Friday, November 21, 2008

The lost generation only takes a few months

Per the Wall Street Journal, Citibank seems to be next up; or rather down.

The incredible turbulence in Financial Services brought me to look back at the software and internet worlds. Areas that, until recently, we thought enjoyed turbulence as a way of life.

In 1999, ranked by market cap, here were the top 4 Internet Companies:

1. AOL $150B
2. Yahoo $35B
3. EBAY $24B
4. Amazon $24B


The recent big news was that, in late 1998, Netscape, the great pioneer succumbed as an independent entity, for an acquisition price just shy of $5B.

Today, the top pure plays (ignoring MSFT) are:

1. Google $82B
2. Amazon $15B
3. Yahoo $14B
4. EBay $14B

The big news is the Yahoo/MFT soap opera.

What's interesting is that, outside of AOL, leadership has been remarkably stable. True, on either ends of these stats is our lost generation known as the Internet Bubble. These statistics are remarkably similar in the software/services industry where:

IBM
MSFT
EDS
Accenture

Have led the rankings for each of the past 6 years and the big news is that Larry Ellison emulated Charles Wang and led a massive, and timely consolidation play of second tier vendors.

Lost Generation is a term coined by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises and referred to the generation between the Great World Wars. The massive dislocation in this arena is tantamount to a lost generation where Merrill, Wachovia, Bear, Lehman, Goldman, Morgan are all gone or faced with fundamental change.

We know what was on one end of the Financial Services lost generation, and will shortly know what's the other bookend. Hopefully, it's a wave of innovation that spurs us on to great heights, and not a morass of regulation that only a great bureaucracy of titans can navigate.

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