With a recently public company, the trading is erratic. It was tough to get much information. Calls to the CFO were worthless. He kept repeating that they were the leader in objectoriented databases, which were going to revolutionize the telecommunications business. I tried to get to some contacts of mine at 62 Running Money MCI to see which departments were buying from Versant, and why.
Would they order more, make them a key part of their infrastructure? If ever there was a time to pounce.
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But conviction was absent. What kept gnawing at Fred and me was that though Versant was the leader in object-oriented databases or so we heard , that might be a booby prize. Did they have something special, some secret sauce, to their software, something they could charge a premium for? Was there some instant cost savings at telcos, so customers would come back again and again and buy more OODB? The company was no help. Gee, thanks. Turns out that MCI was a big customer, but not as big as they had hoped.
MCI delayed a few orders, and that giant sucking sound was the vacuum of lost sales and ramping expenses. Even more disturbing was that a bunch of hedge fund guys we knew, guys that loved to short, were on the call, asking detailed questions about MCI. Well, no reason to own this puppy. What was most disturbing is that for two months or more, Object Lesson 63 someone knew the company was going to miss their numbers and leaked it to these hedgies.
I doubt it. The Versant salesman who covered MCI? His brother? The sales guy at competitor ODI? Who knows? But someone knew and made a killing. It was investing when you know something no one else knows. Ouch, lesson learned. Zed got me thinking—would I have invested in the steam engine business? The year patent was nice, the business model fairly unique. But pumping water from mines? Where is the monster market in that? England was on its way to being an empire.
What I found the most interesting was the drop in the cost of power. Something besides iron and cannons were using this cheaper power. Everywhere, underwear? Iron was nice, but clothes were a much bigger market in the late 18th century. Individuals did all the steps of making clothes at home: carding, spinning and weaving. Looms have been around. American Indians had them, so did the Greeks and the Egyptians—everyone used looms to weave clothing.
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But while looms are very simple, they are extremely labor-intensive. While weaving got faster, making thread or yarn was still old-fashioned. Now weavers demanded more yarn of higher quality. Cheap cotton from the New World began to make inroads against itchy wool and even comfortable but expensive silk. Around the same time, Richard Arkwright invented and patented a device named the Spinning Frame to wind thread into bundles of yarn. The yarn from a Water Frame was thick, and the thread from the spinning jenny was coarse.
One can only imagine how itchy clothing was in Royalty still insisted on silk. Comfortable clothing was yet another thing that separated the rich from the poor. Taken on its own, it was no big deal, but it was possibly the single most important invention after the Watt steam engine. Like Emeril Lagasse making angel hair pasta, the Spinning Mule worked the same way—stretch, wind, repeat often. By , spindles hung off the Spinning Mule, and no man or mule or horse or even running water could keep up with the power needed to run one of these things. Another barrier broken—cheap and silky cotton thread and yarn.
But they still had to be run through a hand-operated loom to create cloth. Cartwright 66 Running Money thought for a moment about starting his own cotton mill, but his business instincts kicked in, and he moved up the value chain. He wanted to leverage the abundance of yarn, not help to create more. Instead of contributing to the falling price of yarn, he thought about what he could do with cheaper thread. Then he worked on the missing piece of the puzzle: a mechanical power loom. Without even looking at a hand-operated loom, he built a fully mechanical one.
He persisted in the shop, and eventually his loom fully emulated the hand and foot movements of weavers with hand-operated equipment. He tried to use a waterwheel to operate the mill, but it barely budged his machine. He quickly contacted Boulton and Watt and hooked up their steam engine. My sense is that Cartwright built his power looms assuming he could get enough power applied to them—which of course was a huge mistake.
Lucky for him, and lucky for Boulton and Watt. Cotton was hot. Operators of Spinning Frames and power looms were demanding more and more raw cotton from the New World. The hands that were missing were not weaving hands but hands to pick cotton. Unfortunately, Africans pressed into slavery met that demand, accelerating the Triangle Trade. Finished goods out of England were provided to slave traders on the coast of Africa. Slaves from what is now Ghana, among other locations, were transported to Jamaica to harvest sugar cane and to Georgia to pick cotton. It took one slave all day to remove sticky green seeds from one pound of cotton, a hidden but stubborn bottleneck to cheap clothing out of England.
