Ep. 78: The bubble showAre we in another tech bubble? LinkedIn went public last week, raising $352 million. The stock quickly shot up, igniting talk that we are entering another period of tech market froth, like we had in 1999. Are we indeed? And if so, is it good or bad for...
Hi everyone welcome to reporters' roundtable -- neatly in San Francisco this is our weekly show we talk about a single tech topic each time. Recorded this week -- special time on Thursday -- Friday so we could have. One special guest who -- via -- attempt to school really wanted to government show on the show thanks -- and that's Jim -- that are the executive editor of CNET news. Thanks for joining us Jim appreciated we -- Eric -- -- to the editor of HBR dot org Harvard Business Review dot org joining us direct from Boston thanks Eric. -- You are extraordinarily. Special to -- But -- is here we had to get them I mean that we work I work with him all the time but I never seen these works a slaughter of so brilliant and yet I don't think that two. Good day for me here. We're gonna show are so today's topic is our week in another tech bubble. Now it. The question is is the money in technology flying around in the same way it was back in 1999. Making people rich beyond their dreams and beyond definitely what they deserved. The Linkedin IPO last week kicked off of a question it the company Lincoln was founded in 2003 -- awhile back. And just last week -- public raising 352 million dollars with IPO the stock will quickly shot up. Which is lighting up the talk that yes -- another bubble everybody wants the -- -- new Internet companies. And we're expecting a very frothy market in in in public market trading -- eventually I. Zynga goes public and then eventually. FaceBook which going to be the watershed event of this bubble if indeed this is about. So of course bubbles are about more than public markets and the public stock market tech companies start with private money. From investors who were previously made rich. In that when their companies went public or acquired. Or from venture funds investing money from pensions in college endowments and things like that those are the funds that fund a lot of startups. And they're also private exchanges now for start -- shares of the very existence of which to some indication that we are in a bubble because people are trading stock before the public its trading stock. And that's were discussing today are we in a tech bubble is it good or bad and what we've learned from the last one that we can use this time around. Again -- curse that are editor. CNET news dot -- that matters and -- become -- lake. Editor of HPR dot org -- gentlemen thanks for joining us. -- by the way I have to say. Little bit of this is kind of an old home week -- the show. The last bubble in about the 99 timeframe. I was working at red Herring which was that one of the chronicler -- Of of the start economy writing a column called catch of the day where. Every day I would interview with the -- -- and -- -- up. I wrote up that thousand of those columns are all very brief column. Of those I just have to say just the new levels that here I -- -- thousand CEO interviews plus or minus. I believe the 985. Of those companies are now out of business. In -- just felt by the way for anybody accounted well I believe that's about right because they all failed. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Jim -- in the last bubble you were aware I was a bubble higher at business week really hard to report the mobile well. To cover software. Start -- and -- companies but. I was part of their. They were spending like drunken sailors for a couple years McGraw-Hill and I was one of the reporters -- brought into. To cover. The bubble and we also had inserts. Inside business week in -- if you remember this -- it was Columbia he did see -- threat. They never they never spun it out as its own magazine Internet he didn't. Very wise move and Eric you were at one of our red herrings competitors were not. That's right I was one -- -- -- -- this is a magazine. Was there at the beginning in 1988. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- So we were all that up publications. At least their original forms that's right Steve I mean the most companies going out of business. Anyway so first of all this this this talk about this are we in another bubble -- what is able to -- What's a bubble will let's look it. What happened late ninety's. Irrational exuberance -- markets. -- earning ratios that are out of sight so there's and there's a metric here that we can use -- well I don't I never seen okay ten things have to hire a have to happen before we have a ball when. It's certainly in that in net area we have lots and lots of companies going network than it didn't have dreams of turning a profit -- -- -- he would also need we need to -- the traditional tech suppliers has huge revenue spikes. Because they're selling. The servers -- years the routers to all those startups. And certainly need to see. -- run on the market. And Eric what -- what -- menacing. I hate to lose a couple things one EGC a lot of -- Lewis press releases -- issue. And my inbox that indicated that and that today stars -- or triple their work as more and