News Discussed at Today’s Live Friday Session (Mostly from Business 2.0)

Normally I get my news for Live Friday from 100+ RSS feeds, but this week I found that a deep dive into Business 2.0 (my favorite internet publication–it took the place of Industry Standard which went away years ago) gave us much more interesting topics that the kinds of PR and brand new announcements that hit the blogosphere. Business 2.0 tends to cover companies that are getting real traction, so you can avoid wasting time on all the hype that is out there. I think I’ll use Business 2.0 a lot more in the future when planning Provo Labs Academy events.

  • This month’s issue of Business 2.0 lists the 12 Influential Investors that every Web 2.0 Entrepreneur Needs to Know.
  • 2007 is shaping up to be a better year for IPOs, according to Business2.0. I always love when a great company files to go public and you get to read the S1 for the first time. I rarely met a first time entrepreneur that has any idea how much information they can learn from public filings, including S1s. One place to see who is has just filed to go public is Hoovers.com. Hoover’s also has a calendar of when the IPOs are scheduled to occur. I hadn’t noticed that Glu Mobile, run by Greg Ballard (former CEO of MyFamily.com) went public about 10 days ago and raised $84 million. (See Glu’s Google Chart.)

    When entrepreneurs write business plans, they can get all the market research and statistics they need for their plan from public filings of companies in a similar sector.

  • We demonstrated chacha.com, the Jeff Bezos funded ($6.5 million) human assisted online search engine that reportedly had 30,000 guides working from home by January and is aiming for 300,000 guides by June. The founder wants to replace 411 calls (an $8.7 billion industry) which human assisted searches using his group of guides. He is planning for voice activated searches from mobile phones. The online strategy seems secondary, but he is hoping to have a million consistent users per month by June. Chacha intersperses sponsored links among the natural search results, but in my tests, I found the human guides actually found some great sites for me. I did have to wait several minutes in one case, but I could do other work while I was waiting for the guide to help me. The business model includes improving the natural search results by what the guides find for searchers–an interesting but possibly expensive model. But the founder thinks he can generate $12 million next year while paying his guides about 20% of that revenue. The Business 2.0 article says his long term vision is “instant access to guides on near-invisible Bluetooth earpiece.” Imagine that: being seconds away from free human help from trained internet searchers, at any time, from any place. Let’s hope chacha.com gets some traction, because this is a cool vision.
  • We discussed how Spot Runner (which was founded by the folks behind Firefly and PeoplePC and has already raised $40 million in VC) is aiming to make local, targeted television advertising available to virtually any small business. They have divided businesses into 4,000 categories, and are producing generic TV spots for each type of business, that can be customized (new voice over, logo, phone number, address, and etc, I suppose) for any company, and then run on cable TV stations targeting local audiences. The founder rebuts the “TV is too expensive myth” because they sell these customizeable video spots for $500 and then help you place the ads for cheap: “You can buy 30 seconds of prime time on a premium network in almost any local market in the country for less than $200. Outside the top 10-15 markets, it’s less than $100. Outside prime time, it’s less than $50.” Google will certainly be competing soon with Spot Runner, so this space will become very exciting to watch.
  • RightMedia.com did $150m in auction-based online advertising sales last year and expects to triple it this year. Yahoo recently paid $45 m for 20% of the company, and offers billions of impressions on its web sites for sale via RightMedia.com. I haven’t tried this site yet, but encourage people to try this and see how well it works for them.
  • We discussed how PayScale used public domain data from the federal government to attract search engines and go from 10,000 monthly visitors to 1.2 million, primarily through natural search traffic (and word of mouth) without spending any money on advertising. And now, it has wage data on 5.5 million US employees, nearly 5 times as much data as the leading traditional wage consulting firm. Using public domain data to attract initial customers, and user generated content to keep people coming back and signing up for your free salary comparison reports, so you can upsell them to your $19.95 for six months subscripton to more detailed reports that can help someone get a pay raise, is a brilliant business plan. I’m very impressed with this company and its model. It generated $5 million last year.
  • We also looked at Mojopages and Yelp both of which are yellow pages sites trying to supplement their data with user reviews. Mojopages expects $500k in revenue during the next 12 months, while Yelp already has a great Alexa ranking of 1,744 and a nice three year chart.
  • Finally, we looked at Meebo.com, a VC backed company that lets you put IM windows on your blog or webpage (kind of interesting), and Pickspal.com, which facilitates office pool betting, and has attracted 200,000 registered users since October and has 1 million monthly unique visitors. I dislike gambling and anything gambling related. I simply showed this site because it has a novel viral marketing approach. The founder “created an incentive for users to invite their sports-obsesses buddies to the site: if they win a prize, so do you. ‘I’m going to be giving away two of a lot of things.’”
  • Finally we looked at Dogster, a profitable (since July 2005) social networking site for dog lovers, which had $1.1 million in revenue last year and doubled the number of users. We highlighted their iterative and rapid approach to web development, which I wholeheartedly agree with: “Instead of working on a feature for months trying to get it perfect, we’ll work on something for two weeks and then spend two or three days listening to users and fine-tuning it.”

