The greatest skill of the worlds leading entrepreneurs is being able to predict the future and ride each wave as it comes along.

There are two important elements to this skill – forecasting future trends and timing. Get either wrong and you will end up investing in hot air.

Over the last ten years I have been deeply involved with the internet and I’ve watched many predictions under perform – advertising growth, mobile web, mobile search, move to web services and many more.  Indeed I would go as far as to say most internet trends have failed to achieve their projected growth in the timescales predicted!

However I believe the biggest failing of the forecasters have been timing.

Often an internet technology, service or activity is reliant on factors outside their control to realise their potential.

When these external changes happen snoozing sectors can suddenly boom.

Some of the changes that are happening today will be the catalyst that many online services have been waiting for.

I can’t give you the answer about what will be the next billion dollar business, but I can share my observations about what is happening in the Internet world. Hopefully this will help you identify a profitable opportunity:

Increasing Petrol/Gas Prices

  • Reduced car travel to stores is leading to an increase in online shopping
  • Reduced business travel is leading to increase in online collaboration, video conferencing and online project management
  • Reduced commuting is leading to an increase in teleworking
  • More people are staying closer for home for work and leisure activities


  • Job losses leading to increase in self employment
  • Self employed will look to the internet as a low cost way to start their own business. There is already a rapid increase in internet micro-businesses start-ups
  • Big companies will look to reduce permanent staff and look to fill gaps through outsourcing and using contractors. Many of these people will be found  and work via the Internet
  • One upside of recession (of which there aren't many) is a steady increase in revenues in all areas of internet (advertising, paid content, ecommerce, information products, etc)

Apple iPhone

  • 86% of Apple iPhone users regularly surf the web from their mobiles compared with 56% and 13% of smartphone and mobile phone users respectively. The Apple iPhone is single handedly changing the uptake of the mobile web
  • The mobile web is finally set to take off – any data, anytime, anywhere


  • One of the greatest strengths of the web is that it gives every business global reach for zero cost. However in the US people still spend 80% of their money within 50 miles of their home. In other developed countries the numbers are similar.
  • Google recently put their own satellite into orbit to improve their mapping software. Why? Because they know that the most under-exploited area for online advertising is local businesses seeking local customers
  • Expect the localisation of the web to boom over the next 24 months largely driven by Google
  • Local content, local advertising, local online communities


  • Outsourcing is already a well established way of doing business. However it has tended to be large businesses outsourcing big chunks of their activities e.g. call centres to India
  • Micro-outsourcing is about small businesses and individuals outsourcing small activities to other small businesses and individuals via the web
  • With a greater number of individuals making their livelihoods online combined with global reach, micro-outsourcing will boom

Nichification of all Markets

  • Chris Andersen’s Long Tail theory established the principle of markets breaking into niches. Now we are seeing this trend accelerating.
  • It has long been believed that eBay has such a strong position in the auctions market that they can’t be beaten. However we are now seeing niche auction sites gaining momentum in areas such as holidays, wine, collectibles, domain names and human services.
  • In online publishing large portals are losing market share to niche websites
  • In ecommerce, niche online stores are nibbling away at the big stores
  • Every subject and sector will be broken down into smaller and smaller niches

Death of DRM

  • Content owners are being put under increasing pressure to remove digital rights management from their content, particularly music. This is now slowly happening. Once it builds momentum, all major content producers will be forced to follow suit
  • Content producers (writers, musicians, film producers, etc) will be forced to look at innovative ways of generating money from their content rather than relying on one-off sales


There has never been a better time to setup a business on the web but you need to be aware of these trends. Ride the wave and you can create a great business very quickly.

From my observations these are the trends internet entrepreneurs, including publishers, should be thinking about as they move online or expand their businesses:

  • Think niche
  • Think local as well as global reach
  • Think mobile – access anytime, anywhere
  • Think about outsourcing routine tasks or offer outsourced services to others
  • Think about how you can help people make money or save money in tough economic times
  • Think about the thousands of people trying to make their livelihood online
  • Think about large organisations trying to reduce costs
  • Think about a world without DRM

These are exciting times with exciting opportunities. Get your surfboard out and choose your wave!