Backspace, being a prudent investor, decided to check out the prospectuses issued in the past few weeks by some of the companies that listed on Hong Kong's Growth Enterprise Market (GEM). Particularly amusing are the sections of these inch-thick doorstoppers where Pine Technology, Timeless Software and TS Telecom outlined their advantages over rivals, as well as the risks that they - for legal reasons - must admit are inherent in their stock. Pine, for example, says development of its MP3 player - the killer product investors supposedly are betting on - is at the moment wholly dependent on five Korean engineers tethered to Pine by three-year contracts. And moreover, the 12-month non-competition clause that prohibits these engineers from working on similar technology with another company as soon as they leave Pine may or may not be enforceable in all jurisdictions, the company says. That is hardly reassuring to anyone but the short-term punter. Timeless, meanwhile, gets a big chunk of its revenues from Y2K contract work, which may well dry up as soon as the New Year arrives, as pointed out by Hong Kong's resident investment contrarian, David Webb, on his Webb-site. com. Even as the company admits that 'revenues are difficult to predict because they are generated on a project-by-project basis', references to e-commerce development abound. Unfortunately, one of the few concrete e-commerce businesses mentioned is eDynasty21.com, an on-line finance and brokerage site to be launched in partnership with Hewlett-Packard. The agreement was signed just this September, so readers should not type in the URL, which will not turn up a site for viewing. TS Telecom, which makes power and telecoms-monitoring equipment, counts as one of its major assets the 'excellent' connections it has with the Government. For once, Backspace would like to see a company cite superior technology that no other company can duplicate. And this was just the first week of trading on GEM. With more listings aimed at the 'tech-oriented' market, Backspace and other nitpickers can look forward to more reading pleasure. Here is a forecast which should scare all but the most Prozac-popping Netpreneurs: respected technology consultancy, Gartner Group, says about 75 per cent of all e-business startups will fail. This is probably why Laurie Kan, veteran local IT entrepreneur and ex-Microsoft Hong Kong managing director, is spreading his bets. He is president and a director of Timeless Software and a director also at Pine Technology - both big winners in GEM's first week. Mr Kan also runs the Hong Kong office of Web portal Sina - another company looking to cash in publicly. And finally, something for the Homer Simpsons out there. Miller Brewing Company, the Milwaukee firm responsible for that most archetypal of mediocre American beers, Miller Lite, has introduced Beer Pager to help people plan their parties. Not an actual beeper but a 6 MB piece of Web software, Beer Pager lets users type in e-mail addresses, favourite pubs and bars and other party-planning notes, according to Wired News. When a page is sent, the Beer Pager automatically records the event on the calendar software of invitees and notifies the host who accepted and who declined. In accordance with US drinking laws, those entering an age younger than 21 are not allowed to download the Beer Pager, and are redirected to Disney's Go.com site instead.