Sophia : Trader.com and delusions of Internet grandeur
The giant of classified ads on paper had launched a Pharaonic project on the research park : a plat-form for websites from about twenty countries. The story of a collapse.
The story of Trader.com, in Sophia Antipolis, is the bets symbol of delusions of Internet grandeur that occurred year 2000. The giant of classified ads publications on paper (a turnover of 370 million euros in 2000), decided to embark on the Net. It widened the activities towards international vertical portals of job, boat, luxury and heavy equipment goods ads. In brief, the great offensive to transform Trader in Trader.com...The Eldorado for software companiesIn February 2000, they set up a development center in Sophia Antipolis in almost 2.000 m2 of the Les Bouillides company village. This was an ambitious goal. They wanted to transfer all the small ads on the Web and to create a plat-form shared by all the ad sites of a group which was composed of some 5.000 people over eighteen countries. 'It was a monumental project,said those who took part in. Trader.com arrived with exceptional means. They started with around twenty people. Then, they paid a small fortune to recruit computer engineers in order to set up a staff of about fifty people. Then, the subcontractors added further to them : around sixty engineers under state control coming from local software companies. Thus, until July 2000, Trader.com was the Eldorado for software companies in Sophia.'However, this Eldorado only lasted for four or five months. As soon as July 2000, the e-krach of April occurred. And at first, it was the decline. Then the collapse. On the other hand, Trader.com realized that its project was impossible : the creation of a unique plat-form for different countries posed unsuspected problems since traditions, contexts, legislations and business practices were multiple. Teams started to decline. The great offensive in Sophia Antipolis to attack the Net was only composed of around fifteen people in January 2001. at the moment, the development center is closing down. The end of an adventure.Trader.com, which has seen its profits and its security seriously hit by the transfer on Internet, was compelled in the meantime to revise its ambitions downwards. Trader.com justified the listing on the stock exchange by the financing of the online development of the group. But the result, which of course the misadventure in Sophia is not the only reason, wasn't up to the situation. Only for the first six months 2000, the losses of the Internet branch were up to 35.5 million euros. Early 2001, Trader.com has corrected the point : they have changed the strategy and started to cut costs. Thus, they have refocused on their main occupation : car and real-estate ads. They closed down unprofitable sites (occupation, boats, luxury). And unfortunately, they have laid-off around 300 people in France.