Internet stock investors: Bambi on Google

If I were an active investor in internet stocks, I would read everything that Bambi Francisco has to say, especially about the large internet companies. She has amazing prescience. I’ve been reading her for columns for years. Today she has an excellent post at AlwaysOn.

She has so many connections and so often has the inside story; but it’s her analysis that I like the most. Something she can do because she has been covering the industry for so long. She’s the Mary Meeker of internet journalism. If Mary blogged, I’d read her religiously too. (Mary was the #1 rated investment banking analyst of internet stocks for several years running. She wrote a report two weeks ago about the future of online advertising and how Google will benefit from the purchase of YouTube.) On Oct. 13th, the Wall Street Journal said Meeker values Google at $500 per share.

So back to Bambi. In her post today, Bambi explains how revenue follows eyeballs–even now, even years after the bubble burst.

Audiences and ad dollars always meet. I recall years ago, when search was considered a commodity.

Companies like Inktomi moved into the caching business, while others — Yahoo (YHOO), Lycos, Excite, AltaVista, etc. –quickly morphed into portals or were buried in other entities. The ad dollars would flow abundantly to portals, and transaction fees to online retailers, so most believed. Back in 2000, nearly $3.8 billion went into display ads vs. $109 million in paid search in the U.S., according to eMarketer.

Last week Google’s stock went on a tear. It hit a 52-week high this week. The market cap today is $145 billion. Compare that with Yahoo’s $33 billion and eBay’s $44 billion.

Bambi told 8,000 investors last Wednesday that she had turned bullish on Google only after it bought YouTube, because now it would be a leader in the social networking and video space, which has huge traffic share online but a very small percentage of advertising revenue so far. Like search back in 2000.

Social networks are estimated to attract $280 million in ad dollars this year, according to eMarketer. Online video-sharing sites are estimated to attract about $385 million. EMarketer estimates that $15.9 billion will be spent in online advertisements in the U.S. this year. That means social networks and video-sharing sites only attract about 1.8% to 2.5% of total online ad spending.

Investors who paid attention to Mary Meeker’s report two weeks ago or Bambi Francisco’s comments last Wednesday might have gotten into Google before the recent run.

But more importantly, since I’m a firm believer in the Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger approach to investing (make only a few bets in your entire life after reading and studying all you can and getting to know the company as if you were its owner, and then stick with those bets over a long period of time), I would keep an eye on Google for the next 5-10 years. I believe it will be worth more than Microsoft within a few more years.

In May 2004 I predicted Google would be worth more than Microsoft within 10-15 years.

In February 2005 I updated my forecast and listed 7 reasons why it wouldn’t even take 10 years.

Today I would guess that it will take less than 5 years and perhaps even only 2-3 years before Google is worth more than Microsoft. Acquisitions may play a role; but more importantly, each project that Google has launched (and has often been criticized for because they don’t become #1 overnight with them) is maturing. The pace of innovation at Google still exceeds all the other internet companies combined.

For the last decade, PC owners have found hardware prices plummeting but the cost of Windows and Office staying rather steady. It isn’t uncommon to pay as much or more for software than for hardware when you purchase a new PC.

But with Google’s recent moves in the spreadsheet and word processing space (when are they going to offer a free Powerpoint killer?), it won’t be long before we can buy a $300-500 PC without any Microsoft software on it and be as productive or more productive than ever before.

I’m not necessarily down on Microsoft. It will reinvent itself. Think about it. IBM is still worth $137 billion. It’s just a totally different business than it was 20 years ago. Microsoft will find its place in the post-Windows world, but it just won’t be making all the rules like it has for the last 10-20 years.

How many of you can live without Microsoft products today? And how many can see the time coming soon when Google will provide the OS as well as the free software applications that you and your team need to succeed? (And it will all be monetized through their most-efficient advertising engine.)

