The big question is, are we in a bubble right now? First, my gut feeling. I’ll come clean here and share that back in 1999, I was actually recruited to join a Citigroup funded technology incubator in London called “Antfactory,” which aimed to invest in pan-European media plays. (Yes, I cringe as I write those four words.) The very fact that such firms were hiring journalists as partners was clearly the sign of a market top. And while there’s certainly more substance to many of today’s hot firms, like Twitter or Facebook, than there was to, say, Pets.com or many other iconic firms of the late 1990s, I do feel the same frothy enthusiasm in the market as investors put enormous valuations on firms which still don’t make any money. I also sense a lot of bubble like hubris from techies themselves.
Beyond this, it’s a question of whether you believe in the business model of social media and online retail today, which is essentially a land grab that (hopefully) gets turned into profitability at some later date. The FT has done a lot of smart analysis and number-crunching on this. Their verdict: the jury is still very much out on the longer-term profit trajectory of the hot social media companies of the moment. And having ridden one dot-com bubble and bust, I’m personally sitting this one out.