State of the New Economy

Voices

The new economy is filled with promise -- and fraught with peril. Those of us who are building new companies, leading change inside established companies, or reckoning with our careers enjoy unparalleled opportunities -- and encounter a seemingly endless supply of risks. What most excites you about the new economy? What's the most compelling opportunity for you personallly, for your work, for business at large, for the world? What worries you most? What's the biggest risk that you face? What's your biggest fear? We posed those questions to 17 new-economy leaders: social entrepreneurs, pundits, spiritual counselors, people on the cutting edge of the Web, even a comedian. Here's the good news -- and the bad.

Tom Peters

Author and Management Guru
Tom Peters Co.
Palo Alto, California
Boston, Massachusetts

Somebody once asked me what I want my epitaph to say. I want it to say, "He was a player." It wouldn't mean that I got rich, or that I was always right. It would mean that I participated fully in these fascinating times.

The most awful thing that I can imagine doing is sitting on the sidelines. Because whatever this "new economy" thing is, it is reinventing the world of commerce, the world of politics, everything. It is reinventing fundamental interaction.

I recently spoke to a bunch of purchasing officers in New Orleans. I said, "If you're not ready to be enterprise- and industry-reinvention evangelists, then do yourself and everyone else a favor: Get out of your job. It used to be that whoever bought the biggest case of booze at Christmas would get the account the next year. No more."

I sent essentially the same message to the leaders of the American Medical Association and of the Anheuser-Busch Independent Wholesalers group. The same opportunity exists for them.

The problem, of course, is that there's this horrible tendency for people who are in the thick of things?people who are reaping huge financial rewards from the world of e-business -- to mistake their world for the world as a whole. There's a lot more out there, folks.

But it's easy to lose perspective -- on a whole host of fronts. Henry Mintzberg once said that it is the great conceit of people in every age to think that they are going through madness and chaos, and that things were quiet in the past.

My mother is 91 years old. Every now and then, I remind myself that she's been around since before automobiles, the Great Depression, World War II, and man's first moon landing. The stuff that my mother has lived through wasn't exactly small change. We need to keep reminding ourselves of that.

Tom Peters (tom@tompeters.com) describes himself as a "prince of disorder, champion of bold failures, maestro of zest, professional loudmouth ... corporate cheerleader, lover of markets, capitalist pig ... and card-carrying member of the ACLU."

Patricia Seybold

Founder and CEO
Patricia Seybold Group Inc.
Boston, Massachusetts

A lot of people think that the new economy is all about the Internet. I think that it's being fueled by the Internet -- as well as by cell-phones, digital assistants, and the like -- but that it's really about customers. Customers are transforming entire industries. That's what jazzes me.

Look at MP3. The music industry is now at the mercy of customers who are taking it upon themselves to do the kinds of things that used to be done by studios and publishers: marketing and disseminating songs that they like. Now, you could just say, "copyright violation" and be done with it. But think about what's really happening. End users -- customers -- are voting with their feet (well, their ears) and bringing into question the long-standing roles of the studio, the producer, and the publisher.

What troubles me is that dotcoms -- potentially great businesses -- are missing the boat. They think that their mission is to sell advertising, go public, and make money from an IPO. They gather customers, and they measure eyeballs and conversion rates, but a lot of them aren't delivering a really good end-to-end customer experience. They think of the customer as just another part of the business. They don't understand that the customer is at the core of the business.

Ultimately, those companies will get burned -- along with their customers and the investors who put their hard-earned money into what they thought was a good idea. And that's too bad.

Patricia Seybold (pseybold@psgroup.com) is the author of Customers.com (Times Books, 1998). Patricia Seybold Group Inc. is a worldwide business and technology consulting-research firm specializing in b2b strategies, e-business best practices, and architectural technology.

Robert M. Howe

Chairman and CEO
Scient Corp.
San Francisco, California

For the first time since I've been in business (and it's been well over 30 years), technology is in the hands of society at large. And it's being used to change the way that people and companies do business -- at large.