more companies -- more war. Your people to get that license -- are sure -- I'm fortunate enough to work -- our business review with Justin Voss is the group -- book called. I mean the rational market and actually talk about a critical entitled. Entry Bebo and oil and apps are organized. A little bit homer for me and I'll ask me what I needed and -- and I'll lose Lan. The market creates the reality is meant to reflect. So yet but at any its -- Theoretical but that you waited and marketed operates the prices begin sign artillery auction reality on the iTunes sells and it's Canada. An agency house. That's. It feeds on itself. Yes thing it -- it another way to say that I hate to take a cynical perspective is that the market. You're describing the greater fool theory of markets. You do you mean that people want to get in on it because other people are getting in on him up because they see some fundamental metric -- say oh that looks like a good deals like. This stock is rising I think other people think the stock is going to -- further their prime going to get in on their. There -- opinion rather than my own. It creates a lot of momentum and -- is the prices are no longer connected to the fundamental. A business reality is that typically drive -- and so are we in one right now. Welcome -- first -- I hate I I think that we are. -- -- -- -- You know I think you're seeing. Venture capital that Q1 numbers -- recently. The venture capital numbers are -- after the pre recession will see that we're seeing uptake there -- you see -- a lot of different kinds of Apple trademark in angels and whatnot. And I think if you look at at the link didn't -- to -- is the first signal. 2.0 he will. IPO. You're looking at a company there yet -- rocket up and you 150 dollars here Korea is looking at it today you know it's still has that price to earnings per issue looks like over 2300. Google's browser issues a twenty. You're seeing some metrics indicated it could be at the beginning that I don't we're there yet. Well what -- what explains. The link the -- of -- The stock -- are you going by the we think that as Jim it compared to use and the other IP a little weak if Google William -- got two other IPOs actually this week -- -- indexing Freescale was last week. -- both of those seem to be -- to put it the most kind. Currently possible. Fairly priced they went out and the stock has not moved much I don't think there are viewed as as high growth companies -- Also there's there's a lot of pent up demand for social media IPOs. Andrew linked -- is probably the first dismal. -- -- -- -- -- I mean and it is ultimately the biggest I believe the biggest IPO since Google. Probably so at least tech IPO yet. But there -- other that very successful tech IPOs the last few years now. Sales force yes the point. That's Cleveland public and that's -- him -- and actually I was looking at sales forces PE ratio and that's around 300. Right now that's still small potatoes compared to -- that Linkedin right so what is it about we can do you think is just the attraction that we have. Or is it is it is it really -- lust for the FaceBook stock I think it's like getting in on the ground floor I salute. I guess -- -- because a lot of pent up demand marketplace and me and -- look at. What the buzz is the enter the last five years really since the web 2.0 and concert began it is primarily about social. And Linkedin is really the first company that at its core. Is -- social company -- -- -- is a great example they certainly with. With. Era API. Marketplace -- really increase those ponds are completely innocent person if you will pure play. And -- companies who lot of pent up demand and let me. And of course everyone is waiting for it. FaceBook they -- thing that's really what this is all about I mean all this talk about bubble and -- and for -- its -- it if it's all just. About -- That's right. And in of course. -- Zynga Zynga which. Or into various sources is going to file shortly knuckle publicly filed a public. Now yet and -- side this week -- next week and yes. And I was I was reading a report this is very interest -- these -- numbers aren't. True. I'm astonished by -- supposedly using is. Revenue is around 500 million dollars from them and their profit is over 200 million dollars. That's pretty good that's pretty edit that's that's a nice profit method and that's the network effect in action there. That's right yeah now Zynga and FaceBook are kind of the two planets in the same orbit are -- not I mean losing it couldn't be using -- without FaceBook and FaceBook would have its profit that thing at a kind of sharing the same ecosystem. Moralist I think his instinct Tripoli from a while they're trying to. I mean it's like you know -- -- -- -- house and it. Forget that I think you bring a brilliant point him and I saw reports that as well actually -- reports that it does -- revenue property eat it here 800 port that the a million dollars so. That's the key difference between what you're seeing now facilities front -- companies that are emerging into it that he will bubble were in what we had ten and twelve years ago. That is a -- these companies are actually making money. You know a lot of these companies know what they're reading the