A Very Public Offering

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

The most interesting thing about this book in my mind is how despite this happening over 20 years ago, the parallels to the modern startup scene are hard to ignore, and makes me wonder if the valley is doomed to make the same mistakes again. 

Very interesting insight into the rise and fall of a company during the dot com bubble
Was this review helpful?
I posted the below 3-star review to Amazon and Goodreads on 1/27/19:

A Very Public Offering is the story of how two students at Cornell started an Internet company and wound up worth $97 million by their early twenties . . . and out of a job and worth just a few million by their mid-twenties.  theglobe.com was one of the first dot-com bubble cautionary tales.  It also helped pioneered use of the Internet for community and Silicon Alley in NYC.  And, believe it or not, but for a little irrational exuberance it might have been a viable community.

Stephen Paternot and Todd Krizelman started theglobe.com while they were students at Cornell.  A Very Public Offering is Paternot’s account.  It was originally published in 2001.  This new edition includes a new intro and afterword (it probably isn’t worth the purchase price if you already own the original version).  Paternot landed on his feet: he got into film producing and founded a film finance startup.

The prose and the narrative are a little rough, but it is too good a story for that to slow it down.  It was a heady time.  theglobe.com IPO was priced at $8 but its share hit $97 on the first day.  The even crazier part is that sixteen million shares traded hands the day of a three-million-share deal.  The initial run up gave Paternot, who owned a million shares, a net worth of $97 million . . . on paper.  Fourteen months later the stock price was down to $7.  Paternot and Krizelman stepped down as co-CEOs when the stock dipped all the way to $2.  (Most of Paternot’s shares were locked in, but Paternot did manage to sell enough shares to not lose everything.)

theglobe.com comes off as a little snake bit.  Its pre-IPO road show came right as the NASDAQ dropped bigtime.  It never got the truly crazy valuations of some other dot coms and didn’t raise as much money as later companies.  It turns out that their investment bankers Bear Stearns screwed them.  A secondary offering closed days after Alan Greenspan issued his famous warning about “irrational exuberance” and raised rates.  Despite having at one point 30,000 paying subscribers and later a user base sufficient to bring in real advertising revenue.  Maybe snake bit isn’t the right term.  On one hand, theglobe.com had more actual revenue than a lot of Internet companies with far higher valuations.  Does it make any sense for a company twenty times bigger than at its IPO date to be worth one-hundredth as much?  On the other hand, it still wasn’t undervalued.

It was a fascinating time.  But maybe it wasn’t all that different.  Paternot complains (maybe a little too much) about how unfair the press was to him (but, then again, you shouldn’t be hitting the clubs every night when you’re CEO of a public company, and you should never be wearing plastic pants).  And apparently message boards were as toxic twenty years ago as they are today.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the revised edition of A Very Public Offering via NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
I have not heard of theglobe.com, so I was interested in knowing about it. This book is a wonderful read that I am glad to have squeezed in 2018. From the beginning, it is a high-octane (referred so in The Valley)of the Boom). Recently I read a story of prayas analytics one day in a Wharton and another day when I wanted to know more about it, it made for a great story of the journey and the ups and downs of entrepreneurs.
This book too is similarly gripping.
I have never read of the details of a road show.
The lock up imposed by investing companies and not the SEC which prevents founders from realizing their riches.
To split or not to split the stock.
internet stock, message board culture
$8 million on marketing from the $20 million raised that round.
Coping with stress by drawing
revenue at the cost of loss
The science of valuation or the lack of it
Times of GE owning many businesses.
Interesting to hear of names like Autonation, Sunglass, WebMD. The rise of an industry.
Bowling pin strategy for  M&A.
The strategy of keeping acquired companies happy instead of mvoing head quarters and transitioning them, good moves of the company buried under the stock view.
I wished the book wouldnt end. Definitely time travel to a thrilling time of Internet and Internet business spewing everywhere.
Was this review helpful?