least prepared.

The results cheered a small Vancouver company, y2kRadar Software, which in January marketed a product aimed at helping big companies dependent on small suppliers get their compliancy projects under control.

Mohib Ebrahim, the company's senior product architect, said that research begun last spring concluded that most firms were focused on the bits and bytes of computer-program upgrading and that there was nothing that helped companies keep track of huge chains of suppliers.

A single user would pay $695 for y2kRadar software, and unlimited use would cost $3,995. Mr. Ebrahim is confident that he'll still be in business well after the dawn of 2000 because big companies will get to only their most vital programs by Jan. 1, and will be forced to leave less-crucial programs for later.

"There's going to be a lot of work after this year," he said.

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), March 17, 1999


So, let's view this two different ways -

The first way could be that people are always willing to make a buck off of the misfortune of others. The first sentence of this article:

"Kal Juman and Scott Covert had a dream they could make some money out of the anxiety that the world as we know it will be in serious trouble come the year 2000."

...leads me to believe that this was the intention of the writer, and probably Norm's intention in posting it, knowing his track record. OK, fair enough. I have to wonder at people who have a problem with this. Do we not live in a "capitalist" society? Is taking advantage of this anxiety at the heart of large swaths of industry? Don't advertisers feed on the anxieties of young people trying to "fit in," young women trying to be "pretty enough," ad nauseum?

What about insurance, the fear of being financially responsible if one causes harm to another or if one is harmed? Banking, the idea that your money is safer in the "system" than stuffed into a mattress, and what the hell, maybe you can make a few bucks by lending it to someone else? What about all those teasers for newscasts that promise a story about some disaster so that you'll tune in later? Etc...

Do these people have a problem with the "capitalist" economic system, as it's currently configured? Should we NOT use anxiety as a motivation in appealing our products and services to others? If not, how do you stop that? Or, is it just a Y2K thing that these people have a problem with?

The other way to look at this article, is that the free market is such that people will find opportunities to trade their knowledge and skills to anyone who has a need for that knowledge and skills. Sometimes, people have a need to solve problems in order to "stay in business" and for every problem, the free market will provide a "problem solver." Is this somehow a bad thing? Or, should the market not be free? Granted, there will always be people willing to "solve" problems that don't really exist, but in the long run, doesn't the market usually adjust to this, and isn't this part of the price we pay for our freedom?

I'd be interested in "Norm's" thoughts on this...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 17, 1999.

Well put, pshannon.

-- Vic (Roadrunner@compliant.com), March 17, 1999.

NORmAN HAS NoT Any thOuGHTS!!!!! PArrOTS miMIc oNly, IS thIS NoT so???? sqWAWK!!!!! CRAckER!!! HELLo????

-- Dieter (questions@toask.com), March 17, 1999.

With all the billions being spent on fixing the problem, one would think that the high-tech computer companies would be bringing in the money by the truckload, what with all the new hardware and software sales. They should be king-of-the-hill, right? Think again. Will High-Tech Companies Survive Y2K? <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 17, 1999.

By the way Norm, I would really like you to answer my question here... Y2K - Another perspective that will be put down... <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 17, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