I've been happy to see a decline in TV viewing as internet usage continues to climb. Even since reading Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neal Postman, I've been worried about our civilization, as we slouch (as most couch potatoes do) towards gomorrah. But Microsoft's Portable TV initiative might give television a shot in the arm.
In five years will we be carrying a portable device with 1 terabyte of storage that contains all of the text, audio, and video content that we want--wherever we go? Or will we carrying a portable device that has XM satellite radio channels and high-speed wireless access to all the content we will ever want on web servers around the planet?
Being so focused on starting businesses from scratch, I have overlooked one mode of value creation which others have used very effectively: buying a company with great products or services but poor marketing, and turning on the growth engines.
I recently met two businessmen who systematically find underperforming companies and turn them around. Last week I also talked with two companies that are raising capital, going public, and then using their stock to do a "roll-up" strategy (where they acquire multiple companies) to create value.
NetIQ is selling WebTrends, one of the older and more popular web analytics applications, to a SF-based private equity fund for $94 million in cash. This surprised me, since NetIQ acquired WebTrends in 2001. Then again, their 5-year stock chart doesn't look so good.
But far more interesting is Google's acquisition of Urchin, one of the well-known low-cost web analytics solutions. The price was reportedly $30 million. I haven't used Urchin for a few years. I helped a client switch from Urchin to SiteCatalyst, a far better commerce-oriented web analytics solution. But in September 2004 Urchin launched a hosted solution in version 6, which represents a major step forward.
One of my Junto friends sent me a link about Zopa, a new UK-based company backed by Benchmark Capital (a top tier VC fund--check out the Benchmark Portfolio). Zopa apparently allows individuals to lend money to other individuals with good credit ratings--from 2,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds. Zopa takes a 1% transaction fee. There are insurance provisions and a spreading of risk among 50 borrowers so the lenders money should be safe.
I attended the first half of a seminar yesterday at the University of Utah by the Kauffman Foundation on angel investing. Kauffman does a lot to promote entrepreneurship. They have presented this "Power of Angel Investing" seminar more than 20 times. Led by Entrepreneur-in-Residence Bill Payne, the presentations and materials were designed to help people become angel investors or to learn how to be a smarter angel investor.
Years ago I was a big fan of the meVC concept, a venture capital fund that was publicly traded allowing small investors to own shares in order to hopefully participate in some of the big returns venture capital firms often see. It didn't work, but now it appears that some hedge funds are considering going public as well.