As previously discussed, Morgan Stanley's Internet Trends report makes for a fascinating read and its optimism for the future of the Internet is refreshing after years of doom and gloom for the many players in this industry.
One particularly interesting slide (click thumbnail on right) highlights the number of Internet users by region worldwide. To my utter astonishment I discovered that Europe now has more web users than the US - some 230 million vs. 210 million!
The issue, as this Business Week article discusses, is that there are few non-US companies that have managed to exploit a pan-European footprint - let alone a global one.
Whether it is because of lack of resources, a limited vision or a cultural bias, European Internet ventures have often only managed to consolidate leading positions on a local basis - a local market which at the most encompasses 10-20% of all European Internet users and leaves millions of other potential customers and revenues untouched.
I have often had the opportunity to argue about this point with web entrepreneurs who are persuaded that a leading position in their home market will protect them against outside competitors or that in the worst case they'll be bought out by the competition. I consider the first argument to be shortsighted and the second to be wishful thinking as the realistic outcome of either of these is extremely slim.
As a good friend commented, when the easy money was flowing all the investors came rushing in but the moment the going got tough they deserted those companies that needed their support the most. Now many good companies are gone and the time lost cannot be regained - at least not at a reasonable cost.
As an unattributed quote mentions: "In times of rapid change the learners inherit the earth while the learned beautifully apply their skills to a world that no longer exists." Time to wake up and smell the coffee...