A Yalie named Eli Whitney headed south, and in the winter of , as every schoolkid now knows, Whitney invented the cotton gin. Gin, in case you were wondering I was , is short for engine, good old Georgia talk. Now that machines had broken the barriers all along the cloth value chain, the clothing business took off.
And demand for steam engines took off with it. In , when the gin was invented, no more than , pounds of American cotton made its way to England; eight years later it was 17 million pounds. By , million pounds of cotton were exported to England. To put this in perspective, in , 5. Then cotton grew by another factor of 8 over the next years, or a puny compound annual growth rate of 0. Back then, it changed the way the world dressed, with less itchy clothes at that.
Even Don Valentine would have called that a monster market. I suppose this is no different from the way the world was changed by electricity at the turn of the last century or by radio in the s or television in the s, or maybe automobiles or washing machines or refrigeration or air conditioning. Industry 68 Running Money supplied the product more and more cheaply, and an entire consumer economy was built around these cheap, revolutionary products. Heck, entire economies evolved to supply this stuff—Japan with consumer electronics and then cars, Taiwan or China with all sorts of manufacturing and assembly.
Industrialization was not some master plan to remove workers from their century-old tasks. Instead it was a complete reengineering of life based on the ability to provide daily staples at much lower costs. Getting everyone together in one steam engine—driven manufactory produced higher-quality and lower-cost textiles than anything that could be done at home by old spinsters.
As long as England could keep prices for their cloth going down, they would both create new markets and keep competition away. Growth created by and protected by its own declining price elasticity. This is something I want to invest in. I started to chuckle. I had already met several others who claimed to have founded MTV. My thought was interrupted when the guy sitting next to me let out a sigh so loud everybody in the room looked over. We were now sitting in a breakout session in a small room with a conference table for 20 and probably another 20 seats scattered around the room.
The press was not allowed in, only investors, so all questions were fair game. His hedge fund would sniff out corporate malfeasance, short the stock and then yell at the top of their lungs for everyone to come look at these scumbags that were ruining this company.
Then he sat back, hoping the stock would crater and make him millions. It was a tough market to be a short in. Anyone else?
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But the rest of us were having too much fun watching Rocker grill Pittman, so no one volunteered. Rocker v. What are you doing, just waiting for a quarter with big sign-ups so you can bury the cancels? He is slated to star in a movie of that name, with Meg Ryan. It will be out next year from Warner Brothers. We might have made it ourselves, but who wants to own a movie company?
And you probably have to spend a hundred mill upgrading your system to get rid of those busy signals or all those subs are going to jump to MSN. Your stock is sinking like the Titanic, and your credit lines look like they have already been tapped. The stock was sinking fast. The fairy-tale story of amazing growth had hit an iceberg. Nick Moore found me as I was running to another meeting.
Rocker is going to get killed. As long as they are growing, they can cook the books and hide the losses for years. Like, well, like people have a hard time thinking in four dimensions. Well, let the sunshine in. Pittman Prizefight 73 tance company. At that point, you would have done a deal with Tony Soprano for large. And a deal he did, in effect relaunching AOL as a media company, selling access to their customers.
A grand master plan by Pittman? I think he has Dave Rocker to thank for forcing his hand. On the announcement of the AOL-Telesave deal, both stocks jumped and went on a three-year wild ride—while Dave Rocker twisted in the wind. I could care less about AOL—a service for teenage girls. I was naive. We owned some shares. He was wearing the techie uniform: a denim shirt and khakis. I had on a tan shirt and jeans; the anti-uniform, I suppose.
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I thought I saw Fred cringe. Pretty dull. Khakis walked us through a bunch of case studies—customers would put in Red Brick and save three times the price of the software within a year. I thought it was pretty neat technology but that its results were just common sense, not startling. Still, it was selling like hotcakes. The head of sales came in. How long does it take to close a deal?
