You call this a tech bubble?
Silicon Valley insiders dismiss bubble talk, and they're right (for now)
A second Silicon Valley insider has assured us all that there is no tech bubble.
Which means that if just one more says the same thing, there officially will be a bubble.
I kid the Silicon Valley insiders.
Angel investor and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel told the New York Times on Wednesday that "we don't have a tech bubble for a variety of reasons."
(Also see: LinkedIn shares nearly triple in IPO debut)
Chief among those reasons, Thiel says, is that unlike the late '90s, there simply aren't that many tech companies (though, really, the "bubble" talk is specifically about social media) going public.
And last week, VC Marc Andreessen, said in a videotaped interview with the Wall Street Journal that all this groundless talk about "bubbles" is because "the market doesn't like tech" and that Apple and Google are undervalued.
Andreessen, of course, knows about bubbles. Netscape, the browser company he co-founded in 1994 when he was 22, became the first Internet company to go public. As interest in the pending IPO grew, Netscape's underwriters doubled the offer price at the last minute to $28 from the planned $14 (much as LinkedIn's underwriters did three weeks ago).
When Netscape shares made their Wall Street debut on Aug. 9, 1995, they soared as high as $75, marking the very first Internet IPO moonshot and making Andreessen and co-founder Jim Clark wealthy.
Many more moonshots would follow as the new technology not only spawned countless start-ups, but also enabled online trading, giving millions of people the ability to buy and sell shares with the click of a mouse.
Which gets back to Thiel's point. "The first component of a bubble — something a lot of people believe and can act on — doesn’t even exist," he told the Times.
And he's right -- for now. A lot is made of the private valuations of Facebook, Groupon, Zynga and Twitter, as well as the splashy Wall Street debut of LinkedIn in May. But how many Internet, or social media, IPOs will we see in 2011. A half-dozen or so?
Contrast that with the first Internet bubble. By March 1998, there were an average of two Internet IPOs per month, according to Forbes. That year finished with 42 Internet public offerings.
Then things got really crazy: 289 Internet-related IPOs in 1999 -- including 35 in July alone! -- with the average 'Net IPO finishing its first day of trading 90 percent above the offer price.
Now that, that, was a bubble, my friends. And we're not even close to it yet.
Which doesn't mean it can't happen again. One way you'll know we're headed toward bubble-land is when the skeptics and naysayers give up. Which is why it was good to see Groupon's IPO filing last week greeted with hard questions about the company's revenue trajectory, spending and debt.
That stuff just wasn't cool to talk about in 1999, not when there were "eyeballs" and "mindshare" to be had!