AOL cutting 750 jobs and moving execs to NYC. Hard to believe that only 10 years ago the dot com craze was starting here: Network Solution’s IPO, which raised $67M. We thought it was time to walk down memory lane with former NetSol Chairman of the Board Mike Daniels, and see where he thinks things are headed now.
Mike dropped by our offices downtown this week, evidently with no need for ties anymore, just a pair of sunglasses. That’s preferred gear in Colorado, where he spends four months each year. But SnowMass is not enough for the outdoorsman; in April he trekked to base camp at Mount Everest.
In 1995, Mike bought what was then a small government contractor as a pet project for SAIC for $4.5 million, shifted its conventional work to the parent and started taking advantage of its exclusive rights to give out domain names. Then came a couple of big follow-on stock offerings that returned more to SAIC than the huge company had made cumulatively since its founding in 1969. The ultimate sale in 2000 to VeriSign for $19.6 billion in stock followed the offerings of $778 Million in 1999 and $2.2 billion in 2000. (The stock subsequently declined, but that cash was hard and cold.)
Mike breaks it down—with typical good cheer—for Tech Bisnow patriarch Mark Bisnow, whose fashionable right shoulder is glimpsed in the corner. Mike says the 70s saw the rise of government contractors in the area; the 80s saw a telecom boom; the 90s were Internet; and the ‘00s . . . are a mix.
Mike put his Midas touch at the disposal of a couple more outfits: serving on the board of Apogen, which sold a year and a half after its January ’04 founding for $300 million in cash; and in ’05, becoming Executive Chairman of Mobile 365, snapped up by Sybase last year for $417 million cash. (Mike now sits on Sybase’s board, but was silent on the subject of hedge fund Sandel Asset Management’s current play for the company.)
Mike sees lots of interesting fourth and fifth generation startups around here, but no new biggies. And if he were out hunting for companies today? He’d place his bets on the mobile industry. With mobile devices outnumbering computers by a factor of two or three, he sees a gigantic market—and huge opportunities for firms that marry wireless devices with web-based and other applications. Mobile 365, he points out, facilitated the “largest mobile campaign ever”: a cross promotion between McDonald’s and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. McDonald’s customers received tickets, and could instantly check to see if they had won a Pirates-inspired prize by plugging their info into a cell phone.
Mike’s best advice has nothing to do with business: Be a world adventurer, he says. In addition to his Everest trek, he’s hiked to the South Luangua Camp Park in Zambia, canoed on the Zambezi River, and just finished a 200 mile cycling trip from Prague to Vienna. “Have fun, life is short!” says the dude in the sunglasses.
[Disclosure: Mike is chairman of the Bisnow on Business advisory board. Oh, well, he can’t be perfect.]