We learned more than we ever wanted to know about data warehousing, data marts and online analytical processing, said our goodbyes and scrambled out to my car. The CFO closes the door, and the stock blows up. I got the impression that he thought that he was running the company. Especially in software, when you can sell whatever and however much you want.
These software companies are lumpy—they have to keep selling and selling to the same customers. Does that really mean anything? But maybe it does. Maybe it keeps going up. So what. I think IBM bought it out for not much more a year or so later. And I forever value the closed CFO door indicator! It is as if I am freefalling with it, exhilarated. Waterfalls are the sign of a young river, vibrant, moving fast, cutting through everything in its path, straight to its destination.
On a rafting trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, I hiked four hours uphill to see the shortest river in the world, Thunder River. Why am I telling you this cutesy, back-to-nature nonsense? Because those clumps of water? And good luck with that. And hopefully, I can jump off the investments before the trend crashes into a pile of debris. Sick, but that is what I chose to do. Everything else to me is a meandering river. Young rivers have waterfalls that cut through rock like a hot knife through butter.
Old rivers meander, meaning if they hit some resistance, a resilient embankment, they just head off in another direction, without the strength to cut their own way anymore. In fact, most of these big trends leave a trail of meandering rivers in their wake. Wilkinson and Watt launched a cheap textile industry, and today textiles may be a trillion-dollar industry. It will swing up and swing down, depending on lots of factors—the cost of cotton, invention of manmade materials, fashion, computerbased pattern cutters.
There is money to be made in textiles. Just not for me. Too dull. They are just lazy—old man river. If you invest right, they can provide a nice ride, but they just as soon will reverse course and meander back to where you started. How do you know when technology reaches a point where it breaks through a barrier and cascades? Is it 18 months away or 18 years away? Will the company you invested in still be in business by the time the barrier breaks? It makes a difference—fortunes are made or lost depending on time frame.
The barriers in the Industrial Revolution took time to come down. The steam engine needed 25 years to help lower the cost of cloth. Steamships and propellers and turbines unfolded over the next years. Water falls 79 I suppose the good news is that these waterfalls are all related, almost like dominoes; one helps knock down the next one. Investing is inexact.
But when it works, sit back, count slowly so you know when to jump off and enjoy the free fall! Why is it so hard to buy this stock? Can we move the bid up? You gotta have a poker face and just scrape and claw at this thing. Our investing had had some successes and some blowups, but we kept looking for undiscovered gems in the Valley. We had tripped across this sleepy little company, Elantec. But Elantec had missed their numbers a few times and was thrown onto the ever-growing scrap heap of failed companies.
Elantec made chips to regulate the power in PCs, a pretty dull business, but what opened our eyes was a chip that helped smooth phone lines so telcos could offer DSL broadband Internet service. These chips were starting to sell but not in big numbers. Fred and I went to visit the company a couple of times. Oh, laser diode drivers.
Gee, that changes everything. You must sell two or three of those each quarter. This investment might have been a huge mistake. Our drivers enable that. That seemed to be our model. Maybe there is some waterfall out there. You never know. In fact, the ones you think are going to be the huge home runs often end up as duds, and the companies with modest expectations all of a sudden go off on a tear.
That DVD stuff is going to kick in someday, but my conviction was iffy. Still, a three-bagger is nothing to sneeze at. Deciding to add more shares and actually buying the stock were two different things. These small companies do trade by appointment. Even more so when I got out a calculator. These guys are almost as big a set of thieves as real estate brokers. I got a couple of thousand so far. Keep going.
Again, just buying it off the box. You know that. I thought you might have been talking about some other box, of course, yeah, Instinet. Not much. But if they could sell a million of them in a year or two, it was something. Someday, maybe they could even sell 5 million and contribute to growth. Meanwhile, I checked out Instinet. I put in a call to see if a small but effective hedge fund could get one of their boxes too.
