As the credit crunch bites, websites such as LinkedIn are reporting huge increases in traffic as job-threatened experts rush to pimp their resumes. Job sites and freelance marketplaces are similarly swamped with applicants. Few people regard their current employment as safe.
It doesn't take an economist with a crystal ball to see that the job losses already afflicting the financial services sector will soon spread. If banks won't even lend to each other, what hope is there for other businesses? It's only a matter of time before their credit dries up.
But crisis brings opportunity, and this should excite entrepreneurs. There are new opportunities since the original dotcom depression at the start of the decade, like widespread penetration of broadband, mobile devices and lower-cost web development. Last time round internet access outside the office meant dial-up. Now there's no need for a physical office at all. It's an unnecessary expense.
In many ways, a virtual organisation is ideally suited to an economic downturn - it's flexible, scalable and has very few fixed costs. That's how we operate at ki work, where we're developing a platform for online workers to create virtual businesses and sell their services. The ki work team of 14 is itself distributed around Scotland, England, Ibiza, Ukraine and California, with occasional people sourced through the ki work site doing short-term projects. We see a future where social networking provides the foundation for the creation of virtual teams and long-term businesses. It's a natural extension of services such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
There are plenty of tools to enable virtual working (see web apps to beat the credit crunch), but even though the technology's available, people management across large distances, and even cultures, can still be difficult. The art of online communication isn't always easy, but it can be done. We're already seeing large communities of developers come together and self-organise to create great projects entirely online. And these online communities become progressively resistant to macroeconomic problems - it's hard to see the development of Linux or Firefox being slowed by the credit squeeze.
Undoubtedly many companies are going to fall victim to the credit crunch. But with credit being increasingly expensive and hard to come by, businesses which are unencumbered by debt, rent and capital will be in an extremely powerful position. As conventional business structures crumble around us, we may be seeing the dawn of entirely virtual corporations.