Buyers and sellers are getting together as never before. Consumers have so many choices. Prices are transparent. People are making deals that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable. They're touching the marketplace in ways that they never could before. Who would have thought -- even 10 years ago -- that we'd someday be able to trade stocks for $8?

Businesses are also getting together as never before. Look at all of the new marketplaces. Auto dealers are coming together, as are industrial suppliers -- likely and unlikely bedfellows. Who would have ever thought that a company like AOL would buy a company like Time Warner?

Globalization is becoming a reality, in many ways, for the first time. Go to a computer anywhere in the world, and you'll see that the person sitting at it is familiar with eBay and with Yahoo! I love that.

My biggest fear is that I'm going to die before the movie is over. I love what I do. I've waited a long time to see the integration of technology and business, and to watch this movie play out the way that I'd always hoped it would play out is really something. It's even more exciting than I thought it would be: It's bigger. The colors are brighter. And I don't know how it will end. No one has any idea what the end points are -- what the next plateau is. That heightens the excitement.

Robert M. Howe is chairman and CEO of Scient Corp., a professional-services firm that creates, builds, and operates complete e-businesses for its clients.

Kurt Andersen

Novelist, and Cochair
Inside.com
New York, New York

A friend of mine used to say, when talking about politics, that he was a member of the antiboredom party: He was in favor of almost anything -- and of anyone -- that made politics less boring.

I am a member of the same party. I like the fact that we're living in a time when there's a lack of certainty about where we're going, what's good, what's bad, and what's legitimate. You can't just cruise along on conventional wisdom today.

I also like being the age that I am -- 45 -- in the age that we're in. Whenever I throw myself into a project these days, it isn't nearly as terrifying as it was when I was in my twenties or early thirties. I think that I have just enough miles on the tires to draw some conclusions about how things work.

On the downside, I have a slight "embarrassment of riches" problem. I'm insanely fortunate to be able to do all sorts of different things. I used to have this fear that I would be pigeonholed, that I would be pushed to do the same thing all the time, but that fear has proven unfounded.

But just as it's hard not to smoke, not to eat too much, and not to drink too much, it's hard not to say yes to every new project that comes along. It's also hard not to spend all of my time with my children. It's hard to say no.

Kurt Andersen (kurt.andersen@inside.com) is cochair of Inside.com. Previously, he cofounded Spy magazine, was editor in chief of New York Magazine, and was a columnist for Time and for the New Yorker. He is also the author of Turn of the Century (Random House, 1999).

Rabbi Irwin Kula

President
CLAL (The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership)
New York, New York

The New Economy, as I see it, is part of a larger context in which we are redefining what it means to be human. We need to foster new conversations across many boundaries, because out of these conversations will emerge new ideas and new ways of structuring communities.

There is no way that the boundaries that have turned people against one another can stand in this new era. At one time, having boundaries meant saying, "Don't come into my land; don't come into my space." But today, boundaries are meeting places where people explore their differences. We're living in a time when pluralism on a global level is a genuine possibility.

There is also the possibility that in our haste to push technological and economic growth to their fullest potential, we'll end up falling behind in spiritual and psychological growth.

The first wave of any kind of technology brings a sense of freedom that is incredibly intoxicating. In a capitalist society, the first move is to apply that freedom toward the creation of wealth. That's absolutely understandable -- even necessary.

But then comes the next challenge: to assume higher levels of responsibility and self-discipline commensurate with that newfound freedom. We need to move with empathy so that technological progress can bring society at large up to its potential new level.

We haven't yet developed a "technology" of the spirit and psyche that matches what we've developed in terms of the technology of technologies. We haven't yet found a way for technology really to add to the social capital of the world.

My biggest fear is, What if we never do?