Some young sales guy called back and said they had just started a new program for small institutions and that we should talk. They were in the ugly Lipstick Building on Third Avenue, just down the block from the Citigroup whistle building. When I ask what box, they tell me Instinet. Heck, I sometimes get stiffed for a quarter.
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Three cents works for me. We can probably have you set up next week. Pac Bell showed up and installed a frame relay circuit to connect us back to Instinet in San Francisco. I took the equipment apart when Pac Bell left to see whose chips were in the network equipment. Boulton was attracted to Watt and his steam engine in He provided Watt with risk capital because he understood early on how the steam engine could change the manufacturing business. In exchange, he got two-thirds of the business, which, starting in , reaped him 25 years of dividends.
Stock Markets tells you that a stock is nothing more than the current value of all of those dividends. Boulton could have cashed out in year three, and many others could have owned his piece of the steam engine franchise. In fact, Watt might have been able to cut out Boulton altogether and just sell a piece of his business to the stock market, and use that capital to fund the business.
But put yourself back in They more or less rented it, paying a third of what they saved on horses. So, a stock market might provide liquidity, cash for your share of the business. In doing so, it is also a great nongovernmental mechanism for setting the prices of businesses. These markets ended up as a near-perfect way to allocate capital to businesses. A business that the market expected to have a bright future saw its price go up and therefore had to sell a smaller percentage to raise the same amount of money. In effect, the cost of capital went down.
But funding factories is a lot different from funding ideas and intellectual property. Building factories and stocking them with machines requires huge outlays. I get a headache even thinking about the logistics nightmare of a factory owner in Add to that insurance, if it is even available, and it is a wonder that factories made any money at all. But they did make money because they got to operate under the huge price umbrella of handmade goods.
There was no vibrant stock market in , for entrepreneurs anyway, but there is now. New business? Forget it. Come back when it works. Pools of capital looking for high returns chase these businesses that banks pass on. There must have been more than a steam engine and some textile mills to this story. Those Brits ran the table for years. Something else was going on. But there had to have been more great investments, more waterfalls related to the steam engine.
Where were they? His steam engine patent was to expire in , so he kept inventing. In , he invented the double-acting, noncondensing engine. The steam is never condensed, it is just expelled after it is used to push the piston. Depends on how much the steam engines cost Fulton and how much he charged. Steam locomotives and railroads: In , George Stephenson was tasked with hauling coal out of open pits. Horses were too slow and coal was in huge demand to run steam engines.
He built a steam locomotive, the Blutcher, which worked on tracks, instead of cogs and pinions and spikes. No one thought it could haul coal uphill without spikes, but it turns out that friction works. Edward Pearse, the major shareholder of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, met with George Stephenson, who told him to forget the horsies, his Blutcher locomotive could do the work of 50 horses. A quick showing of the Blutcher in action in Killingworth clinched the deal.
Stephenson and his son were asked to compete in a contest for the rights to design and operate the line. Demand for railroads, for passengers and for industrial goods exploded. Joint-stock companies became the rage, and the stock market was all too happy to step in and provide capital. Then more capital. And then too much capital. By the s, a railroad mania was raging, stocks selling on multiples of passenger miles, a precursor for multiples of page views that Yahoo stock would trade on years later.
Charles Dickens marveled at railroad wealth. The Industrial Revolution hit its stride. Railroad mania hit the U. It gave the New York Stock Exchange something to trade besides government debt. Railroads helped create the pools of capital that funded innovation in the U. Railroads look interesting, especially since they need some government mandate for the right of way between two destinations. Gotta make sure to jump off this one when ticket and hauling prices start to crack.
Ocean steamships and propellers: The next barrier was a steampowered Atlantic crossing. There was only one problem—how to carry enough coal to keep the steam engine cranking for that long trip. A self-proclaimed expert on the subject, Reverend Dionysius Lardner, announced in that the longest theoretical distance a steamship that carried its own coal could travel was 2, miles.
He probably just made up the number. But the amount of fuel needed is in proportion to the surface area of the bottom of the ship, which has to be moved through the water, not its volume. The surface area only goes up by the square of its length. If you could build a long enough ship, you could go wherever you wanted.
