Five leading businessmen. Five sectors. Five viewpoints. Ronald Cohen, chairman of Bridges Ventures, is first to the mic: "In an economic downturn, entrepreneurs might be less willing to start businesses, but you can’t discount private equity. That source of fundng is still available." "Would i expect the number of start-ups to decline over 2008-9? Yes. But there are still huge opportunities out there, especially in technology. Where do you imagine Google will be in two years?" It’s seems to be the consensus that technology is the one area that’s likely to bounce back from recession. Steve Leach, CEO of Big Mouth Media, is confident that his digital marketing agency will ride the storm, "I’m not convinced this is a recession. So far it’s just a lending bubble," he says. "Advertising will always track alongside consumer spend," he continues. "It’s time for the old school media agencies to shine. The ones that have been concentrating on servicing their customers. Some new media companies have been getting away with murder. Now they’ll really have to pull it out the hat to survive." Kevin Matthews, CEO of Oxonica, has also positioned his nanotechnology firm to survive any peaks and troughs in the economic climate. "Niche businesses are less susceptible to macro market conditions," he points out. "It’s the big competitors with a large market share to manage that will suffer most." Our panelists are optimistic. Grant Bovey’s Imagine Homes operates in the property investment sector, surely he’s been hit by the crunch? His response is tongue-in-cheek: "Property in London is still very sought after. We’ve got an office in Dubai. Fortunately for us, they don’t read the Daily Mail over there…" But seriously, "We’re being very cautious about acquiring large developments – battening down the hatches. We’ve also got a number of ongoing contracts around the globe which are only just commencing now. These will guarantee profitability for the near future." And last, but by no means least, the wonderfully opinionated Gary Dutton of Synseal, the £100m-turnover PVC-window manufacturer. "If you don’t protect yourself against a downturn when business is good, by the tme one arrives, it’ll be too late for you." "I quite like a recession. It shakes the dross out. Like those people who have the audacity to call themselves my competition!"
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