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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM EST Tuesday, October 10, 2006: What are your alternatives? Yesterday I was pitching a friend on investing in a private equity fund I had just invested in. I started my "pitch" with a slide asking, "What are our alternatives?" The first "alternative" is always your own business. Generally that's the best place to put our money. Since it's under our control, it will earn more. But sometimes the business doesn't need more money or we simply want to diversify. In his case he wanted to diversify.

So what's the next alternative? That's the hard part. For most of us it's what our broker has to peddle -- stocks or bonds. That's a miserable selection. There's obviously so much more around -- if your scrounge. Hence, how I found the private equity fund.

Scrounging is one thing. Getting in is another. A friend recently found a private venture fund he wanted in. They said No. He said he begged. I emailed he didn't understand the process:

Advanced Grovel

I even offered lessons from "The Master," i.e. me.

He emailed back, "I actually tried all of the above but the last one because I miss-spelled it and used self-flatulence instead. Their reaction was that my money stinks."

And he never got in.

Finding alternatives is why I write this column. Investing these days when money is plentiful is less choosing than finding.

Which brings me to my favorite Australian mining stock, Kagara Zinc (KZL). It's moving up nicely. I track its movements through the Australian Stock Exchange's web site. You can log in and track a model portfolio through what it calls a "Watchlist." Click here.

What your son should do. Skip business school. Skip law school. Skip medical school. Form the next YouTube. You and I are far too too old to figure what turns on 20-year olds. But our kids know. Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube. No one knows. But, who cares? Let's form the next one.... Are you listening, Michael?

My son Michael must know what the next YouTube is. He's 24. He works hard. He's very motivated. And he's very bright. (He takes after his mother.)

Meantime, you must read today's piece on Google buying YouTube. It's from the New York Times. Marvel at the fact that Google just paid $1.65 billion for something that is losing money.

Dot-Com Boom Echoed in Deal to Buy YouTube

A profitless Web site started by three 20-somethings after a late-night dinner party is sold for more than a billion dollars, instantly turning dozens of its employees into paper millionaires. It sounds like a tale from the late 1990’s dot-com bubble, but it happened yesterday.

Google, the online search behemoth, agreed yesterday to pay $1.65 billion in stock for the Web site that came out of that party — YouTube, the video-sharing phenomenon that is the darling of an Internet resurgence known as Web 2.0.

YouTube had been coveted by virtually every big media and technology company, as they seek to tap into a generation of consumers who are viewing 100 million short videos on the site every day. Google is expected to try to make money from YouTube by integrating the site with its search technology and search-based advertising program.

But the purchase price has also invited comparisons to the mind-boggling valuations that were once given to dozens of Silicon Valley companies a decade ago. Like YouTube, those companies were once the Next Big Thing, but some soon folded.

Google, with a market value of $132 billion, can clearly afford to take a gamble with YouTube, but the question remains: How to put a price tag on an unproven business?

“If you believe it’s the future of television, it’s clearly worth $1.6 billion,” Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said of YouTube. “If you believe something else, you could write down maybe it’s not worth much at all.”

In a conference call to announce the transaction yesterday, there were eerie echoes of the late 1990’s boom time. There was no mention of what measures Google used to arrive at the price it agreed to pay. At one point, Google’s vice president, David Drummond, gave a cryptic explanation: “We modeled this on a more or less synergistic kind of model. You can imagine this would be hard to do on a stand-alone basis.”

The price tag Google paid may simply have been the cost of beating its rivals — Yahoo, Viacom and the News Corporation — to take control of the most sought-after Web site of the moment. It was also perhaps the only price that two YouTube founders, Chad Hurley, 29, and Steven Chen, 28, and their big venture capital backer, Sequoia Capital Partners, were willing to accept, given that they most likely could have continued as an independent company. A third YouTube founder, Jawed Karim, left the company to pursue an advanced degree at Stanford.

The deal came together in a matter of days. After rebuffing a series of other overtures, YouTube’s founders decided to have lunch on Wednesday with Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, and its chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt. The idea of a deal had been broached a few days earlier. The setting was classic Silicon Valley start-up: a booth at Denny’s near YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, Calif. The Google executives threw out an offer of $1.6 billion and autonomy to continue running the business.

That set off a marathon of meetings and conference calls over the next two days, which kicked into even higher gear on Friday, when news of the talks began to circulate, putting pressure on Google to sign a deal before a rival bid emerged. In fact, the News Corporation sent a letter to YouTube seeking to start talks but never received a response.

“The Google-YouTube deal has to feel a little like the 1990’s, but it isn’t,” said Dmitry Shapiro, chief executive of Veoh, a YouTube competitor that is backed by Time Warner and Michael D. Eisner, the former chairman of Disney. Arguing that online video represents an entirely new medium, he said, “If you knew then what you know now and you had the chance to acquire Amazon or eBay — which weren’t making any money either — you would have bought them.”

Of course, YouTube has also been compared to Napster, whose music-sharing service was eventually shuttered after a series of lawsuits. While YouTube has made some deals with content providers, including one yesterday with CBS, its users have uploaded millions of copyrighted clips, leading some to question whether Google is inheriting a legal minefield. YouTube has said it is different from the old Napster service because it removes content when a copyright holder complains.