What do you think? And does it matter or not?

Since I write primarily to entrepreneurs, I’m especially eager to hear what Google’s strategy and success means to you as you make investment and business plan decisions.

Better than Rocketboom!

I heard about Rocketboom last year, a simple, short-format daily news video broadcast that has attracted millions of views. They have a growing archive, of course, and they use a simple web 2.0 tagging system to identify the topics that are covered in each broadcast. (See the Rocketboom Alexa chart.

When you visit Rocketboom, your first reaction is, anyone could do this. But the fact is, they did it, and they did it early in the online video revolution, and they are still doing it. Unfortunately, Amanda Congdon, the original Rocketboom news anchor left the site earlier this year. Now the anchor is Joanne Colan.

I swear that when I originally saw Rocketboom I thought about my friend Lindsay Campbell, an actress in New York with a degree from Stanford University. She was my assistant at “Infobase Ventures” (the predecessor to Provo Labs). After graduating from Stanford she got an MFA from a very fine acting school in Colorado.

I actually thought she would make a better news anchor than Rocketboom’s. I tried to figure out something that worldhistory.com or one of my other companies could do that might put Lindsay in front of a daily online video news broadcast. But I didn’t figure anything out and never approached her about it.

So imagine my surprise yesteday when I got an email from Lindsay saying that she is quitting her day job to become the news anchor for a new online video news site called WallStrip.com.

It’s a better concept than Rocketboom because it has a more narrow focus, but it will appeal to millions of people who owns stocks and who want to know how changing trends will affect the companies they have invested in.

It’s about the stock market. It’s about highlighting one stock each day that is close to a 52-week high and then going behind the scenes to figure out what is powering the growth of that stock. They will interview people, figure out what is going on in pop culture that is fueling each company’s growth. Then, on all the Wallstrip blogs, professional investors and others will debate the company’s prospects.

Today’s Wallstrip news story is on Apple Computer, whose growth is fueled by the iPod as well as the retail stores that Apple is opening.

So the bottom line is: better concept than Rocketboom. Better anchor than Rocketboom.

I’ve never hired a news anchor before, but I can tell good ones when I see them. I was a huge fan of Soledad O’Brien early on, back when I watched MSNBC’s The Site, one of the programs that fueled the internet revolution.

I am extremely happy for Lindsay and the founding team of Wallstrip.com, and I wish them well. I think their format is excellent. I think Lindsay is perfect for this job. Her career is going to take off. I always knew she would go places!

Howard Lindzon, the founder of Wallstrip outlines one of his goals on a recent blog post:

One of my goals out of Wallstrip is to create a deeper conversation, a better MEME for stock bloggers, market investors and enthusiasts.

The tech nerds have MEME

It’s Scary That Yahoo Finance is Wrong

A couple days ago I blogged about Omniture’s (OMTR) market cap being half that of Web Side Story (WSSI). I based my blog post on Yahoo Finance. They put Omniture’s market cap at $102.7 million today. Fortunately, two of my readers have commented that Yahoo Finance was wrong. The number of outstanding shares is not 14 million, but 40-50 million. They point out that according to other finance sites (such as Marketwatch) Omniture’s market cap is $327 million, higher than Web Side Story like it ought to be, based on revenue and revenue growth.

I take responsibility for writing a blog post based on inaccurate data on Yahoo Finance. I’ve learned my lesson: don’t trust a single source for financial data, or more specifically, don’t rely on Yahoo Finance for financial data period. I remember Yahoo Finance being inaccurate some time ago for something else I was researching. So I think I’ll switch to Google Finance (their OMTR data is accurate), but I’ll try to remember to always check multiple sources before coming to any conclusion and especially before blogging.

To compound the error, my web site ranks #1 on google for the search “Omniture market cap” based on my earlier post. (Yahoo finance ranks #2 because of my link to them.) So for a couple of days, before my readers corrected the error, web users worldwide would have read my blog post, which was based on faulty data and therefore had a faulty premise–that Omniture’s value was lower than Web Side Story’s–or they could have gone to Yahoo Finance and found the same data that I found.

Thank goodness for blog readers and for the blogosphere in general which tends to be very self-correcting over time. And thank goodness for a semi-efficient market which values a great company higher than a good one.

Someone at Yahoo should comment here and explain why a company with their size and reach can possibly get away with having inaccurate data on a highly visible company that recently went public. There is no excuse for this. Unless they correct their problems, they ought to be slammed pretty hard by some mainstream journalist. Maybe I’ll email my friend at the SF Chronicle…

(Note: I still own shares in Omniture, as I said in my earlier blog post as well.)

