Leaps and Bounds on the Internet (Fool on the Hill) February 29, 2000

An Investment Opinion

Leaps and Bounds on the Internet

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
February 29, 2000

What do you mean it's not March yet? Oh, that's right, leap year. It's that wonderful time where we can all suspend traditional aging if only for one day. It's a time to ponder pending presidential elections and Olympics fanfare. It's that glorious time to be seized with inspiration, march into the boss' office, and scream like muddy bath water that your annual salary isn't adjusted for this extra day of work.

Oh, but there's more to February 29 than that. It's a time for reflection, too. We get these calendar-maker nuisances once every four years, so why not make the most of them? If you use the event as a bookmark, you will realize how fast the world's pages are turning nowadays.

Today is only the second leap year day in Motley Fool history. The first time around we didn't even have a Web presence. Sure, we registered back in June of 1995, but it would not be developed until much later. On February 29, 1996, our Rule Breaker Portfolio went by the Motley Fool Portfolio moniker. It had more than doubled since its 1994 inception, closing out the day worth $106,850.26. A leap year day later it has soared 772% from there.

Time is a pretty amazing thing. If only we could go back to February 29, 1996, and see where many of the prolific stock movers of today were back then. If only. If only. If...

(Insert cheesy rippling effect and flashback music here if you must)

Whoa, it's leap year day, 1996. Cool. What do we see here? Yes, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is here. Silly name, huh? Less than two years ago, a pair of Stanford doctoral students set up the search engine. It resided on co-founder Jerry Yang's computer. That is, until Netscape's Marc Andreessen offered to host the site over at his place. Good thing, too. It was starting to become so popular that it was slowing down the Stanford computer network.

And, guess what, nine months ago some company called Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) opened up an online store. It's selling books. Over the Internet. Can you imagine that? I thought we all enjoyed the physical storefront experience. Oh well, good luck to them.

I also stumbled across this wacky place called eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). It's new. It just opened five months ago. The founder set up the place so his wife could trade Pez dispensers on the Internet. I was tempted to put up my C-3PO dispenser but figured it could never be appreciated on a site this small. I need a growing community of buyers and sellers. That's the key to efficient trading.

Yet, I have a tender spot for these three companies. They are all privately held though. Pity. Well, Yahoo! is set to go public two months from now. It'll probably be another year or two before Amazon and eBay follow suit. Hey, if I keep an eye out -- if I manage to stick around...

(More ripples, more noise, throw in some wind chimes and harp-plucking too)

Hey, it's February 29, 1992. Next month, a company called America Online (NYSE: AOL) is set to go public. Who? I'm sorry, it changed its name from Quantum four months ago. I hear a nifty Windows interface is going to be rolled out next year. Right now, tens of thousands of users are on the service. Hey, it's no CompuServe. It's no Prodigy. Still, what a colorful, user-friendly service.

(Reverse ripple effect, suck out the noise, awaken)

So, there you have it. It's leap year day Y2K. It's nothing more than an extra square to check off. It promises nothing. Yet it is bound to deliver so much more. Looking back, how can one not be excited about the future? How many opportunities will come, and possibly go, by the time February 29, 2004 rolls around? Countless. Believe it. Keep your eyes open because you don't want to miss a thing.