A British engineer named I. Brunel followed three days later, and a race was on, with Smith beating 94 Running Money Brunel by just eight hours. Steam lowered the cost of shipping goods across the Atlantic by allowing bigger ships and cutting the time and uncertainty of the crossing. Both the Great Western and the Sirius, amazingly, were paddle ships. The next innovation was propellers. The steam engine could directly drive a shaft to which a propeller was attached. In , the Archimedes, a coastal ship with a propeller, was run at 10 knots and used half as much fuel as a paddle-wheel ship.
This is a tough one to gauge as an investable business. On the other hand, there was probably a huge business supplying parts to these companies.
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After 10 years of construction, the Suez Canal opened in Transportation costs dropped yet again, by a factor of three or more, and as importantly, distance and time became deterministic. The trip from Malaya to England to deliver tin took exactly three months, which was the same time it took for copper to arrive from Chile. This allowed commodity exchanges, like the London Metal Exchange, to create three-month-forward contracts. Contracts for the purchase or sale of a commodity three months into the future allowed buyers or shippers to hedge their business, lowering the cost of risk.
The canal itself is probably a sucker bet—no innovation, unstable politics—though it probably doubled or tripled the value of shipping companies and manufacturers who got the scale from lower time and costs for transport. It was feet long, and its four Parsons steam turbines provided almost 25, horsepower. OK, I cheated on that one, but still, the turbine proved that you could invest in a cycle over a hundred years after it started as long as the fundamentals of the cycle still scale.
No home runs but lots of singles. We were searching high and low for names we could own in a big way. The good and bad news was there were tons of companies out there to look at. Sometimes they were private—we put money into private company Progressive Networks soon to be renamed RealNetworks. We bought a bunch of Network Appliance, famous for their networked attached storage. Companies putting up Web sites were buying these things by the dozen to sit next to their servers. Fred knew the CEO from an old investment and Mr. Monster Market Don Valentine was on the board.
It bounced around but was mostly up. So was Zoran, which sold chips into DVD players. Another name that worked was Pinnacle Systems. They made video editing systems, and every broadcaster was buying their stuff. Golden touch? Not even close. Fred and I much preferred the screwups—the low road—or the preglitched, as we liked to call them.
Great technology, decent management, but some product transition or other factor causes the company to miss, and every investor pukes it out. No one has patience anymore. We found this cool compression software company named Stac. They won a lawsuit against Microsoft but missed every quarter and pissed most of the money away. What caught our eye was this little chip company inside it named Hifn doing hardware compression that seemed to be worth more than the whole company.
The stock ticked up by eighths and quarters day by day. The strangest name we owned was General Magic. The company was the great scam IPO of Goldman Sachs took it public on the promise of electronic agents and bots for computers and phones that would scour networks for just the information you need—yeah, right.
The founders were long gone, and some new dude from Novell was brought in to turn it around. It seemed modestly interesting if they could get it to work. Not overnight—it probably took three or four months to get all the shares through Goldman Sachs. I think we were buying the shares of Marc Porat, one of the founders.
Maybe this investment thing really is going to get off the ground. Zed told me. Do you agree? Are you going to invest in ships or railroads? Textile makers? Auto companies? How is it that Silicon Valley can generate all that wealth but hardly even make anything themselves? Can we invest in that model or is that same little quirk? NetApp took commodity disk drives made in Singapore and put a software wrapper around them—and made a fortune. Zed is right. I need to go back and do the same homework I did for the Industrial Revolution on this whole tech thing. Most people think the semiconductor industry is a result of the space race that Sputnik sparked.
In , the U. Air Force did use semiconductors in the design of Minuteman missiles, and the Pentagon and the soon-to-be-formed NASA were large buyers of semiconductors. The computer industry was already taking off during the post—World War II economic boom. I suspect military and commercial uses drove the semiconductor industry in lockstep, until the microprocessor blew commercial uses wide open. But as far as transistors were concerned in the s, they were discrete devices, one device per package. At Texas Instruments, a scientist named Jack Kilby was given the task of packing a bunch of transistors together.