primary revenue source is not further restaurants. -- these are companies that are actually. You know making. Alone -- a decent money annually and this is the numbers of the smaller not as familiar but yes certainly there's been rumors -- on Facebook's revenue. I think that's really important -- her back to that also little Barron's article inadequate in -- 2000. It loot and burn rate estimated -- -- dot -- -- -- laid out how many more months ahead of live into their investment. -- out basically burn rate and a and I don't think that's. As big an issue yes all this -- And what you're describing to me sounds like -- since the companies are actually making money. And there. Their runway is infinite because there -- sentences are profitable. It sounds much more responsible much more sober much less. Like a bubble and more like a real economy. Well I think what was the PE ratio again on Linkedin. 2300 it's still pretty crazy and that -- that it's -- and by the way that's part of Wellington for a little bit. That stock went out of 45 and closed at -- now people ever and I think -- and calacanis were both like. The the the guys that people -- X who owned Lincoln stock they got rock -- -- only made hundreds of millions of dollars as opposed to twice that. It is that the case I -- did they lose a thing priced wrong. Who's to say. For sure I mean I -- the assumption is that that -- in reply to its -- That there underwriters ripped them off. That makes a big assumption. That they know what they're doing. The underwriters yes they -- how much -- into the underwriters make its. I think they're fees in like 39 -- -- -- percent apparently ads so they're they're they're okay to buy it. It ticked Eric's point at -- very significant when I remember I was covering a lot of software startups in the valley a beat the commerce one -- -- Hoffman's company. Congress -- market cap of 35 billion dollars and it never -- my recollection. Never turned a profit. And then when the bubble burst. And -- they just live off that money month after month and it was astonishing to me. That they literally burned through all the money in held out for a couple years as a result. Bought it was I mean at some point if the state shouldn't this money be going back to investors and how does money like that go back -- investors. They -- thought end user yeah yeah dividend dividends -- upon a company has not making any money. While I mean it and if that's true that's a great idea trip. But these are legitimate companies these these aren't these -- sock puppets. Right. Oh yeah -- -- cruel -- or forty. That it. It and a I think it you know looking absolutely and -- -- PE ratio. -- -- -- -- Your TV for more. Well when you start looking it's the nation's. Housing. Billion dollars. Group monitoring again -- six billion dollar. Offer. From Google. Those are pretty pretty well evaluations. And you know until we actually cedar -- -- India. He gets -- -- is irrelevant and he's justified. It's still here drop it -- or if. We -- to say and we can't really say this is 1999 right now this is probably more like 1995. Right now via. Company's stock to that you know about lined up to the horizon -- to go out to the public mark -- it feels to me more like 9798. -- the split hairs because it is it feels like I I think when Pearl Jam has an album out if -- definite. -- -- When FaceBook files it could open the floodgates. Yeah could be yet maybe. I think that's right I think bit when investors when this you know what's really interesting again is a difference between then. -- -- -- this time now it's just the incredible diversity capital sources the reasons today and by that I mean yeah I remember in 99. Rights worker is no talk about this new kind of funny -- Angel that's. And you know now massive heat sources funding for people. In the -- and -- you're seeing a lot depends isn't funny at the beginning of and -- these ideas continue to that this -- -- means better result. You're gonna see a lot more investment -- Don't know -- these are safe it just to clarify for the people who may not be totally familiar with how this -- coming workfare. Describe for us the difference between an Angel investor -- -- venture investor -- however those colors of money different. Yeah Bill Clinton -- -- -- But investors typically are individuals and typically these people as you said you're opening who have property arm from. Previous companies sure -- -- other sources well. Who are looking it and opted very very very early -- you oftentimes in danger is that there are at an initial that -- -- capital. I'm outcomes and publicly Angel investment has had moved -- programs as well where's the venture capital war. Institutional. Investors -- well that's. Items are responsible for hundreds of dollars. -- in -- -- -- fun and there are responsible for. Opportunities there. So if the Angel without merely like. I voiced by the Angel investors I know many of them because they were people coverage and -- one point oh and -- reinvesting about one point own mobile two point so if the Angel investors go -- basically it's that money that was all raised in the last bubble that. Kind of evaporating but -- individuals if the venture. Funds. Make mistakes that now we're talking about