Omniture vs. Web Side Story

So if Yahoo Finance is correct, Omniture has a market cap of $106 million on trailing twelve months revenue of $51.2 million. Their quarterly revenue growth rate (year over year) is 104.4%.

Compare that to Web Side Story, another web analytics company. WSSI’s market cap is $237 million, more than twice as high as Omniture’s. Their revenue is lower, with TTM revenue of $45.94 million and their quarterly revenue growth rate (yoy) is lower, at 93.2%. WSSI does have a positive EBITDA of $9.9 million, while Omniture’s is negative. But with a higher revenue base and a higher revenue growth rate, it could be just a matter of time before Omniture is worth significantly more than Web Side Story.

I think it is also significant than both companies growth rates are near 100% even with Google Analytics in the picture. I’ve tried Google Analytics and find it lacking in some critical features. So my companies continue to rely on Omniture, as do many of the largest and most profitable internet companies in the world.

I own a very small stake in Omniture. As a customer and shareholder, I think it will be interesting to see if the market cap gap between Omniture and Web Site Story narrows in the coming months. I think it probably will, one way or another. There were 2 million short shares on Web Side Story as of June 12th, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Omniture IPO!

I’m so happy for everyone associated with Omniture for successfully completing its IPO today. The shares opened at $6.50 and ended the day up slightly at $6.53 per share. Visit Yahoo Finance for more. This high tech IPO is a big deal for Utah, which needs more IPOs. And Omniture now has a war chest to help it maintain its leadership position in the web analytics space. This is a great company with a great product that many of my companies (and many of the really big online companies) rely on for real-time decision making, and for optimizing revenues.

Full Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Omniture. Do bloggers have to disclose that when blogging about a publicly traded company? Somebody tell me the rules …

Related Info for: answers.com/

Alexa chart for Answers.com

This site has a ton of great content (encyclopedias and other reference works), a simple search engine, and a tremendous growth chart.

The company went public last year and is worth $100 million, even with little revenue track record. The expectation, of course, is that revenue will follow the excellent traffic growth that the company is seeing.

The company made its quarterly SEC filing today and announced Q4 revenue of $889,000, up 58% from Q3.

It’s rare, anymore, for an internet company to go public with almost no revenue. But with this traffic growth chart, the company’s revenue is certain to grow. This is definitely a company to watch.

IVIL: Summary for IVILLAGE INC – Yahoo! Finance

IVIL: Summary for IVILLAGE INC – Yahoo! Finance

iVillage’s market cap is $568 million.

Another article states: “For the year, iVillage earned $9.5 million, or 12 cents per share, on sales of $91.1 million.”

Projected revenue next year is between $105 million and $113 million.

Companies that are leaders in their space seem to get nice multiples on Wall Street.

Stock Prices of Internet Companies

I love MyYahoo, where I have 72 different portfolios consisting mainly of stocks that I do not own in categories that I have defined. So for example, I have a Music & Audio portfolio where I track Audible.com and several other companies. Yahoo makes it very easy for me to track stock prices and news about each company.

Today I created a new portfolio that is a hand-picked subset of stocks listed by Yahoo Finance in the Internet Information Services industry.

I chose Ediets.com, ECollege.com, Audible, TheStreet.com, iVillage, LookSmart, BankRate, Edgar Online, The Knot, and ADAM.

Here is the chart for these 10 internet stocks.

7 of the 10 companies are profitable. The average price to sales ratio is above 5.7. And for the profitable companies, the average price to EBITDA is above 92. So medium sized internet companies are getting pretty good multiples these days.

See all the companies Yahoo lists in the Internet Information Services category.

(By the way, I just wasted almost an hour trying to easily turn a spreadsheet into a simple HTML table that I could post using WordPress or an image that I could capture and add. I tried imageshack.us, but it only lets me display a thumbnail. Then I tried upimages.com, but I couldn’t get the image to show up in my blog without ads. I need an application that lets me point to any portion of my screen and instantly blog it, without having to save a file and upload it or FTP it somewhere. Are there any solutions out there?)

What Motivates Me To Be Foolish

No company likes anyone to break news for them. Companies like to control their own news and get their own press coverage. The blogosphere is upsetting to corporate executives everywhere. Many bloggers have lost their jobs over what they have written. It’s an interesting time.

