Bubble, Bubble, Bubble. – In Private Equity not Web 2.0

Being a serial entrepreneur I have been through many business cycles, but the Internet boom of the late 1990’s was an extremely heady time. People were so enamored with what the Internet could do, every one really believed that the old rules didn’t apply.

The reality was that those rules applied more than ever and with the crash in the early part of the century we have tried to learn our lesson.

With these new companies deemed Web 2.0, everyone is expecting another bubble. So many of the same types of companies have been funded so there are bound to be consolidation and just plain failure.

According to Michael Arrington, his entry “Bubble, Bubble, Bubble“, the despite the fact that some companies are failing, the sky is not falling.

In fact I would call this time around the ol’ startup track “saner, saner, saner”.

Despite many of these companies basing their success on being an aftermarket for Google, the smart ones I think many people know that you have to be in this to create a real enterprise and one that makes money. It is not so much about the VC’s but about the ability to use the low cost and barrier of entry to innovate.

But the DEAD POOL is not cool .

I think that the blog A VC gets it right his counter points on “Building It Up and Then Knocking It Down” are right. He says “over hyping young companies where people are working their butts off and then throwing them overboard quickly into a “dead pool” when they fail is not healthy.

I believe it is dead wrong to put this up there. It just feeds the fire for the chicken little’s of the world. Mike Arrington has known successes when he co-founded helped flip Achex and sold it to First data. I don’t know if he has experienced building a company from scratch and having it fail, many times from circumstances out of your control.

BUT THERE IS A BUBBLE DEVELOPING and not where you think…..

The bubble is not with companies it is in the private equity market itself. The model of funding and the way people are evaluating companies is changing. The way investors look at companies is not based on a fast IPO but aligning it to be a sweet acquisition target.

This is helped in no small part since most VC’s invest like they are teenage girls. “Oooo, you invested in a video sharing site, I want one too! You put $5 million into social networking for eco-friendly baby boomers? Find me one so I can get one too!!

HERE IS HOW I GOT THERE:

  1. The amount of money chasing deals have lightening strike twice to find that repeat of unrepeatable past returns is growing rapidly
  2. The number of opportunities are declining and there are too many copycats plus the cheap money is pouring out to fund them.
    Not enough VC’s to serve on boards effectively and make the existing investments get to a proper exit
    IPO market is still not there and there is and there are only so many acquisition partners
    Higher prices of entry and lower returns

WHAT I DON’T KNOW:

  1. When the IPO market might be friendly to tech stocks
  2. If investors will broaden their portfolio choices to get their money working in unique ways
  3. If funds might start giving their money back

Only time will tell if this comes to pass. If you have a good idea, the money is out there but might not be for very much longer.

Crystal Ball? 2-3 years or mid-2008 this is gonna come to a head. Only time will prove me right or wrong.

2007 Predictions – Apple

There are tons of blogs doing predictions and Macworld rumor control.

Macworld and the reactivation of the reality distortion field (RDF) will be in full effect in a few days.

I take an approach that is different and looks more at obvious trends than wild guesses.

To sum it up: Last year for Apple was the “Year of Intel”. I believe that this the “Year of The Living Room”.

Here is my short list for the year:

iPhone – I would usually believe Kevin Rose because he nailed the nano. This has become the “Tech Industry unicorn”. Unless it can let you call God, it will not be good enough because of all the hype. I still like having a phone and an iPod.
Mac Pro 8-Core – This is inevitable but I think they will still keep the older Mac Pro to create a more entry level professional system.
iTV – Details at Macworld. Available in March. I think this sucker is gonna be the new Mac Mini and have hard drive capability. It can’t just be a video Airport. Why don’t these guys just buy Tivo and Netflix to make the holy trinity of video entertainment.
Google+Apple – This will link to the iTV and I think there will be a YouTube front page for the iTV. Can’t resist saying portal here.
Leopard – Lots of features I am not even able to imagine. However, it will have more virtualization capability like Parallels. Macs have the potential to be the tri-wizard, I mean tri-OS, hardware of choice. Imagine, Mac OS X at the center with Windows apps and Linux Ubuntu running select apps. This means limitless power. It might be at this point that we can reveal ourselves to the Jedi…
Displays – This is a gimme. No updates in 2 years, iSights are out of stock. I will go even further that they will have a 42 and 50 inch TV to go along with the iTV announcement.
iPods – Upgrade in storage at Macworld. Separate announcement later in spring for Video iPod. This will coincide with the iTV revolution they will claim. They need to move HD movies into the living room to make money.
Announcements – More studios, new video editing capabilities with their recent acquisitions.

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2007 Predictions-VC Market

As I get back in swing of blogging after a few months off, starting the new year with a predictions entry is a good way to start.

I thought I might do this topically to keep things organized. This is also going to be separate into easier digestible posts. Let’s get started with my outside looking in thoughts on the VC market.

Overall Venture Capital Markets
Deal flow will be steady but not bubble like. Increase and investment will grow at a steady 5-10% amount on average. As many VC’s continue to invest with a herd mentality, look for lots of “green investments” in clean technologies. Software will increase but media will be the darling after the YouTube exit. I believe that trends in social networking like Social Shopping, Social Search and Social Commerce will take it to the next level. Funding and M&A activity will be heavy.

More funds will go international. The amount of deal flow in the US is fine but those looking to make great strides will be going to India and China. This is supported by the NVCA survey (downloads pdf file) courtesy of the VentureBeat site.

The Carlyle Model becomes more popular. There are only so many companies that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will want to buy. Carlyle Group has made a name for itself as a conglomerate and there will be more of a “Keiretsu revival” where instead of in the 90’s when people invested and then tried to tie them together, companies will form in order to buy established companies that will work well together. Why try and create another Yahoo when you can buy 15 companies that together make an even better one?

The IPO market will be almost back in full swing. The housing market will continue to crap out so people will be looking to put their money in the market again. This means IPOs but it doesn’t mean bubbles. People are smarter these days and companies will have to really be making money and have a real plan otherwise they should hope to be acquired by Google or a Hedge Fund.

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