Rabbi Irwin Kula (jkirchheimer@clal.org) is the president of CLAL (the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership), an independent organization dedicated to preparing Jewish leaders to respond to the challenges of a new era in Jewish history. He is also on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Foundation.

Caroline Soeborg Ohlsen

Chief Creative Officer
Cell Network
CEO Mousehouse
Copenhagen, Denmark

To me, the greatest thing about the new economy is that it frees us to create new stories about how the world can work -- and how we can work -- in this fast-changing world. That's how I think of new-economy builders: We don't build companies. We tell stories -- stories that make a difference for our employees, for our customers, and for the world around us. A new story about life and work is simply more exciting and fulfilling than a story about the industrial way of living.

So we had better be damn good storytellers.

At Cell Network, we like to say, "Together, we create the new beginning." To me, that's a vision -- a mission statement of sorts -- full of hope, ambition, and life. And that is exactly what should attract new employees and customers to the company: the idea that they can share in the creation of something, that they matter, that they can make a difference.

It's fantastic to be alive at a time when you can have an idea that, through its realization, can profoundly impact the way that commerce, communication, and society at large work. We can create products, services, or processes that will possibly affect the lives of our children and our grandchildren.

It's a rush! But it's also a tremendous responsibility -- one that requires a great deal of holistic consideration.

For example, we have to consider -- and be prepared to deal with -- the unintended consequences of our actions. What really troubles me is the fact that the technological revolution is not proceeding at a synchronous speed around the globe and, in many ways, is creating an enormous gap between the new-economy countries and the no-economy countries. That's not the kind of world I want to live in.

We have an enormous obligation to learn from the lessons of the past. The question is, Will we?

At the age of 23, Caroline Soeborg Ohlsen (caroline.soeborg.ohlsen@cellnetwork.com) founded the multimedia center MouseHouse. A year later, in 1993, she founded Space Invaders -- the first digital-design education program in Scandinavia. She was headmaster there from 1993 to 1995 and chairwoman from 1996 to 1998. In 1999, MouseHouse merged with Cell Network, becoming the world's third-largest full-service Internet consultancy.

Jonathan Hoenig

Founder and Portfolio Manager
Capitalistpig Asset Management LLC
Chicago, Illinois

The catchphrase "new economy" has been co-opted by consultants, contractors, and anybody else with an interest in touting the intangible. Along with stock prices, entire industries (including Fast Company) have sprouted up in response to this "new paradigm" of business that has come about through technological advances.

I don't buy it. And I get a kick out of watching everyone who does. At a time when most people are intensely focused on the future, I'm preoccupied with the past. Why? Because after a whopping 24 years on Earth, I'm ready to conclude that nothing really ever changes.

Once I stood on the floor and traded one commodity. Now I stare at a screen and trade 30 commodities worldwide. But in the markets, as in life, greed and fear still motivate. They always have, and they always will.

What information technology will help to illuminate, however -- and I think that a lot of people have forgotten this -- is that the most valuable commodity isn't soy-beans but service. As I build my own business, what interests me most is the incalculable equity inherent in employees who are able to attract and to retain clients. More than trading strategies. More than profit forecasts. Because in a deflationary environment where goods keep getting cheaper, the human touch is what's going to propel our "commodified" business models into the next century and beyond.

I feel terribly privileged to be alive at such a dynamic time in history. Sure, the markets will fluctuate, and technology will change. I don't know what the future holds. I'm just psyched to be along for the ride!

Jonathan Hoenig is portfolio manager at Capitalistpig Asset Management LLC, a Chicago-based hedge fund that he founded in September 1999. He is also the author of Greed Is Good: The Capitalistpig Guide to Investing (HarperBusiness, 1999).

Emily Levine

Stand-up Commentator
Los Angeles, California

The old economy-new economy dichotomy has a deeper meaning than Dow Jones versus NASDAQ. It's classical economics versus new economics. In classical economics, the economy is a rational, reductive, linear system. It's a closed system ruled by negative feedback -- a "Just Say No" economy. In new economics, the economy is an open system. It's interactive, dynamic, alive -- as well as unpredictable and turbulent.

