OK, so the need to stay educated is great-but that doesn't change the fact that the time you have to pursue new knowledge is still limited. So take this tip from the pros: they read; they meet; they ask; and they listen. Most netpreneurs agree, the best sources of information are your peers-no other source is as current. "Things are happening right now," confirms Dalton. "There are lots of people doing things for the first time. We have to see what others are doing, through analysis or partnering."
In order to stay abreast of the marketplace, most netpreneurs track the developments of other Internet companies. Every other week, Sherr selects two or three companies from different sectors and reads everything written about those companies-that way, he can track trends and developments. Tang scours press releases from competitors, looking for what partnerships they've announced and finds out what the CEOs say about why their companies formed particular partnerships. Narasin takes every opportunity during Net conferences to network with other attendees and tour companies via on-site visits.
Seminars and conferences remain other good places to meet peers. Several organizations and publications offer them-one is Shop.org, a trade association that focuses exclusively on Internet retailing. Robert L. Smith Jr., Shop.org's executive director, describes his challenge: "Our group of e-tailers is not [homogeneous]. Some of our members haven't launched a site yet, and others have three to five years of experience. Some members are pure Internet plays, some are multichannel (incorporating the Net with catalogs or brick-and-mortar retailers), and some are brand marketers like Levi, going direct to the customer over the Net. One of the things they all want from us is networking opportunities, opportunities to come together to learn and form alliances. To serve that need, we're creating member forums, in person as well as over the phone and the Net."
But peers don't have to be your only source of valuable input. Business allies, such as vendors, accounting firms, employees, investors and board members, can all contribute. Tang likes to stay in contact with current investors for a better understanding of the financial landscape; his firm also uses the bookmarker Backflip to let employees circulate articles of interest. Dalton finds the research from his accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to be a good source for new developments.
Brett Morrison, 31, founder and CIO of ememories.com stays abreast of technology with the aid of software and hardware companies. Morrison, whose Los Angeles company manages digital photos for families, attends conferences where his software vendor demonstrates the products in development. Says Morrison, "They do a good job of letting us know what's coming out so we're ready to implement it when its released."