Five Years After The Bubble


Five years ago, as a newbie in the world of venture capital, as the NASDAQ hit a new high, I knew it was the beginning of an end. A fear that ate at me for many days. Later, when walking down the University Avenue in Palo Alto, I would see a lot of familiar faces, many smiling, trying hard to hide a hint of fear, a fear of coming doom. As John Doerr said – it was the greatest creation of wealth. For some. For others, it was not so profitable.

Still, it was fun. The parties on the roof top of The Industry Standard, the Red Herring conferences, and of course the launch parties. Ahh.. the parties. Five years later, I realize that I lived through one of the most fantastic bubbles in the history of man. Enough, to turn any sane journalist cynical, an occupational hazard when you write about technology, its possibilities and of course its life changing potential. I worried that I was becoming too cynical and losing my love for the biz I love: technology.

Today, at VoN I was chatting with one very smart gentlemen who has been around for a while. He said ‘you’re skeptical without being cynical.’ Still, I learnt a lot from this bubble… the biggest lesson which I learnt was that when VC firms hire a journalist to help them with investments, its a sure and perhaps the final sign of a market top, a bubble that is about to pop. In order to remind all of you, we are having a little bubble-specific blog-a-thon. Participating are writers-authors Andy Kessler, Carl Haacke, serial entrepreneur Ross Mayfield and financial whiz-kid, Paul Kedrosky.

Andy Kessler: Nazdog & The MOMOs: We still blame analysts for saying BUY, even though it was more of a suggestion than an imperative. They are almost all guilty. Former colleagues and friends of mine Mary Meeker, Henry Blodget, and Jack Grubman are the most famous, but there were legions of guilty analysts. But guilty of what? Bad judgement? Abso-f-ing-lutely. Believing their own bullshit? Almost universal. Self promotion? Yup. Conflict of interest? Often. Banking whores? Pretty much. Causing the bubble?

Om Malik: The Beholden Years: During the boom years of the1990s, many companies saw capital in their funds soar as booming stock markets inflated the valuation of their holdings. At that point many of these funds, just like the US Government, were running a surplus. But with the economic downturn this situation has reversed.

Ross Mayfield: Relationships Over Transactions, A Learning from the Bubble: Five years ago, I was the President and co-founder of a B2B Exchange with a $1B market cap. Seems right on the 5th anniversary of the bubble to revisit the rational insanity and fess up to your part in it.

Paul Kedrosky: The Bubble and Me: As a card-carrying contrarian I should have been elated when the technology bubble burst five years ago. I wasn’t. I was mostly puzzled.

Carl Haacke: Bubbles a fact of market economics, and they can lead to much good — if managers understand and avoid the pitfalls. At the fifth anniversary of the popping of the Internet bubble, a long shadow remains over businesses and the economy: The cycle of creative destruction is not yet complete. A number of key measures, from the stock market to employment, remain far below levels reached in 2000. More strikingly, individual businesses are still fighting the same underlying strategic battle that confronted them during the bubble — the disruptive effects of digitized information.

Andrew Odlyzko: Bernie Ebbers (along with some of the key players at Enron and other disasters of recent years) was able to make at least a semi-plausible case that he was not involved in any accounting details. The greater ability of modern business leaders to keep at distance from the actual criminal acts they induce may be a reflection of what they have learned from the experience of their predecessors in white-collar crime in the last century and a half.