Friday, January 9, 2009

More nineties nostalgia

One more excerpt from my "Soaring Nineties" piece, mentioned below. Note my own cameo on the stage of financial history.

The stock boom continued in 1999, with a particular frenzy developing around Internet startups. “Dot-coms” snapped up investment dollars, with little regard to the plausibility of their business plans. Indeed, worrying about a company’s lack of profits — or even revenues — seemed old-fashioned amid the focus on “eyeballs” and “mouse clicks.”

New companies sprang up in every imaginable Internet niche., seller of kitty litter and such, became famous for its sock-puppet mascot. offered free delivery of small goods, like pints of ice cream. Whoopi Goldberg became spokeswoman for, provider of e-currency. Lou Dobbs quit as CNN financial anchor to start celestial Web site (and this writer joined him there on the “launch team”).

The euphoric excesses were symbolized that summer when Stephan Paternot, co-founder of social networking site, was filmed by CNN dancing with his model girlfriend on a table in a Manhattan club, wearing plastic pants. “Got the girl. Got the money. Now I’m ready to live a disgusting, frivolous life,” he said, disgustingly.

But the dot-com boom was not all waste and delusion. From the perspective of almost a decade later, it is clear that companies such as eBay and Google have made lasting contributions, in wealth, jobs and beneficial technologies. As the nineties drew to a close, a mix of genuine innovation and errant overreaching brought stocks to new highs.

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