And, as the survivors of the boom are finding, busts can also have upsides. In addition to fewer rivals, lower costs and an expanded employee pool, some dotcom start-ups are finding that demand for their offerings is on the rise. Jeff DeCoux, chair and founder of Internet software and services firm eCustomers Inc. in Austin, Texas, provides online retailers with the ability to tailor their offerings to respond to customers' interests and preferences. The technology fits well with the increasing online presence of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers who are used to tailoring their stores based on their geographical locations, and also with the desire of all e-tailers to do more than attract eyeballs.
"Online businesses are realizing that just driving more traffic to a site can actually reduce their sales," says DeCoux, 29. "We focus on attention and retention extensively. And with this transition, that became the number-one point that the customer base we're going after was receptive to. It looks like everybody's budgeting for this type of solution."