Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Financial Industry Sucks (for now...)

So insanely bored am I of the world of finance that I have not been able to bring myself to write an article here in weeks. I don't know about you but I am so fed up of hearing the opinions of 'experts' on CNBC, in newspapers and on their personal blogs I just didn't want to add to the 'noise'.

The fact is that most of these people have been proved to know f*** all to a jam tart about what is going on in the markets or what is going to happen in the markets. Those who appear on CNBC from companies in London and the US should really think twice before coming on, or at least coming on twice. I have heard the most preposterous cobblers ever from those 'in the know' which has proved to be wrong days later... and then they merrily trot out the following week with no mention of the bile they spewed over viewers just seven days before.

Maybe it is because I have given up smoking that my famous sense of humour has lapsed or, more likely, I am experiencing my own personal 'point of capitulation' where I just cannot be bothered with the markets any longer, whatever it is it will take something monumental to peak my interest in the short term.

The fact is I should be excited; markets low, buying opportunities everywhere etc.. but I just have this impending doom feeling. The regulators are girding their loins to make our business more of a chore than it already is and the thought of dealing with the faceless (and ultimately, as we have seen, useless) bureaucrats more than ever, just makes my stomach churn.

For now I am concentrating on investing in small businesses, trying to create something that does not require me to pay thousands of pounds per annum to people who make your life more difficult in the name of regulation but ultimately, when they are called upon to protect your clients and your business from unscrupulous people, can't perform.

Maybe when I reach my one month of not smoking and the craving has died down I will re-evaluate my current negative view of the industry, but for now.... well.... I just can't be arsed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are The 'Me Too' Websites Democratising the Web?

We just got back into the office from the Easter holidays and found ourselves languishing in a state of boredom, unmotivated even by the recovery in the general feeling in the market. So we did what any other self respecting person would do and had a look around the web for some videos.

There is a financial theme in here, as one of things that we do is invest in small companies, especially Internet companies. We have been fascinated by the growth of social networks because of the future capacity of these sites to change the world of advertising as we know it. Facebook, for example, with its in-house targetted ads system is showing the way when it comes to the 'new' advertising market.

We have tested the system out and you can get scarily close on your advertising targets because of the data that users share on the site. For example, if you want to advertise to 25-35 year olds interested in online trading and who live in the UK.. you can... 50 year olds interested in pensions? No problem it's all good.. The power of this 'human database' is literally mind blowing.

However, we wonder whether a lot of the big sites can continue to dominate. The problem for a number of these sites is that there are planty of talented people on the web who can take a concept and make it better. FaceBook itself was not a revolution, there were hundreds of social networks online for college members (which is how Facebook started) but the young Mark Zukerman managed to get something right and the site became a phenomenon, what is to stop the very same problem of 'me too' happening to Facebook itself?

You see when we were researching this article (er .. hmmm) by looking for videos on the web, we came across a site called YouReportSport.com. This awesome sports video sharing isn't more than a few weeks old judging by the small amount of vidoes and members, however, we are already hooked, one, because its cool, and two because its in Switzerland.

This site is playing on the marketing ploy of being niche, the site only has sports videos, but it also intends to have the site as a destination for fans to report on their sports experiences. This is something we like to see, it is all very well listening to stuffy reporters but hearing it from the guy who was there on the ground, so to speak, is an angle I would like to see.

The fun thing about the web (and the problem when you come to value a business for investment) is that pretty much any site can be copied and uploaded, all it takes is a great idea (or an improvemnet on an old one) and some balls. We are also seeing that when a site becomes mainstream like YouTube, for example, the whole world comes knocking at your door for royalties on songs, copyright on videos etc, So YouTube is reportedly changing the site to accomodate advertisers through making the site more TV oriented etc. 'The death of YouTube' as the video is entitled, may be a bit strong, but you can see how users could migrate to something else quickly.

Personally we like the idea of more niche sites like youreportsport.com as it gives a community a little more ownership of the site... and let's face it that is how YouTube grew ito the monster it is now in the first place.