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WZB Discussion Paper No. FS II 01-202
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), Berlin
The paper delivers an analysis of the “New Economy” focussing on the roles of new business models, the capital market and venture capital. The capital market created a double standard in the 1990s: A high return on capital was required from old economy firms whereas money was thrown at new economy firms which had a business idea that stimulated the fantasies of financial investors but no earnings. Through the gradual burst of the tech stock bubble since spring 2000 it has come to the eyes of the public that many new economy start ups were unable to recover their costs. This paper shows that business models related to the internet can only work under certain conditions. The sectoral distribution of power, for example, determines the prospects of the single firms to realise e-commerce in a profitable way. Digital technologies do not necessarily enhance profitability. On the contrary, they can increase competition and lead to lower profit rates. The limitation of competition appears to be a central condition of successful cost recovery. The venture capital cycle has been an important driving force of the new economy boom, but it can also be momentum of a longer crisis. Enormous amounts of money have been channeled to new economy start ups hoping that successful IPOs will one day give venture capitalists a high return. But the burst of the bubble has brought down the IPO activity and interrupted the valorisation cycle of venture capital. Financial investors have reacted to the crisis by shifting their capital to even riskier investments, as the come-back of hedge funds indicates.
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