For me, it's exciting to be on the cusp of such a big shift in thinking. It's a chance to change our "doing": How can we realize the values of diversity, cooperation, and interaction in the way that we "do" business?

The thing that disturbs me the most about the new economy is that everything I'm excited about has a downside. Take, for example, the concept of flow -- the idea that the economy is an organic, natural force. The motion of flow reminds me of the dragon that snakes its way through the streets of Chinatown on the Chinese New Year. But here's the problem: The dragon isn't real. It's animated by many hidden people. With so much of the workforce invisible -- either overseas, in prison, or below the radar of our economic indicators -- it's hard to practice what French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas said makes us human: the ability to respond in the face of another.

Emily Levine's (buttonl@aol.com) career as a stand-up comedienne and a TV-sitcom writer didn't sufficiently exploit her honors degree from Harvard. So she created "e-Levine.universe," a one-person show in which she explores the relationship between our cosmology and our ethics. Next up: a show on the "e-conomy."

Jay Walker

Founder and Vice Chairman
Priceline.com
Chairman
Walker Digital
Cofounder
Priceline Webhouse Club
Stamford, Connecticut

What charges me up about the new economy? The fact that companies, like money, have the ability to reach millions of people quickly and to scale a business with a value proposition that changes people's lives for the better. It is now possible for a business to go from a concept to a company with 5 million customers very quickly -- literally in less than a year. Never before in human history has this been possible.

That is also what keeps me up at night. It's the truly powerful challenge of the scale: Even as you grow from an idea and a few people into a global company with millions of customers, you have to service your Web site and satisfy your customers. And that requires the ability not only to deal with complex software but also to develop that software with teams who haven't worked together for very long. It is a managementand leadership challenge of the first order -- one that I suspect will keep Internet-company CEOs up at night for years to come.

Jay Walker (walker@walkerdigital.com) has more than 40 issued patents to his credit and roughly 325 pending U.S. and international patents -- all of which emanate from Walker Digital, an intellectual laboratory that he founded in 1994. At Walker Digital, some 60 inventors develop proprietary business models that use the new tools of the Digital Age to solve business problems, apply for patents, and then spin those models into companies like priceline.com.

Nathan Myhrvold

Cofounder and Copresident
Intellectual Ventures LLC
Bellevue, Washington

Of all the great historical revolutions, I prefer the Internet Age -- because it's a revolution of the mind. The new economy is about rethinking and reshaping what has already happened. It's about producing fertile ground for radically new ideas. Workers with good ideas, or the ability to generate ideas, can write their own ticket. We're talking about the democratization of power.

I'm excited about the overwhelming sense of human potential in the new economy. Of course, for every good idea, there's a glut of bad ones. We'll see a boom-and-bust cycle that's caused by less-than-good ideas. The result? An unsettling phenomenon: Companies go public when they should be rethinking their business models. When those companies fail, some people write off the whole revolution. They punish the legitimate companies, thereby hurting their ability to attract capital.

We can't claim victory -- not yet. We must first revolutionize the economy, and we're less than 10% of the way there. What we've created is a new approach, a new set of tools, a new model that can be applied to almost anything. Ten years ago, we didn't have the technological leverage to change human interaction totally. Now we do. If we look at where we are today, we'll see that in 20 years, we will have transformed human behavior.

Nathan Myhrvold (nathanm@intven.com) cofounded Intellectual Ventures LLC, a private partnership that explores entrepreneurial pursuits in technology and in biotechnology. Previously, he worked for 14 years as chief technology officer at Microsoft.

