My idle thoughts on tech startups
Internet 2007: opportunity or bubble?
Yesterday, we had our annual meeting with the investors in Point Judith Capital’s two funds. Just as companies hold annual meetings with their shareholders, most VC firms do the same to help keep limited partners informed of overall progress.
We had the good fortune to have Kevin Ryan deliver the keynote address to our group of LPs. Kevin is co-founder & Chairman of Music Nation, one of our portfolio companies, and has a wealth of experience over the last decade and change in a number of very successful internet businesses (CEO of Doubleclick, investor/director of Hotjobs, now co-founder of three new VC-backed companies).
Kevin’s talk centered around the state of the internet economy today versus ten years ago, and drew quite a bit from his keynote address at the ad:tech conference a few months back. His points drew some interesting contrasts between then and now… online advertising has grown 50+ fold (yet continues to rapidly gain share from traditional publishing mediums), bandwidth costs have dropped by almost 99% (enabling new products like online video), and large enduring companies have been created out of nothing. On the last point, Kevin cited the example of Yahoo! which in ’97 seemed massively overvalued trading at a price/earnings ratio over 100. It’s market cap then was a little over $1B and while it’s obviously down from its heights, Yahoo! is now worth nearly $40B. Not to mention companies like Google, founded in late ’98 and a public company now for less than three years, which didn’t even exist then.
But I found the most interesting (and selfishly relevant to what I do every day) take away was Kevin’s perspective on internet-related startups today. Whether you point to robust M&A activity (well over $10B in internet acquisitions announced just in the last ~30 days) or significant increases in VC funding of internet related startups, some folks have begun opining on a new “bubble” upon us.
Despite this flurry of activity and a handful of deals that make you scratch your head, Kevin’s point was that we remain in the early innings of the dramatic change the internet is ushering in media, commerce, and communications. Additionally, the vast majority of value on the web has been created by startups rather than the large incumbents in any of these sectors. Go look at the top 50 websites on the planet and while you’ll find some that have been acquired by large companies, virtually none were created by them.
So I take heart that it remains a great time to be starting and investing in internet companies. I have to hand it to Kevin too… he’s personally started three companies since selling Doubleclick in 2005 and has a fourth brewing now, so hard to say he doesn’t practice what he preaches.