As a constant observer of the technology startup community, I’m often surprised how often I see startups who are raising capital to create companies which do the exact, or close to, the same businesses that were being created during the dot com boom. These aren’t the “me-too” copycat web sites, but sites where someone is truly doing something unknown and unremembered companies did back in the dot com boom.
For example, today an Israeli/New York firm, 5Min, just announced $5M in funding for a site where people can “share their expertise in various categories as well as find short video solutions for every practical question.” I recall back in 2000 talking with the founders over at a company called How2TV, which was doing almost exactly the same thing (albeit without the same user-generated component).
Another area which has been fairly active lately is the idea of angel-focused, deal-matching databases — ie online sites where the idea is any accredited angel can browse any random business idea/plan/etc. to decide if they want to invest. Current incarnations are GoBigNetwork, FundingUniverse, RaiseCapital.com, etc. are all similar to the (failed) Garage.com project from Guy Kawasaki. For those who don’t remember Garage.com — before the days of Guy Kawasaki’s Garage Technology Ventures fund — was an online site, where companies could post their business plans, with the idea of connecting those to accredited angel investors.
Don’t get me wrong–these new companies might have a better chance of succeeding where others had failed in the past–whether due to a more mature or better developed market, or through better execution. But, it’s interesting to see how often ideas are rehashed. (Heck, if anyone remembers the original DEC Altavista search engine, in 1995 it was as good a search engine as Google was. But–stifled as it was in Compaq–unable to capitalize on the technology, the firm missed the boat on context-sensitive advertising, and was sold through a series of buyers and eventually went to Overture.)