Paul Saffo

Director and Roy Amara Fellow
Institute for the Future
Menlo Park, California

As a technology forecaster, I feel like a seismologist who has the good fortune to be standing in the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

What excites me most about the new economy is that we're in the middle of a fundamental change in the nature of commerce, in the nature of capitalism. Commerce isn't about buying stuff -- it's about interacting with people in different ways. And that's happening everywhere.

Digital technology has enormous potential to bring communities together in absolutely unheard-of ways. It's the solvent leaching the glue out of our economic structures. As we build new economies, we create a whole renegotiation of culture. We forge new systems, new industries, and, above all, new relationships. And that's what makes commerce so fascinating.

If there's a rule for the new economy, it's to keep your head about you, because we're in the midst of exhilarating change. And that kind of excitement inevitably leads to a sobering downside.

My fear? Overexuberance. And it has already happened. Too much excitement too early inevitably leads to an overreaction in the form of disappointment -- hence the danger. Technology may be getting more sophisticated, but humans are as crazy as ever. If you scratch the surface of every "normal" person, you'll find that everyone has some crazy passion for something irrational -- such as Beanie Babies. And the Internet allows that madness to multiply. We've seen it with urban legends. We've seen it with unrealistic pricing on eBay. We've seflationary environment where goods keep getting cheaper, the human touch is what's going to propel our "commodified" business models into the next century and beyond.

I feel terribly privileged to be alive at such a dynamic time in history. Sure, the markets will fluctuate, and technology will change. I don't know what the future holds. I'm just psyched to be along for the ride!

Jonathan Hoenig is portfolio manager at Capitalistpig Asset Management LLC, a Chicago-based hedge fund that he founded in September 1999. He is also the author of Greed Is Good: The Capitalistpig Guide to Investing (HarperBusiness, 1999).

Emily Levine

Stand-up Commentator
Los Angeles, California

The old economy-new economy dichotomy has a deeper meaning than Dow Jones versus NASDAQ. It's classical economics versus new economics. In classical economics, the economy is a rational, reductive, linear system. It's a closed system ruled by negative feedback -- a "Just Say No" economy. In new economics, the economy is an open system. It's interactive, dynamic, alive -- as well as unpredictable and turbulent.

For me, it's exciting to be on the cusp of such a big shift in thinking. It's a chance to change our "doing": How can we realize the values of diversity, cooperation, and interaction in the way that we "do" business?

The thing that disturbs me the most about the new economy is that everything I'm excited about has a downside. Take, for example, the concept of flow -- the idea that the economy is an organic, natural force. The motion of flow reminds me of the dragon that snakes its way through the streets of Chinatown on the Chinese New Year. But here's the problem: The dragon isn't real. It's animated by many hidden people. With so much of the workforce invisible -- either overseas, in prison, or below the radar of our economic indicators -- it's hard to practice what French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas said makes us human: the ability to respond in the face of another.

Emily Levine's (buttonl@aol.com) career as a stand-up comedienne and a TV-sitcom writer didn't sufficiently exploit her honors degree from Harvard. So she created "e-Levine.universe," a one-person show in which she explores the relationship between our cosmology and our ethics. Next up: a show on the "e-conomy."

Jay Walker

Founder and Vice Chairman
Priceline.com
Chairman
Walker Digital
Cofounder
Priceline Webhouse Club
Stamford, Connecticut

What charges me up about the new economy? The fact that companies, like money, have the ability to reach millions of people quickly and to scale a business with a value proposition that changes people's lives for the better. It is now possible for a business to go from a concept to a company with 5 million customers very quickly -- literally in less than a year. Never before in human history has this been possible.

That is also what keeps me up at night. It's the truly powerful challenge of the scale: Even as you grow from an idea and a few people into a global company with millions of customers, you have to service your Web site and satisfy your customers. And that requires the ability not only to deal with complex software but also to develop that software with teams who haven't worked together for very long. It is a managementand leadership challenge of the first order -- one that I suspect will keep Internet-company CEOs up at night for years to come.

