This week’s WiMAX World wasn’t exactly the all-out enthusiastic trade event you might expect from a technology that launched its first commercial U.S. mobile network the day before the show doors opened. The mood was decidedly tempered as most folks were pondering the economic situation that was playing out on the world stage around them.
What should have been an exuberant time for this new sector was instead tarnished as many conversations were punctuated with financial feasibility questions.
How many times this week have folks addressed the economy, asked if new players would be able to pour more money into their buildouts and questioned if startups would be able to get enough financing to even get out of the gate?
There’s every reason to believe that companies that have well-conceived business plans and that execute wisely can survive some economic turbulence. The problem is, this doesn’t feel like a period when a little belt-tightening and conservatism will be the answer.
In the coming months, fledgling companies will be questioned at every turn about how reality is matching their business plans. The days of blank checks for “build-it-and-they-will-come” entrepreneurial enterprises are footnotes to a long-ago history. These days, it is all about signing up “paying” customers, lots of them and doing it quickly.
All of which has been weighing on people’s minds this week in Chicago as they talked about all of the technologically impressive things mobile WiMAX can do. But more unsettling questions remain to be answered: Will there be enough reason for customers to flock to mobile WiMAX? Can a fledgling industry survive when its potential customers are finding themselves cash- and credit-strapped? Will the alliances and partnerships you have made be lasting and profitable? And will your investors be able to continue providing the financial support you need to build out or overlay your networks during these trying times?