Fundamentally, creating value is as simple as making more money — but therein lies the rub. Effective management of business growth involves a complex interplay of productivity, capital, debt, and margins, and finding the most efficient balance can be challenging. For managers who need a deeper understanding of the forces at work, Corporate Value Creation is a thorough, detailed guide but it is also valuable for managers who are looking for information on a specific topic or simply wanting to understand at a high level what's involved in running a successful business.
So why is Andy Kessler—the man who told you outrageous stories of Wall Street analysts gone bad in Wall Street Meat and tales from inside a hedge fund in Running Money—poking around medicine for the next big wave of technology? It's because he smells change coming. Heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are a huge chunk of medical spending, yet there's surprisingly little effort to detect disease before it's life threatening. How lame is that—especially since the technology exists today to create computer-generated maps of your heart and colon? Because it's too expensive—for now.
But Silicon Valley has turned computing, telecom, finance, music, and media upside down by taking expensive new technologies and making them ridiculously cheap. Join Kessler's bizarre search for the next big breakthrough as he tries to keep from passing out while following cardiologists around, cracks jokes while reading mammograms, and watches twitching mice get injected with radioactive probes. Looking for a breakthrough, Kessler even selflessly pokes, scans, and prods himself. CT scans of your heart will identify problems before you have a heart attack or stroke; a nanochip will search your blood for cancer cells--five years before they grow uncontrollably and kill you; and baby boomers can breathe a little easier because it's all starting to happen now.
Your doctor can't be certain what's going on inside your body, but technology will. Embedding the knowledge of doctors in silicon will bring a breakout technology to health care, and we will soon see an end of medicine as we know it.
It has been nearly a decade since the publication of the highly successful The New Market Wizards. The interim has witnessed the most dynamic bull market in US stock history, a collapse in commodity prices, dramatic failures in some of the world's leading hedge funds, the burst of the Internet bubble, a fall into recession and subsequent rumblings of recovery.
Who have been the 'market wizards' during this tumultuous financial period? How did some traders manage to significantly outperform a stockmarket that during its heyday moved virtually straight up? This book will feature interviews with a variety of traders who achieved phenomenal financial success during the glory days of the Internet boom. In contrast with the first two Market Wizard books, which included traders from a broad financial spectrum—stocks, bonds, currencies and futures—this volume will focus on traders in the stockmarket.
Account Options Sign in. Top charts. New arrivals. A brilliant investor, a born raconteur and an overall smart-ass, Andy Kessler pulls back the curtain on the world of hedge funds and shows how the guys who run big money think, talk and act. Reviews Review Policy.
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More related to hedge fund. See more. Guide to Hedge Funds: What they are, what they do, their risks, their advantages, Edition 2. Philip Coggan. This relatively conservative approach was one way for the fund to differentiate itself from the pack. Another was its choice of investments. Given Mr. Kessler's background, the focus of the fund was on technology stocks. In the early 's, he spent five years at Bell Labs as a chip designer and programmer before becoming an electronics and semiconductor analyst at PaineWebber and, later, Morgan Stanley.
But instead of finding companies that had created breakthrough technology, Mr. Kessler's goal was to find companies that could exploit it. That is where real wealth has been made throughout history, Mr. It wasn't James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, who became very rich from it. It was the people who figured out how to use the engine efficiently to power steamships, railroads and factories. Money can be made in betting on the commercialization of new ideas, Mr. Kessler says, whether you are running a hedge fund or investing for your retirement.
His fund made successful investments in Inktomi, the search company eventually acquired by Yahoo; Real Networks, the maker of media-playing software; and Silicon Image, a digital media company. Equally important, from the perspective of its shareholders, Mr.
Kessler and his partner decided to go out of business just before the technology bubble burst. Unlike most investors, they sensed that the valuations were absurd. It is just too bizarre to be believed. STILL, the book does have its flaws.
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