Jay Walker (walker@walkerdigital.com) has more than 40 issued patents to his credit and roughly 325 pending U.S. and international patents -- all of which emanate from Walker Digital, an intellectual laboratory that he founded in 1994. At Walker Digital, some 60 inventors develop proprietary business models that use the new tools of the Digital Age to solve business problems, apply for patents, and then spin those models into companies like priceline.com.

Nathan Myhrvold

Cofounder and Copresident
Intellectual Ventures LLC
Bellevue, Washington

Of all the great historical revolutions, I prefer the Internet Age -- because it's a revolution of the mind. The new economy is about rethinking and reshaping what has already happened. It's about producing fertile ground for radically new ideas. Workers with good ideas, or the ability to generate ideas, can write their own ticket. We're talking about the democratization of power.

I'm excited about the overwhelming sense of human potential in the new economy. Of course, for every good idea, there's a glut of bad ones. We'll see a boom-and-bust cycle that's caused by less-than-good ideas. The result? An unsettling phenomenon: Companies go public when they should be rethinking their business models. When those companies fail, some people write off the whole revolution. They punish the legitimate companies, thereby hurting their ability to attract capital.

We can't claim victory -- not yet. We must first revolutionize the economy, and we're less than 10% of the way there. What we've created is a new approach, a new set of tools, a new model that can be applied to almost anything. Ten years ago, we didn't have the technological leverage to change human interaction totally. Now we do. If we look at where we are today, we'll see that in 20 years, we will have transformed human behavior.

Nathan Myhrvold (nathanm@intven.com) cofounded Intellectual Ventures LLC, a private partnership that explores entrepreneurial pursuits in technology and in biotechnology. Previously, he worked for 14 years as chief technology officer at Microsoft.

Paul Saffo

Director and Roy Amara Fellow
Institute for the Future
Menlo Park, California

As a technology forecaster, I feel like a seismologist who has the good fortune to be standing in the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

What excites me most about the new economy is that we're in the middle of a fundamental change in the nature of commerce, in the nature of capitalism. Commerce isn't about buying stuff -- it's about interacting with people in different ways. And that's happening everywhere.

Digital technology has enormous potential to bring communities together in absolutely unheard-of ways. It's the solvent leaching the glue out of our economic structures. As we build new economies, we create a whole renegotiation of culture. We forge new systems, new industries, and, above all, new relationships. And that's what makes commerce so fascinating.

If there's a rule for the new economy, it's to keep your head about you, because we're in the midst of exhilarating change. And that kind of excitement inevitably leads to a sobering downside.

My fear? Overexuberance. And it has already happened. Too much excitement too early inevitably leads to an overreaction in the form of disappointment -- hence the danger. Technology may be getting more sophisticated, but humans are as crazy as ever. If you scratch the surface of every "normal" person, you'll find that everyone has some crazy passion for something irrational -- such as Beanie Babies. And the Internet allows that madness to multiply. We've seen it with urban legends. We've seen it with unrealistic pricing on eBay. We've seen it with Internet valuation. Economically, such a forum can lead to enormous foolishness. We may have shiny, new computers, but we're still capable of the South Sea Bubble and Tulipmania.

Despite rapid change, we can't repeal the laws of gravity and common sense. Even in moments of tremendous excitement, we must remember that when monumental change is afoot, a revolution doesn't happen overnight. Brace yourself: We're at the beginning of a transformation that will continue for a couple of decades.

Paul Saffo (psaffo@iftf.org) is a technology forecaster and the director of the Institute for the Future, a 30-year-old nonprofit foundation that provides strategic-planning and forecasting services to blue-chip corporations and government agencies. In 1997, the World Economic Forum named Saffo one of 100 "Global Leaders for Tomorrow."

Katherine Gehl

Special Assistant to the Mayor for Technology
Chicago, Illinois

The goal of anyone working in the mayor's office, or anywhere in the public sector, is to improve the quality of life for the city's people. Today's technology allows us to dream bigger about that goal than anyone who came before us.