pensions that's right so. In it isn't uninteresting that right now because some so so many companies are starting in -- using. Cloud services and all these lean practices they're they're not and that as you say there's no spike its Cisco and sales are now. So companies are starting up more leniently -- -- they don't have to spend as much money. Which means that the venture guys -- -- if they can't even get in because they need to invest the hundred million dollars in the company make it worth their time. And they can't find companies that need a hundred million dollars he is an element that -- -- how much when he did that group on brazen art and there are exceptions. That was at one billion dollars. My crazy thing that I don't think so that's what's cool -- and yet you have. Exactly. But doesn't let. Does -- does that kind of put a level of. Of sensibility -- things the fact that companies just you can't it's an in -- group -- you're trying to have you know a major office in every city on the planet. You know it's hard to spend the kind of money states. For now the you know I think how much money was Netscape started -- Was it that much money I don't remember I don't think it I don't think it was then Netscape was -- by -- kicked off everything of blew it. It went they went public this -- -- that. Man that it ran -- and understand and remember what Netscape was like -- back in 1995 this was an unprofitable company. Basically a business model at the time seem more like a wing and a prayer written anything else. Racing straight into -- -- -- Microsoft and Microsoft took out. Netscape with one line item you know they took the price of a piece of software and they said -- That's right and that killed Netscape that's right now compare that to FaceBook. But it's a very different company that's yeah that's that's eaten a company and its dominant in its market. That's a big if it. It absolutely is that you -- an inquiry and that is. Utility restarted the date yet to market essentially get product out there. Is can be done with so much less capital than ten years ago you -- you can -- a company working -- dollars to 200000 dollars today when it into what is another possible. -- -- -- So I think this. You know the ability for companies enters is as much secrecy can't really rely on its usual investors. Sparsely peopled not eating -- it but this may end up doing it -- the market if you -- continues to be. Is measured capital investors. Potentially lose some other -- where they're gonna have to. You know it's our own it's have more options than they did and twelve years ago may be able to date that kind of money is hidden loser column color shots -- -- You know all that said of course rate I was actually demand homework. Before it came in here and -- spent venture capital spending in Q1. Was roughly the 30% higher than -- -- this inquiry -- it's definitely going up via. It was a I think there's over seven -- -- that they're finding ways to spend -- -- companies are are are tracked via there -- they're trying to find. And encourage the growth of companies that need their money so they -- is for me right now. At which means big social plays big commercial plays and manufacturing. You know just doing a little -- person start up. The number there was there was a lot going on in the late ninety in the mid to late ninety's to wasn't just -- dot com bubble music Telecom bubble room. Which was pretty significant and -- Turn Cisco into the company that it is now you access via. You also had all the spending. Leading into Y two K conversions. Would redeem -- brought back Caulfield retirees an idea that's right or cobol program. So you have a lot of different things happening at once to make the tech industry just -- Kris. And all that frothy money that was out there. In the world found its way into into in tech and and it found its way into real estate and now it's one on commodities -- You know so let's talk about -- a frothy companies should Twitter go public. The -- question. How many users to they have -- I don't know all of them I mean a lot. I hit that every remarkable thing of about Twitter is that it's clearly an influential company -- hugely hugely influential company. I still can't figure out how they're gonna make funny what of their revenues under 200 million or thereabouts when fifty -- something like that but. -- -- -- -- And magazine reports in January and I read a report there was a 157 rumored via regular -- have to port that's it -- -- which brings up another topic which is the the concept of the private. Exchanges now -- the last bubble people were trying to build these where if you are investor. In a pre public seem GI or something like that. And you wanted to get out. Are you want to diversify. It was very difficult to sell your shares it was a had to be gentleman's agreement had to be in the venture -- and yet talk to your pal the other Richard Berman say. You know by from the -- but if you work with CEO at -- at start up. There was no market for you sell -- shares now. We've got second market shares post and I think one or two other outfits that are letting. Free public. Stock owners. Sell those shares now. What effect does that have on the public markets to follow on -- that is a good or bad for the public investment comes later. