Fribble Friday, January 14, 2000

True IPO Madness

By Lawrence Kutner (LAK@drkutner.com)

On December 30th, the Fool published my tongue-in-cheek Fribble, IPO Madness, in which I purported to be looking for an investment banker to do an initial public offering for dotcom.com, a company that would sell periods (dots) and commas (coms) for use on the Internet.

The concept was utterly ridiculous, of course. How could anyone sell punctuation? Many of the issues I raised -- issuing a tracking stock for umlaut sales in Europe, for example -- were equally absurd. I had hoped to lampoon some of the thinking (and lack thereof) seen among many investors and speculators, much in the way the Fool did in its series on eMeringue, Inc. on April Fool's Day.

I hadn't paid attention to the fact that the Fool now has a warning on the eMerengue site that the whole thing was a joke, a put-on, a canard. I should have heeded their implicit warning.

Judging by the e-mail I received, most people got the joke. Five people, however, wrote to me in all earnestness asking for more information about the company and its upcoming public offering. When the first e-mail of this type came in, I thought it was an anomaly. (He was a university student in Canada, and admitted to being a novice investor.) But his e-mail was quickly followed by ones from a physician and others who clearly should have known better.

How could they think that a business as patently absurd as my fictitious one could succeed? And then it dawned on me. These were not the people you and I should be concerned about. After all, they were doing their due diligence. They were asking questions. They were seeking information before they invested.

And so I commend the student in Quebec, the doctor in Nebraska, and the others. You were, after all, being Foolish. If you didn't see the problems on the first pass, you'd probably see them on the second -- long before any money left your wallet.

But somewhere out there, I'm sure there were a few brokers who got calls asking to get access to the "period and comma IPO for the Net." If you're a broker and you got one of these calls, please send me a finder's fee. In small bills.