Finance Book Review—Wall Street Meat
by Bill Inmon
Originally published December 2, 2004
One of the most unusual phenomenons of our lives has occurred and we all were witnesses to it. That phenomenon was the great dot com bubble that rose and burst in the late-1990s and early 2000. The end of the dot com bubble came just after the turn of the millennium, and the world is still recovering from the final aftershocks.
Silly things happened in the bubble. College students with no product, no revenue and no customers went public and were evaluated by Wall Street as multi-million dollar companies. Companies would go public and their evaluation would go up by a factor of 10 in the first day of trading. Traditional companies were derided as being “brick and mortar” companies. Tradition became a dirty word and anyone who was brick and mortar was doomed to an early and ugly death, killed off by the smart, agile technicians who saw the dot com dream and who “got it.” NFL football stadiums were bought and named after the dot com company (right before the company went out of business). Commercials were made and played on national television where traditional business men in board rooms were depicted as old, feeble and tottering—just waiting to succumb to the bright young dot com wolves who “got it” and were going to put the companies out of business next quarter. People became enamored by Wall Street by selling dog food over the Internet.
In a word, rationality and good business sense got turned on its head for a brief period of time.
And these were merely a few of the more obvious signs of the dot com bubble. You looked around and you found new, and in some cases bizarre, manifestations of the dot com bubble.
Unfortunately, many unsophisticated people lost a lot of money betting on the dot com bubble. Retirement plans, serious investors and people who wouldn’t know a “http:www…..” from a .pdf file lost significantly when the bubble finally burst.
But the biggest manifestation of the dot com bubble was that a few lucky people were making instant and easy money. People would go from being a techie one day to a millionaire the next. And there were no sales of anything to speak of. No proven business plan. No track record. But Wall Street found their heroes, lauded them and awarded the wreath of olive branches before these gladiators had ever been in the arena and seen the first sight of blood and death.
In order for all of this to happen there had to be some strange chemistry at work. There was an unusual dynamic between financiers and technology that occurred then that is unlikely to happen again in the same way—ever.
For those of us who are interested in that dynamic—that “perfect storm” of finance and technology—there is the book Wall Street Meat, by Andy Kessler. Kessler was an analyst at several large investment firms during that era. This book is not directly about the dot com bubble, but is indirectly about it. This book is a personal glimpse of what Wall Street was like during the bubble. The book answers many questions about what the finance people were thinking in order to create the conditions for the dot com bubble.
But calling this a finance book does the book a disservice. Most finance books are pretty dull—full of formula and theory. This book is anything but dull. It is very lively reading, filled with anecdotes and true stories about some of the characters who were leading the dot com charge. If there is such a thing as a “must read,” this book is it.
This book is for those who are curious about how the dot com bubble came into existence and how the bubble popped. Given the craziness of the times, we look back and ask, how could that have ever happened? This book gives some great insights into the world of the financier and investment houses in the day and age of the great dot com bubble. In addition, the book is just plain fun to read.
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