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I admit it -- Alice get through its in recent years or so relatively new PCs so you. IPOs in this -- in the arena in patent liquidity it emerged before. On the company -- -- it's too early to tell you think it's really interest in development and her that you. That that kind of persecution. Capital opportunities that exist now edit me. You know. Rank and file employees these companies are becoming really meaning -- well -- -- eight war be the best and whatnot. -- then instantly into more -- opportunities here also see companies like FaceBook regularly crackdown issue policies on. -- when it when people cannot. -- -- and of course -- allowed FaceBook to stay off the public markets and other. And keep their employees. Via employed -- it at FaceBook. The other exit that humans went when a company goes public you know -- it's called the exit you know which is I hate that word because it implies that that done. Which they really shouldn't be it should be the beginning -- for most people. The other -- of course is emanate being acquired by another company and and Google Microsoft. AOL Cisco have have played a very important role at the as a public markets. -- clothes when there were very few tech IPOs. How's it looking now Eric or or generally think it. How does emanate. Affect. The the tech industry announced -- for the next twelve months. Odds are really question I think it it was the only opportunity for a great number of years -- -- Trulia Google and Yahoo! and Microsoft -- a lot of these. -- it I think in again it if these companies can use the responses but -- link and -- Units raise the price of lobbyist and an eight deals. In -- to possibly well people who are. I think -- -- are typically assign a consolidation science. Bad public market's really idea. And -- -- -- software industry we saw that. In networking industry -- security who although it got a rapid consolidation occurred after the -- Is -- Jackson because I remember my favorite example of this was. There was a company. When dot com. Which launched at a red Herring party knows -- there and one year later announced that it had been sold for. Either 100 or 400 million dollars -- well and this was a calendar company. And that -- -- IPO that was it if you're acquisition. And that now -- the bubble most publishers acquisition ever seen in my life I may turn estimate ratio of. Course Mark Cuban is -- the luckiest man in America yet. Because of that kind of I I I do believe it you'll still see those you'll see those huge. Deals individual deals. As as the market ramps up if it does in fact -- -- I'm not convinced it will -- But I think when in terms of the volume. And do you think it accelerates quite a bit when and when people are realize that their windows closed and rather -- run out of cash -- -- that they're just better off being. So one of things they do want to discuss here before we close it is not so much. Are we in a bubble -- not because -- elements obviously other elements what's happening now that are that are -- and bubble like but it it is a very different economy than it than it was in at the turn of the century. The millennium. Do we believe that bubbles. Are actually good or are they bad for technology. I think. Awareness in of companies awareness addiction is -- this industry are acting. Help the investments and helping capital opportunities is very very good here. For com. For the economy and I think you know some of the exit opportunities for starters that allows owners of these startups. Are are good I think however that when it does it. To a -- bubble. The backlash can be pretty severe I think it'd be. In the arguably be almost ten year droughts. Who that we had a lot of along. Development in the tech industry unless you're absolutely Alberts who who thought a good thing. -- -- this possible. -- -- I think a little more optimistic on that one and Eric that's in the because that is how the tech industry has always worked -- You. You have rapid expansion in industry. -- -- consolidation. And -- into Darwinian business you'll find three or four successful companies. Out of every one of those bubbles into PC bubble in the eighties and early ninety's. And -- -- bust was. Almost as bad as the dot com that was brutal when when the PC in the chip industry is so last via its it was -- affected -- story. For business week tracing. The history of -- housing prices. In the three county. Area of San Francisco County -- you know and -- forgetting. And Taylor county with the declares that our content. -- the only period that how that housing prices went down. Was after the that the PC bust of course the same time you big earthquake didn't. And you had a wild fire and he's -- And even then housing prices only went down like 10% for -- -- back up. But. If that's the nature of the industry and I and I think to to say that -- -- Dad would say that the industry doesn't work and I think this has been in this is by far the most innovative industry in in the country who doesn't doesn't. Hat is Sarah who does it feel like Google you got -- there were ten years ago tell -- does it feel like it out there. Well I've only been