Look at Chicago's public schools. There are 600 schools and more than 400,000 students in Chicago. It used to be that when you thought about change in the public sector, you had to think in terms of years. Now transformational change is possible in a short time.

My concern is that we won't take full advantage of our opportunities. In the private sector, market forces drive change. We can't automatically assume that change will happen naturally -- and efficiently -- in the public sector as well.

It won't.

In the private sector, businesses come and go with little large-scale consequence. In the public sector, there are more strings attached to each initiative. We need extremely decisive leaders. And we need a public-private partnership on a scale that we've never seen before, because so many of the skill sets and resources that we need right now tend to reside in the private sector.

Before moving to the mayor's office in February, Katherine Gehl (kgehl@city ofchicago.org) was the director of information-technology services for the Chicago Public Schools. She is also a former manager at Oracle Corp.

Jim Pitofsky

Founder and CEO
SEA Change
(Social Entrepreneurs' Alliance for Change)
San Francisco, California

The things that excite me about the new economy -- increased access, entrepreneurship, innovation, rapid change, and leaders who are newly engaged in their communities -- are the same things that trouble me.

I'm encouraged by -- and concerned about -- the ways in which the new economy will enable and influence partnerships among social entrepreneurs, for-profit entrepreneurs, and philanthropists.

It would be great if all of those constituencies would work together to develop stronger communities. But right now, there exists an elitism of access to communication, collaboration, and capital that we have to overcome if we're going to get anywhere.

Giving people in the nonprofit sector access to technology is only one part of bridging the digital divide. Once they have that access, where will it take them? Who will it lead them to? And what are the offline means to deepen that access?

A small number of business entrepreneurs are experiencing huge growth, access, and wealth. But many aspiring entrepreneurs only read about those things, because they don't travel in circles with VCs or belong to the "right" networks. The same thing goes for social entrepreneurs.

The new economy is forging mergers with incredible frequency. I'm encouraged by the fact that some nonprofits are also recognizing that shared missions and resources can often help their customers. It's nice to see the boundaries between sectors beginning to blur.

I just hope that everyone gets the chance to participate.

Jim Pitofsky (jim@sea-change.org) is the founder and CEO of SEA Change, an organization that facilitates communication and collaboration among social entrepreneurs, for-profit entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. Before founding SEA Change in 1999, Pitofsky served as vice president and acting president of the Echoing Green Foundation, based in New York.

Krishna Subramanian

Cofounder, Chairwoman, and CEO
Kovair Inc.
San Jose, California

This is truly the era of the woman manager, the woman entrepreneur. Women have more of an opportunity now than ever before to excel in business, because companies are moving toward what I call "complete market innovation" -- a focus that puts customer relationships on the same level as technological innovation. And that business model plays directly to the strengths of women.

Companies used to be structure around individual contribution. Now teamwork -- presenting a seamless interface to the customer, across all points of contact and all functions -- is becoming more important. by nature (and I know that I'm making a sweeping generalization here), women are team-oriented, consensus-oriented. In many ways, we understand the new business model instinctively.

And the barriers to our advancement are coming down. Someone told me that information used to be a weapon in the hands of the few with the most power. Today, everyone has -- or can get -- the same information. The relevance of the old-boys' network is diminishing.

What do I worry about? Pace. Everything is so frenzied right now. I'm not sure that we stop -- or even slow down -- often enough to think about what we're doing, to try to balance our work with our lives.

Startup hours are hectic. They have to be: To compete effectively, you have to work very hard. But while that's great for commerce, it's not sustainable on a personal level. And it can't be good for society.

Krishna Subramanian (Krishna@kovair.com) cofounded Kovair Inc. -- named for the Sanskrit word for the Hindu god of prosperity -- in April 1999 to help companies coordinate their relationships with key customers. Before starting Kovair, she worked at Sun Microsystems, where she helped design the strategy that made Java a platform for business users. She holds five patents from her work as Sun.

