By Keith Weiner
Think back to the halcyon days of the dot com boom. This was a time after Greenspan declared “irrational exuberance”. Long Term Capital Management collapsed in 1998, and Greenspan decided to risk propelling exuberance to a level beyond irrational. Super-duper-irrational exuberance?
Anyway, Greenspan cut interest rates a few times in late 1998. Technology companies were able to raise $5 million or more with just a sketch on a napkin (“serviette” for those outside the US). Companies at a “later stage”, though without revenues, could raise $30 million. A company called “Webvan” was able to raise nearly a billion dollars without ever becoming profitable.
These companies should not have been able to raise so much capital. At any given point in the development of a company, there are only so many things that need spending. Not to mention can be justified to investors.
It is obvious in retrospect that those particular companies wasted investor money (if not the broader principles), after investors booked the losses, but it was anything but clear at the time. Keith recalls debating the so called hypothesis of efficient markets with some people who believed that all market prices are correct. That all changes in price are random, unpredictable.
We have written a lot about how falling interest rates cause capital consumption. It drives speculation, which is a process of conversion of one speculator’s wealth into another’s income. No one wants to spend his wealth, but people are happy to spend their income.