One of the most important initiatives in the domain of business documentation is that of professor David Kirsch from the University of Maryland, who thought of a dotcom Business Plan Archive – , a project that consists of collecting business plans for posterity. The project was started in 2002, through the Web portal businessplanarchive.org. The site was built by Webmergers.com and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, in collaboration with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.The project received financial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The archive contains records of more than 2,300 Internet companies (either successful or failed) founded in the 90s and during the Internet boom and bust era, that is between 1996 and 2000. The area of interest goes from business strategy to people’s interactions in the dotcom workplace. The result will be a digital repository including business plans, marketing plans, venture presentations and any other records. The second part of the project will consist in gathering narratives from entrepreneurs, investors, employees and even customers who participated in this type of activity.
The purpose and usefulness of this project is to preserve past evidence of assumptions and strategies of successful and failed companies, thus providing valuable hints and knowledge for researchers and budding entrepreneurs, so as to learn from past mistakes and successes. Researchers will be able to benefit from this data so as to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research. Valuable insight from these business plans can be obtained:
* assumptions of the founders about the business;
* entrepreneurs’ plans to best exploit Internet offered advantages;
* assumptions on market growth and size;
* plans for gaining competitive advantage over traditional and online competitors;
* business core strategies.
The project brought to the researchers involved an award of $235,000 granted by the Library of Congress.