The Decline and Fall of E-Mail

I have in my computer every e-mail message I have sent or received since 1992. Minus the obvious spam, this database comes to about half a million messages from people as varied (or similar, if you think about it) as Larry Ellison and Larry Flynt. But lately my e-mail seems to be dying. Yours is, too.

What’s happening to e-mail is complex but comes down to changing contexts and competing media. Back in 1992 communication for me meant e-mail (which at that time for me was cc:mail, MCI Mail, and Internet mail), snail mail, Usenet newsgroups, bulletin board systems like The WELL, telephone, and fax. Today the mix has changed almost completely and I have Internet […]

Rhythm and Noise

So Exchange Traded Index funds and the $1.2 trillion invested in them have increased volatility for small cap stocks making the whole IPO process less attractive for many founders of U. S. tech companies — our kind of companies. It’s not the end of the world but has been a downer of sorts for both the market and the tech industry for the last decade. What’s to be done about it, then?

“The problem as we see it could be 80-90 percent contained if only Exchange Traded Funds were subject to the same sort of trading circuit breakers that were imposed by the SEC on regular shares after the Flash Crash of earlier this year,” says […]

By |November 17th, 2010|2010|54 Comments

No Life Insurance for Bull Riders

I write a lot about technologies, companies and industries, some about economics, but hardly ever about stocks or trading, so this column is an unusual one. But because of the hard work of a couple economist friends of mine I’m finally coming to understand a stock market phenomenon that has been hurting tech startups for over a decade — Exchange Traded Funds. Forget about bad banks, cooked books and even the recession: Exchange Traded Funds are forcing more and more good tech companies to abandon the idea of ever going public.

We saw this trend on this summer’s Startup Tour where not one of more than 30 companies we visited saw an Initial Public Offering (IPO) […]

By |November 11th, 2010|2010|48 Comments

Any Port in a Storm

Nearly every day I hear from at least one person who thinks I am an idiot. Typically they are complaining about something I wrote months or even years before, so I often confirm my idiocy by not even remembering what has them so upset. This week, however, I was contacted by an upset reader who may well have a good point, so let’s reconsider for a moment the security of Global Positioning System — GPS.

I wrote more than a year ago that a Government Accountability Office report was overblown, claiming a 20 percent chance of the GPS system going down in the next few years because the U. S. Air Force can’t launch […]

Act Two: The Cringely Startup Tour Gets Back on the Road

Rested, rejuvenated, and — most important of all — replenished with good ideas, the Startup Tour is getting back on the road, revisiting the companies we saw last summer. That first visit set a baseline, introducing the startup companies, but this trip is our chance to help.

Just like they did on the old Newlywed Game, we’re bringing to each company a gift “chosen especially for you.” This is typically something we sensed was missing on the first visit that — through the power of television — we could help provide on this second trip. Sometimes it will be a customer, a strategic partner, a distributor, an investor, a new head of marketing or CEO for […]