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Friday, January 03, 2003

Don't Let the Door Hit You in Your Giant-Sized, Hyperbolic Ass on the Way Out

Over the holidays, Infospace's board got together for a little ousting party. CEO Naveen Jain, who once told reporters he thought his company would someday be worth a trillion dollars, has been asked to please leave and not come back.

Jain was fond of telling the press that he worked 21-hour days, and he expected the same standard from his employees. Hey, if working at 4 a.m. were the sole determinant of success, Kinko's employees would all be tycoons.

The shame of it is that this didn't happen much sooner. Following the Infospace-Go2Net merger, Jain's desire for control and loyalty was a turnoff to a new and highly accomplished CEO recruit, Arun Sarin, and Go2Net CEO Russell Horowitz. Both left before the confusingly-merged new Infospace even got off the ground. Horowitz would have been a more inspiring and grounded leader - though not for the wireless (Infospace) side, which he didn't particularly understand. But since there was no future for him at the company, it made more sense to take off and take care of his own face-reddening windfall.

If you check out Infospace's current stock price, you'll see that it's around nine bucks. Don't be fooled, though. A 10-for-1 reverse split means that it's actually a sub-$1 stock in the old money.

The merger, it seems, was a failure. It would make more sense for one or the other part of the company to be sold off. As Russ Horowitz often bragged during his tenure, many Go2Net properties such as Authorize.net were cash profitable when they acquired them. The problem with Infospace as a public stock play, and ultimately with the larger merged entity, was and is a large cash reserve that allowed it to delay making hard decisions; to rely on hype rather than the careful balance-sheet scepticism which governed Horowitz's Go2Net.

It would make sense to dump ideas whose time-to-profitabilty is too far out or, as I suggested, sell those parts to a company which has the staying power to see them through. But hindsight is 20-20 and no matter how you slice it, Infospace is now a small company, no matter how well it grows in the near future, and no matter what non-core assets it manages to sell off.

Posted by Andrew
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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

New Year's Resolution: No More "Little Billy"

You know what I mean? Lovable "Little Billy" in Family Circus has a short attention span. His meanderings through the house, up a tree, onto his bicycle, through a neighbor's yard, over hill and dale, and into a snowbank have been lovingly illustrated over the years by Bil Keane and his famous dotted arrow Little Billy diagrams.

Sort of remind you of your work day? You start out by going to Hotbot so you can see what a search of the Inktomi database produces for the phrase "Google." (Just to see, you know?) Then, some inexplicable Little Billy force takes over. Instead of searching Inktomi, you decide to click the radio button to try a search on FAST instead, and instead of the phrase you meant to type, you type in some sexual gibberish like "Alyssa thong nude Tonya Harding Tonya Harding Michael Jackson sex video free" (just to see, you know, for comparative search engine research purposes only).

Then, you get a phone call and (mercifully) forget what you were doing online, but the phone call reminds you that you'd better check on a domain name idea you had. You spend the next 20 minutes looking up domain names. The confounded "domain name suggestion tool" actually piques your interest even more. Eventually, someone comes to shut off the gas, hydro, and phone service, so all you're left with is a few tins of beans and your cable Internet service and a computer system running on the handy generator you set up in preparation for just this sort of thing.

Um, er, anyway, my resolution is "no more Little Billy in 2003."

Posted by Andrew
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