It is with a slightly heavy heart – no doubt partly fuelled by envy – that we note the sale ofYouTube
This is to say nothing against the video sharing site or its now unfeasibly wealthy founders. It provides a fine service to teenaged skateboarders showing off to their friends and those who want to catch up on yesterday’s goals.
The fact is, however, that YouTube has been deemed worth the best part of £900m on the basis of a good idea and a few months worth of explosive visitor growth. How it will recoup its massive investment is anybody’s guess.
The sale has produced much excited talk of a ‘renaissance’ of the entrepreneurial spirit that fuelled the dotcom boom years of the late 1990s.
This is where the heart begins to sink. Here is one renaissance we could do without, at least if it going to once again siphon much-needed investment capital away from the early-stage engineering-led firms that will form the backbone of the UK’s future technology economy.
Those who believe that technology should actually include some technology are only just shaking off the guilt by association they suffered during the years when the last dotcom bubble burst.
Half a decade of painstaking work explaining to potential investors that a genuine technology business is founded on real-world engineering and science, not a snazzy website and a good though unproven idea, could be undone in an instant.
Some commentators have made reassuring noises to the effect that investors will not sanction a return to the bad old days when any gimmick was worth millions and the slower, painstaking R&D work of a real technology venture looked pedestrian and unattractive by comparison.
We must hope that they are right, and that the YouTube deal is not the start of another bout of dotcom madness. The last time around, our genuine technology businesses suffered in the fall out. There is simply too much at stake to contemplate a repeat performance.