Against that backdrop, I felt compelled the other day to mention that MyFamily had layoffs and no media (and only 1 blogger) had reported it.

Why did I do that? I have many friends at MyFamily.com, including investors, board members, and executives, as well as many employees that I care deeply about and am close friends with.

I feel a lot of concern and grief for everyone affected by these layoffs. I know how painful it is for everyone, including those who are still employed, but who lost close friends to the RIF.

I’ve been wondering why I blogged about it, when I know it will get me in trouble and make me more unpopular in certain circles.

First, I grew up in an anti-corporate environment, at least I think I did. I grew up thinking business was evil. My father, a world renowned classificationist and engineer (one of a few Utahns ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering), and a faculty member at BYU for 35 years did consulting for some of the largest manufacturers in the country. And I got the sense that he really disliked corporate politics and policies and greed.

And of course I studied the writings of Hugh Nibley, Brigham Young, and others who believed that materialism and greed were grave sins, and that no one should possess that which was above another, that the “earth is full and there is enough and to spare” if people would love and care about one another, we could overcome poverty and much suffering. Ok, so I am a total idealist, even now.

I thought academia was the right career path for me, so in college I started studying political science, then switched to international relations, and then finally Russian. Back then, the Soviet Union was an evil empire, and the very epitome of materialism and top down control of everything. I wanted to be a Sovietologist and study the power of the Politburo. I got my degree in Russian from BYU and then started a Masters program in Library Science.

At that time I caught a vision from BYU President Jeffrey Holland (from his speech, “Towards a School in Zion”) that changed my life. He said all the truth in the world should be gathered and made accessible to everyone. From his powerful words, and from what I knew from working at Folio, my brother’s search engine company, I felt that in the era of computers it would be possible to gather up all knowledge from throughout the world and put it at everyone’s fingertips.

This kind of “information democracy” as my brother Curt would put it, could help level the playing field and lead to more economic equality. At least, that would be the hope.

In 1990 I got started unexpectedly down an entrepreneurial track by co-founding with Dan Taggart a CD ROM publishing company called Infobases. Our mission was to identify all the greatest texts in every field of human knowledge and digitize them and make them available affordably to everyone.

For many years we successfully pursued that vision. Along the way, unfortunately, Infobases had big layoffs almost every year. We had to layoff family members and friends. This is the thing that I most dislike about business. It is so painful to cause someone to lose their job, or rather, to have a company that can’t support all its employees (in our case most likely because of poor, inexperienced management), and so you have to choose who stays and who goes.

By 1996 I realized that I was an entrepreneur for life, so I started reading and studying everything I could about business and best practices. I wanted to understand why some companies succeed and why some fail.

By 1998 Dan and I were running Ancestry.com, a successful internet subscription service. We owned 97% of the company. And we got to cash flow positive in June and July 1998 (with a run rate of around $3 million per year) before raising our first $1.3 million in outside capital from Utah angel investors.

So we were on top of the world. We were running a dot com, we owned almost all of it, it was profitable and growing incredibly fast. And then we entered the world of venture capital, hyper growth, and the internet bubble.

We were ill prepared for what would happen over the next few years as the board of directors changed and management changed and our stake in the company went from large to very small.

Fast forward a few years and the company we founded (now called MyFamily.com) is an internet success story. The company is the leading genealogy company in the world, I believe, and is providing vast genealogical data to users around the world, particularly in the US, Canada and the UK.

The new CEO is outstanding. The management team is extremely talented, and the company has a bright future.

But then these layoffs happen, which caught so many people off guard.

So why would I blog about this company news when I know people will be upset with me for doing so? Why would I be so foolish?

First, I wanted to invite some of the laid off employees to apply for world at Provo Labs. We’ve already started getting resumes.

And I also want to let all the laid off employees anywhere know about some great online resources for job seekers. LinkedIn.com is an essential tool for business networking today. Use it and get everyone you know using it. SimplyHired.com is a great way to find jobs. I searched the 4.4 million job listings for internet jobs in Utah County and found 194. I also encourage everyone to start attending DevUtah.com Geek Dinners, Provo Labs Entrepreneur Breakfasts, Phil Windley’s CTO Breakfasts, UVEF, and other local networking events where you are most likely to find companies that are hiring.

Second, I feel passionate about free information flow in business. Remember the whole information democracy thing?

Some corporate PR departments don’t really tell anyone what is going on. And some constantly spin out good news, regardless of what is really going on.

MyFamily is an example of a company that doesn’t say very much about what is happening. There are just a few recent press releases.