“There are some issues with YouTube,” Sumner M. Redstone, chairman of Viacom, said last week on “The Charlie Rose Show.” “They use other people’s products,” he said, alluding to pirated video. “The only way they avoid litigation now is they stop doing it if you call them.”

Mark Cuban, who founded, an early audio and video site that was bought by Yahoo, is even more skeptical of Google’s legal position, writing on his blog: “I still think Google lawyers will be a busy, busy bunch. I don’t think you can sue Google into oblivion, but as others have mentioned, if Google gets nailed one single time for copyright violation, there are going to be more shareholder lawsuits than Doan’s has pills to go with the pile-on copyright suits that follow.”

Yet the deal with Google was announced hours after YouTube disclosed deals with entertainment companies that appeared to reduce the risk that it would become mired in copyright disputes.

YouTube is Google’s first big acquisition after making a series of much smaller deals for companies, including Pyra Labs, creator of Blogger. Google now joins the Internet’s establishment — Yahoo, eBay and, among others — which have all made giant acquisitions to expand their businesses beyond their traditional trade.

But those companies have had mixed results. Yahoo paid $3.6 billion in 1999 for Geocities, a company that allowed users to create their own Web sites; today, MySpace, a social networking site bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation last year for only $580 million, far eclipses it. EBay, on the other hand, acquired PayPal, a rapidly growing start-up that lets people make payments via e-mail, for $1.5 billion in 2002. It now represents more than a third of eBay’s revenue.

Rather than pursuing big acquisitions, Google has been known for plowing money into research and development, spending $483.98 million last year, an increase of more than 114 percent over the previous year.

The success of the YouTube acquisition will probably lie in embedding video advertising into the clips that millions of people watch everyday from their computers. So far, YouTube’s management has been reluctant to include advertising within clips, for fear of alienating users.

Yesterday, however, Mr. Hurley, one of YouTube’s founders, appeared more open to experimenting, saying that he was even considering testing what’s known as a pre-roll — a 15-second ad before a clip — something he had long derided as potentially ruining the user experience.

While more marketers have been eager to advertise against online video, some big consumer companies have been reluctant to fully embrace advertising against user-generated content because it is difficult to differentiate good content from offensive material. YouTube has created an assortment of tools for users and content creators to police its site.

YouTube said it had struck accords to license content from two of the four major music conglomerates — the Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment — and the CBS television network in exchange for a percentage of YouTube’s advertising revenue.

YouTube is also expected to use new technology to identify copyrighted material that users have uploaded to the site without permission, and to share ad revenue with media companies that own the video or music content. (YouTube made a similar pact with the Warner Music Group last month, and had a previous advertising deal with NBC in June).

The deals reflect how media companies are rethinking the distribution of their entertainment content online.

The deal with Universal, the world’s biggest music corporation, drew particular attention because the company had said it was contemplating a lawsuit against YouTube over copyright issues.

Phil Leigh, the president of Inside Digital Media, said the new arrangements represented “a strong endorsement that the major media companies are going to see YouTube as a legitimate business partner.”

Mr. Leigh said that also suggested a rethinking of the approach the companies took to Napster. “It shows that very important, erstwhile reluctant media companies have got religion,” he said.

The YouTube alliances also came the same day that Google announced separate deals to license music videos from Sony BMG and Warner.

Under the terms of the deal, YouTube, which has about 60 employees, will retain much of its identity and will keep its name and its office in San Bruno, more than 25 miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.

The transaction was announced after the stock market closed. Earlier, Google shares rose 2 percent, to $429, after DealBook, a Web log published by, reported that a deal would be announced at the end of the market day.

Benjamin Schachter, a UBS analyst, wrote in a note to investors. “The price tag of about $1.6 billion is difficult to justify on a spreadsheet and may be somewhat of a throwback to the days of paying for eyeballs and page views, but this is a strategic bet that Google would be placing for a long-term objective: to be the technology and distribution partner for content owners and publishers.”

When not to have your photo taken

I can see the "logic" in this cartoon. But the humor escapes me. Reminds me of the Henny Youngman quip, "My wife's credit card got stolen. But I haven't reported its theft. He spends less than she did."

A happy phone call

A new haircut style

The value of intelligence
George Bush asked General Hayden, his CIA director, "Why is it that the Jews always seem to know about things before we do?"

The general thought for a minute and replied, "Well, it's probably 'Vus maks da.' It's a yiddish term for what's up' or 'what's happening?' They always greet each other with it and tell each other what's happening, so they're always informed."

Bush was intrigued by this and decided he would personally test the theory under cover. He disguised himself as an Orthodox Jew, then had an unmarked plane fly him to New York. A driver met him at the plane and drove him to a very Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn. Bush began walking along the street and within half a block, he encountered an old Jew approaching him. As the two men passed, Bush whispered "vus maks da?"

The old Jew whispered back, "Shush, Bush is in Brooklyn!"

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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