Pehong Chen

Founder, Chairman, President, and CEO
Broadvision Inc.
Redwood City, California

Power to the customer! Finally, companies are really starting to think from the outside in, instead of thinking from the inside out.

Consider this: Instead of starting with what you do and how you do it, you start with what the customer needs. Then you move to the possible solution to those needs. Then you start thinking about the paths that might lead to those solutions. What have you done? You've turned "business as usual" on its head. You've taken something that might have been a dreary little transaction and made it exciting -- something that you can add brain power to and that you can come away from knowing that you made a difference.

That's what's so awesome about the new economy. You have the ability to do something with your work and to know that you made a difference. You. Not your system. Not you company's policies. You.

The downside? In the flurry of excitement over all of the ideas that are bouncing around and all of the money that's so suddenly part of the picture, too many people have built up unrealistic expectations about making it big, and they're going to get beat up.

I'm not one to dwell on the negative, though. Nothing keeps me up at night. By the time I go to bed, I'm totally exhausted. Yes, companies will be weeded out. Not everyone who leaps out of the starting gate will make it to the finish line. But the competition -- will make the best ideas and the best companies even stronger.

Before starting BroadVision Inc. -- a company that specializes in personalized e-business application -- in 1993, Pehong Chen was vice president of multimedia technology at Sybase Inc., where he was responsible for the company's interactive-technology initiatives.

Thomas W. Malone

Professor
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

We have an opportunity to invent a new world -- collectively. And we can make it better than the existing world, not just in a narrowly economic sense but also in a broader human sense: for ourselves and for our children and for our children's children.

For instance, new information technologies and new ideas about management are bringing us to a place where we can consider radically new ways of organizing work. It may be possible to create companies that give employees a better sense of achievement, of camaraderie, or of autonomy than ever before.

That's tremendously exciting.

What worries me is the possibility that we'll create a world that is much more economically efficient -- but that is much less satisfying to live in -- than the one that e inhabit today.

Right now, when you hear the words "new economy," you probably think of dotcoms and extraordinary wealth. But you probably don't think of personal satisfaction. I'm worried that we won't bring the personal side of the equation up to the level of the financial side.

I also worry about people who live and work in developing countries. It's clear that the economy is becoming more global. But the jury is still out on whether the developing world will be integrated into the developed world in a thoughtful and fair way, or in a way that exploits and oppresses people.

We have a historical opportunity -- perhaps even a historical obligation -- to make wise choices about how we move forward.

I just hope we don't blow it.

Thomas W. Malone (malone@mit.edu) is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Information Systems at the MIT Sloan School of Management. he is also the founder and director of the MIT Center for Coordination Science and was one of the two founding codirectors of the five-year MIT research initiative "Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century."

Dion Lim

Startup Junkie
San Francisco, California

A while back, I got a call from a friend at Morgan Stanley. He is the most risk-averse, least entrepreneurial person I've ever known. Suddenly, he was acting all hyper. "I want to get into this Internet thing," he said to me. "It sounds like there's money to be made."

I don't get calls like that anymore. The correction last April did a lot to settle people down, to pull their heads out of the clouds. And that's great, because now people can get down to business and focus on ideas.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When my parents came to the United States from China, they came with nothing. They were classic entrepreneurs. In today's world, I have so much more opportunity to live out the life of an entrepreneur fully. Self-determination promises to be the metric for success in the new economy.

The downside is that people might mistake self-indulgence for self-determination. Wasn't it Thomas Edison who said that success is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"? I don't want my generation to go down in history as one that was all about lifestyle, hubris, and greed.

Dion Lim (dion@juicetalent.com) has been a founder or an executive of five startups. His newest venture is Juice Inc., a high-touch talent agency dedicated to helping people design and fulfill their own destinies.

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