Since the bursting of the tech bubble in March of 2000, we have witnessed a return to more "normal" standards for business success. During the bubble itself, we saw unrealistic company valuations, despite the fact that businesses were unable to produce a profit. Investors were basing their decisions on potential market-share increases and revenue projections ­ not earnings. They were oblivious to the financial discipline that had previously been imposed by the free-market economy. Since then, we have seen a significant number of business failures and a return to more normal fiscal behavior on the part of businesses that survived. But how are start-ups doing now? What are the trends in financial behavior of new companies, particularly in the technology sector, that are trying to make an impact in the market? Here are eight trends currently in force in early-stage companies.

1. Forecast to be cash- flow positive in late 2003 or early 2004. This is a consistent claim by early-stage companies, despite the fact that these same companies previously forecasted that they would be cash-flow positive in 2001, then late 2002, etc. Beware the constantly moving "cash-flow positive" target (and the fact that "cash-flow positive" does not mean "positive net income").

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