I don’t remember much about 1999.


Not that I was in a drug filled haze, or anything like that. If anything, that would have been many years earlier and I still remembered all of those times.


What I do remember is that we spent the most pathetic New Year’s Eve ever welcoming in 2000 at our neighbor’s house.


I can make those statements because they have since moved to Florida and I don’t believe that they were literate.


PrinceFor starters, just about everyone at the party was wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt. Mind you , we were in a part of Maryland that was not at all close to the Monongehela River. Most of the men and some of the women, I think they were women, were watching ESPN Classic Pittsburgh Steelers games from the past.


Happy New Year to you, too.


Anyway, the only music playing all night was the ubiquitous song by Prince, at a time when he was known as something else. It amazes me that an entire world had been waiting 17 years for that song to be relevant. But then again, these were the people watching an equally old football game that had at least as much relevance.


What I do remember about 1999 is that I sat on the sidelines when it came to my investments.


If you were a reader of the first incarnation of the Szelhamos Rules blog, you’ll know that I had a wonderful broker, Bob Shapiro. If you read the Option to Profit book you’ll also know that he passed away very unexpectedly.


Back when Bob was managing my account, I still followed the markets daily, even though he had full discretionary trading rights. I never micro-managed.


But on the sidelines I saw the wild amounts of money being made by people who weren’t me. It didn’t really matter that my own portfolio was performing well, because it wasn’t performing dot com well.


The stories of excess were legendary. The money was coming in and was going out even faster. Unfortunately, the money that was coming in wasn’t really from sales.


Long story short, I was spared the roller coaster rides of that era. I don’t have any sock puppet momentos inthe closet, nor reams of class action papers as a reminder of the wild times. Bob stayed on a much more sedate path. Sure we had ups and downs, but I never puked on the way down.


And so yesterday the big news came. No, not the news that Goldman Sachs was served with a subpoena by the Manhattan District Attorney. We all knew that was coming.I’ve got nothing left to puke on that one.


It was the other news that we all knew was coming.


A couple of weeks after the LinkedIn IPO came the much awaited word that Groupon was going to go public.


Within minutes also came word that Pandora, the music service with the artificial intelligence algorithm was also coming public. Since both are Morgan Stanley offerings, you’d think that maybe they would have timed the announcements to let Pandora have at least a little glory that Groupon was gobbling up.


Now, for full disclosure, my son works for Groupon’s biggest competitor, LivingSocial. He is responsible of overseeing the huge hiring spree that LivingSocial is currently engaged in. At least, that’s what a proud father would like to believe. In fact, a silver lining in ADP’s employment numbers was that LivingSocial accounted for 1/3% of all new hires in May. Not bad for a pretty small company.


A pretty small company that keeps company with Steve Case and Jeff Bezos.


Anyway, you remember Groupon. They spurned Google’s $6 Billion offer.


You remember Google, don’t you? They’re starting a Groupon like sevice tomorrow, Google Offers, in San Diego. Interesting, just a couple of days after they announced Google Wallet. 


Have you seen Groupon’s CEO?


‘Nuff said. I’ll let you scour YouTube for some clips, but yesterday’s statement that the money losing Groupon would not measure its performance in the usual fashion, should be sending a bad message. But if you don’t want to go the high tech route and search YouTube, just dust off your Funk and Waganalls and look for the illustration for the words “arrogant” and “obnoxious”.


Remember, I’m biased, but I’m being objective on this one.


The fact that Groupon employs 400 full time staff writers should send another message. How much effort does it take to write the same tripe for every tooth whitening offer in the country?


But there was unbridled enthusiasm yesterday as the announcement came across the news wire at about 3 PM. LinkedIn was the teaser, Groupon just a tasting, with everyone waiting for the 800 pound gorilla.


Facebook, with a current valuation of about $50-80 Billion.


And if this really is 1999 redux, there’ll be lots of drek coming along too, vying for your investment dollars.


What really makes me believe that we’re already nearing a top in social media is that my son, who made his first stock investment about two weeks ago, had already read Groupon’s S-1 filing and he was critiquing it for me, analyzing their dividend payments and compensation packages.


WTF?


Since I have an aversion to speculation, I won’t jump in, even if given the chance.


Which I won’t be.


On the positive side, I’m hopeful that my son’s LivingSocial stake will get the benefit of a wildly bid up valuation on the heels of Groupon and others.


In the meantime, I see a different outcome, at least for LivingSocial.


Granted the Google alliance with AOL didn’t turn out as planned, that alliance was with a Time Warner- AOL and not with a Steve Case led AOL.


Microsoft already has a small piece of the consumer market and no doubt that Google wants to keep Microsoft from gobbling up a big player in the daily coupon business.


After all, wasn’t that why they picked up a stake in AOL in the first place?


So I see Google, Steve Case and Amazon coming together on this one and blowing Groupon out of the water.


The difference between 1999 and 2011 is that all of this froth is based on people to people businesses. No real technology, per se, just a better way to get the non-proprietary tangibles that we all need.


Food, recreation and 50% discounted bikini waxes.


Why didn’t they think of that in 1999 and spare a generation that pain?



 

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