Young Internet Visionaries Say They'll Still Try Their Luck Online As Wall St. Took A Wild Ride Down, Students Met To Dream Of Stratospheric Wealth.

Posted: April 15, 2000

Yesterday's dramatic stock-market nosedive, which knocked the wind out of the world's most valuable companies, did not dash the high-flying dreams of area college business students gathered at Temple University.

And if two prominent local technology entrepreneurs were shaken by the day's and week's breathtaking slide in tech stocks, they were not showing it to the students who had come to meet them.

"If this idea takes off, I can drop out," said Meghan Gregonis, who is enrolled in Temple's master's of business administration program, and who entered her Internet business plan in a regional competition held yesterday on campus. Her business would be called UrbanStyleStudio.com, and would hook up chic retailers with consumers over the Internet.

Gregonis, 26, is part of the hordes of students around the country who are furiously mapping out plans for Internet businesses - hoping to be the next to win venture-capital funding, to go public, to achieve astronomical stock prices, and to make their founders wealthy beyond imagination.

The draw of the dot-coms has cut into business school enrollments across the nation. Many have left their programs to work for, or start, Internet businesses.

But most have stayed, and yesterday about 250 of them, including undergraduates and MBA candidates of Temple, Drexel, Villanova, and other colleges and universities attended the one-day Entrepreneurship Philadelphia Conference.

The gathering was underwritten by Innovation Factory, a Narberth Internet incubator; the Benjamin Franklin Technology Center; and ePhiladelphia. It was sponsored by the Philadelphia College Student Retention Committee and Temple's Fox School of Business and Management.

The aim of the conference was to bring together students, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to share information and perhaps discover the next big Internet company.

Gregonis, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists said that yesterday's drop was only temporary, and that the market would rebound eventually.

"There's still a lot of opportunity," she said. "There's a lot of room for a lot of great ideas."

Josh Kopelman, president and chief executive officer of Half.com, the Conshohocken Internet firm that matches buyers and sellers online, agreed that Internet plays were still hot among venture capitalists despite the market's plunge.

But Kopelman conceded that the recent market corrections had changed the criteria for investing in dot-com businesses. Gone are the days when virtually any business plan with the word Internet in it received funding.

"Venture capitalists are getting less venturesome," Kopelman said. The market is "forcing venture capitalists to invest based on the merit of the idea and business model, not just based on buzz. It's forced people to focus on the business model.

"The model used to be, 'Grow your revenues and top line at any cost.' Now they're saying the top line isn't as important as profits. . . . For people starting out today, make sure your business model has a clear [path] toward profitability," Kopelman said.

He also said the market's gyrations had caused venture capitalists to concentrate on companies with the potential for long-term value.

"While the stock market goes through cycles," Kopelman said, "venture capitalists aren't investing to take a company out next week. They're looking for better businesses, and they'll get better valuations."

Marvin Weinberger, founder and chief executive officer of Innovation Factory, said the market corrections should bring the valuation of many companies in the tech industry in line.

"There's been an understanding of the overvaluation of companies based on hype," Weinberger said.

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