On the other extreme was Infospace during 1998-2000. Infospace had one of the most effective PR machines in history. While their stock price soared during the dot com bubble they release a positive release virtually every week announcing either a significant partnership or new customer, or a milestone that they had achieved.

Perhaps a lot of that was fluff. So a $30 billion company sunk quickly after the bubble burst to a more modest billion or half-billion valuation.

I think companies should be open and communicate often with their constituencies, both good news and bad.

I have blogged previously that every CEO should have a blog.

I know that there might be legal complications with this idea, but there are also problems with companies not communicating. Sooner or later there will be court cases on CEOs and company blogs. (Let me know if this is already happening.)

The government requires publicly traded companies to file quarterly and annual reports with the SEC. The goal here is at least enough transparency for investors to properly value a company.

If there is more transparency and more equal access to information, there seems to be less of a chance for abuse, manipulation, and greed to create winners and losers.

But privately held companies are not required to file SEC reports. And they aren’t required to issue press releases or to disclose anything to anyone. (Although I’m sure investors and perhaps employees have some information rights–I just don’t much about this.)

Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, seems to spend most of his time reading annual reports looking for value companies to own or invest in. According to Motley Fool, all investors should “[read] a company’s annual report and SEC filings, [listen] to a conference call, [attend] a management presentation” and “[visit] the company.” But Motley Fool also claims that since everyone has access to this information, no one gets a comparative advantage from doing these basic things.

(I disagree. I bet that more that more than 90% of investors don’t do any of the these things: read SEC filings and annual reports, etc. I think most investors rely on tips from friends and don’t take the time to do any homework.)

But Warren Buffett also believes in what Philip Fisher (his other mentor) called “scuttlebutt” in his classic 1958 book, “Common Stock and Uncommon Profits.”

The business “grapevine” is a remarkable thing. It is amazing what an accurate picture of the relative points of strength and weakness of each company in an industry can be obtained from a representative cross-section of the opinions of those who in one way or another are concerned with any particular company. Most people, particularly if they feel sure there is no danger of their being quoted, like to talk about the field of work in which they are engaged and will talk rather freely about their competitors. Go to five companies in an industry, ask each of them intelligent questions about the points of strength and weakness of the other four, and nine times out of ten a surprisingly detailed and accurate picture of all five will emerge.

It is equally astonishing how much can be learned from both vendors and customers about the real nature of the people with whom they deal. Research scientists in universities, in government, and in competitive companies are another fertile source of worthwhile data. So are executives of trade associations.

So to gain an advantage over other investors, Fisher said you should create your own scuttlebutt network.

But in my utopian/idealist worldview, scuttlebutt networks should also be as open and transparent as possible.

If the goal is to get rich, then individuals will obviously not share scuttlebutt with others. But if the goal is information democracy leading to more economic equality, then people will freely share it.

So what enters the picture in the 21st century to create a more open business grapevine? Open source programmers, open content projects, bloggers, and podcasters, who are often motivated more by the ideals of information democracy than they are of getting personally rich or famous.

A lot of people do a lot of things for the good of others because they love doing it, it makes them feel good, and they love the feedback and thanks.

After realizing from the MyFamily layoff scuttlebutt that many public and private companies don’t really tell the outside world what is going on, Provo Labs has decided to launch an SEC search engine (kind of like what 10kwizards did a few years ago) and combine it with an open scuttlebutt network of bloggers for thousands of companies.

We do want to avoid the stock market manipulation and hype that become common with Raging Bull, Silicon Investor, and Yahoo’s stock message boards during the bubble.

We hope to find responsible journalist types who can adopt a company and find and report information on a daily basis that will help the outside community (employees, investors, partners, etc) learn the truth, both good and bad, about what is going on inside each company.

I have been in meetings with people who have detailed knowledge about the operations of a company and who are trying to buy stock from shareholders who don’t have any knowledge about what is going on inside the company. (I’m not talking about MyFamily.com here!)

Fortunately, other people in the meeting reminded everyone of the ethical need to communicate openly with the other shareholders before purchasing their shares.

Even with information transparency, there will always be buyers and sellers of stock for all kinds of reasons, business and personal.

So that is what motivates me to be foolish, and to potentially upset friends and stir the pot. This whole experience has led me to form a new company that will try to promote information democracy in the world of business (both public and private).

We bought the domain www.unofficialblogs.com yesterday and might use that to launch our scuttlebutt network.

Your ideas and feedback, as always, are welcome.