Google! Youtube deal! 2000 flashback.

This is an excerpt from my book-in-progress An Honest Living which tracks my search for meaning through work. This Google/Youtube deal reminds me of a moment in the heat of the coke frenzy of the dot com boom. I am sure that the deal is inspiring startup CEOs everyone to create a Powerpoint slide of delusional correlations like the one I discuss below. There are 250 Video start-ups revising their pitches as I write this based on this logic. “They do video..we do video. They’re worth 1.6 BN, We’re worth at least 390 MN!” Perhaps attention-needy blondes everywhere should be revising their own pitches too: “Paris does slutty…I do slutty. My valuation just went up over 1000%!” Tip of the mental hat to AAN.

My girlfriend is a tech reporter. That’s the other group where there are lots of women. These guys love to talk about themselves and it seems like they didn’t have any contact with women till they were adults. Put a reasonably attractive, intelligent woman in front of them and they’ll tell them anything. I spend my time at the conference with the writers. I enjoy them more than everyone else. They get to say what they really think. I have to be excited! about! ! whenever! I ! talk! to! anyone! to convince! them! that! they! should! know! us!

CEO! wants me to just call up the studio where I used to work and do a deal with them. He wants me to do this with everyone I’ve ever had a relationship with. I don’t want to do this unless we have something real to offer in exchange: a real deal. I learned this first year law school: the difference between a gift and a contract. Of course you only need a peppercorn worth of value to make it a legally binding contract, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a peppercorn for potential partners. I don’t want to suck people in and then have them resent the hell out of the deal. I understand why I’m the 4th business development person in a couple of years. I resist the scorched earth policy on my Rolodex. I’ve been at enough companies to know this won’t be my last job and I don’t want to ruin my reputation on it.

But promise of value is a peppercorn. I just don’t understand that yet. Business is changing right before my eyes. I meet S, one of my girlfriend’s friends who has a new start-up. He’s convinced 8 friends to work on it for next to nothing. They Believe in it. He used to date her before I did and so it feels a little tense. I ask him about his business as a way to bond. He is an engineer and he’s building tools to create online communities. Boy that sounds vague to me.

“How are you planning to market it?” I challenge him.

“We’re counting on a lot of word of mouth.”

I am dumbfounded. I think he’s naive as hell. No marketing plan? Community as a business? We’ve all been doing that online in the web scene but how is that a business? Where ‘s the business model? S later sells his business to Excite for millions.

At work the next day, CEO! shows a few of us the presentation he is taking to potential investors. He lists public Internet companies and the number of page views they are receiving (that’s the number of times people are viewing a web page at their sites). He also lists the number of their “members” and besides each, their valuation. As if a company is worth some dollar amount based on the number of times someone looks at their site! Below these other companies he lists ! and it’s number of page views and then its valuation. It is a crazy number. It is a crazy slide. I cannot believe my eyeballs.

That’s what he’s basing all this on: the number of “eyeballs’ that looked at something made at ! even though we have no ad salesperson, zero ads and can’t even account for the number of page views we do have to our partners (something I’m supposed to deliver). He thinks we’re worth that arbitrary amount of money. What happened to making money? I miss the days when I stacked shelves with real things to buy that people really want. I imagine a conversation with my Uncle Jack about all of this. We have nothing on the shelves. We are slipping everything to the back of the stack. There is no chocolate bar in front. Nothing to buy or hold in your hand. Market share. Eyeballs.