out here for the week if a -- for me it doesn't it it feels like a an exciting. Interesting fun time to be working on new technology businesses but it does not feel. Like a bubble. We're not -- me because I mean it is -- or whatever about it but -- I can provided to light for late extravagant parties a week. I see a lot of starts but I don't see them -- spending. I see a lot of old ice at our local Goldman if I see a lot of money from the last bubble being fed back into this current. Economy. And being spread out really thin I mean a lot of the Angel investors who like -- that are reinvesting bubble and -- -- money they're investing. You know. 500000. Dollars here. 200000 dollars there and they're doing it in like fifty companies at a time they're spreading out you know -- -- that I don't have a sense that sort of wild spending I remembered during. The height of the boom is really before the market peaked in the same week I could've seen Elvis Costello -- used on high -- And Big Bad Voodoo -- and your high on the -- -- -- -- banks aren't yet. In the same week yet in San Francisco all the corporate -- so there's a thing here that that's that. It is actually this was Mormon thing about a year ago that it is right now which is an indicator that things are getting -- -- here. But companies were very proud as startups CEOs youngster feels are very -- when they reach what they called. Rom and profitable. Which meant there are making enough -- to feed themselves barely and that was a badge of honor. And in the last bubble. -- -- tools like you know personal they weren't profitable all secondly they were spending they were they're buying them boxers and Audi. That -- throws -- -- and Audi TT. I'm on funding non profits. That if it does not feel the same way it feels exciting. It feels it has lot of possibility but does not feel like a financial -- yet -- -- notwithstanding and FaceBook I think may change that of course let's ask that question eighteen month. Yet exactly. -- but. I'm not sure that the public has the appetite. -- began of course you know -- are the public. Stock investors' memories right -- again that excess capital it seems to float from mark to market compact tech -- Yeah and that's -- -- I think it's interstate. You're putting it that you wanted it. Hot planet concerts around startups right now is that means start up blu you know we're -- companies are really trying to come out -- -- the minimum viable product it is really being eager operations and that is almost the complete antithesis of a lot of -- Dominant thinking who last well I. You know one of the things that could happen and that I was kind of hoping would happen is that as -- as the technology that. -- the business -- -- the industry got a bit more chores that that money that would otherwise be going here would go into. Health care and energy. Where you'd need hundreds of millions of dollars to do stuff like -- and indeed it is I mean there are. You know out -- Monica covers green tech forestry talked about that a lot and that -- venture capitalists who invest money in tech. Typically don't have the stomach for green tech -- this year pharma are -- are far because the product cycles are completely different in tech -- -- your world turns over in three of five years. Pharma is fifteen to twenty years at a minimum. And -- tech is. Probably somewhere out in that double digit -- and -- highly dependent on the political winds as well and green and that threat absolutely there's a lot more to that you don't have to deal with that and and so I don't. Think you're going to rob from those markets at least be. Regardless of that a lot of money is going into and -- tech investment just asked John -- or via our -- yeah -- It's a last question what do we think we have learned from the last bubble that it can that -- -- -- doors or people putting money into the -- -- can applying now in order to. Not suffer the same catastrophic pop of the -- we had left them. Don't feel lot of reporters on your own dime it's not worth it for that. It. Besides of the -- is directly proportional size of the bubble. As if you there -- Jumbo -- -- here. I think a lot of them are in nine in all seriousness they they are a lot more cautious because they they have people whispering in her ears don't screw up like. Those companies to in the late ninety's. Will be hell to pay them. And I think if the he probably won't be won't be as foolish I'd be shocked if more. Yeah yeah the gas directly here -- sees that happening these companies will lead in many cases -- six years before even thinking about. Unit companies you know classic -- exaggeration. Who are thinking oh and I think you are talking about companies -- more mature their approach. We enter an operations and I think thinks there are that happens less. We're gonna close on that. Eric -- -- from HPR dot org that's where to find his good work a great site thank you for joining you. Jim curse that are exact ever executive. Editor of CNET news.com thank you for coming in thanks for -- -- the -- and discuss Stephen thanks for producing. -- it back in a week on Friday with another great reporters' roundtable watch my Twitter stream that's RA FE rate for news on that until then thanks for watching.