Welsh entrepreneur Mark Davies has, so far, managed to stay one
step ahead of the game.
This dot.com millionaire escaped before the crash, and carried on
making money through start-ups in the most unlikely of places.
In the UK, he is best-known for co-founding First Tuesday, the
forum that match-makes entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and
was once the hottest event on the dot-com circuit.
It was in the US, however, that he made his millions, by
pioneering an online content site and floating it just as the
dot.com revolution was beginning to take-off.
And by 1999, well before the infamous tech bubble popped, he'd
sold out and decided to travel the world instead, setting up homes
on four continents en route.
Then, in August 2000, while his shell-shocked peers had withdrawn
to lick their wounds, Mr Davies threw himself - and a $1.7m
investment - back into the world of dot.com start-ups, this time in
High start-up costs
The grand plan, he says, came to him on the back of a bus in Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I suddenly realised that what anybody needs is what I had in New
York: The opportunity to sit in front of a computer and play with
the tools and the promise of the internet," he says.
afterwards, an old gas-bottling plant in Ghana's capital city of
Accra became the incubating laboratory for a selection of dot.com
start-ups and one of the continent's flashest cyber cafes.
BusyInternet: In the style of
BusyInternet has been home to a variety of tech pioneers,
including Ghana's embryonic call centre, a firm selling broadband
capacity, and an online shop for African crafts.
It's passive incubation, Mr Davies explains. What the pioneers
need is a broadband connection, a $30,000 generator to bridge the
all too frequent power cuts, and a secure location from which to
hatch their businesses.
The initial outlay on a generator, for example, would simply be
impossible for many start-ups.
Meanwhile, the internet cafe downstairs, unashamedly modelled on
Stelios Haji-Ioannou's EasyEverything chain, has become one of the
coolest places to hang out in downtown Accra.
shows, live music and movies are all part of the in-house
entertainment, while less frivolous activities include video
conferencing and web design classes.
BusyInternet: A surprisingly profitable
BusyInternet averages about 1,500 visitors a day, who use its 100
flat-screens all through the night.
But the most startling part of this unlikely tale is that
BusyInternet is profitable, and achieved a positive cashflow within
just four months of opening.
Ironically, Mr Davies once asked for help from Stelios, whose own
chain of internet cafes are now in financial difficulties.
There has been a more sensible approach to generating revenue
from Africa's dot.com start-ups, Mr Davies explains, highlighting
the vital ingredient that was sorely missing from the West's dot.com
There have, however, been a host of different problems to
FBI agents have been amongst BusyInternet's guests, tracking down
previous guests involved in Africa's notoriously dodgy money-seeking
bureaucracy, a poor service industry and limited repair facilities
are among the list of complaints frequently voiced by Ghana's
The cafe has also hosted some unwanted
And while BusyInternet turns in a profit, it has not been as much
as hoped for, largely because the satellite link costs 10 times as
much as a broadband connection in the UK.
And that has scuppered the original plan to open similar
technology centres in Senegal, Burkina Faso and beyond.
Mr Davies, in any case, is already looking to new opportunities
His current projects include building a software product for
African cybercafes and forming a database of all the technology
firms in Africa.
"I'm excited by new frontiers and the first wave of development,
not sticking around to grow a career."
"I'm just the ideas guy," he says.
Watch out for his next one.