1999. It was a very good year. So good that there are far too many things to mention. I'll try to cram as many into this report as possible, though.
-- We've had to buy more doormats here at the Fool, because traffic to our site has been growing strongly. We're now registering about 60 million page views (also known as "impressions" or "hits") per month, more than doubling from year-ago levels. We're being visited by about 1.8 million "unique visitors" each month, almost four times our year-ago level. And our message boards recently received their 1 millionth post. Wow.
-- Our modest little business is beginning to look more like big business in some ways. Consider our head count, for example. When I began here nearly four years ago, there were about 20 Fools toiling in the two-room ground floor of a modest townhouse. We're now occupying three floors of a much bigger building, as we work amid endless banging and hammering (construction continues on yet another floor we will occupy). And there are now more than 200 of us, including HQ and "remote" staffers (we prefer to call them our "country cousins"). In September, we announced a round of financing and soon spent some of the money on our first major advertising campaign. On radio, television and outdoor advertising, folks in and around Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco were invited to check out "Fool.com: Financial Advice You Can Actually Understand."
-- Foolery, as Shakespeare noted it would, "does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere." Like in England. Fool UK is now two years old and has been growing rapidly and winning awards. The staff has increased from a handful last year to roughly 30 today, and has moved into shiny new office space in central London. We may need to pay them more, though. One staffer there has reportedly been earning some extra income inseminating turkeys during school vacations. Look for the Fool to pop up in some additional countries in the near future!
-- Our newspaper feature has now been picked up by more than 160 newspapers. (Learn more about it here and consider giving your local paper a call, to ask if they might carry us.) Call your favorite radio station, too, if we're not in your area. More than 110 radio stations around the country are carrying our three-hour radio show, where Tom and David answer many callers' questions. We're not only trying to reach every corner of America in print and on the air -- we're also traveling in person, sometimes in our brand-new Foolmobile. It's a Suburban with an enormous inflated jester cap atop it. Look for it on a highway near you -- it's kind of hard to miss. This past year, David, Tom, and many other Fool staffers met more than 20,000 of you at various events in such exciting places as Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and Davenport, Iowa.
-- We launched our third annual charity drive. At the beginning of 1999 we announced that we raised about $200,000 in our 1998 drive. This year we're hoping to more than double that. We're raising funds for not one worthy charity, but five very innovative and interesting ones. (Read more about this year's drive -- and perhaps chip in a little.) The outpouring of our community's hearts and pockets always inspires us. Also inspiring us this year has been Fool staffer Ted Verrill, who was in a terrible motorcycle accident this summer, breaking all four limbs. Ted kept his spirits up, has been recovering steadily, and we were thrilled to welcome him back to the office recently. Equally inspirational has been fabulous Fool techie Tim Aycock, who just said "No" to cancer this year.
-- Our personal finance area was broken out into its own space. That's where you can learn about and find money-saving tips on topics such as buying a car, online banking, insurance, paying for college, managing a 401(k), and getting out of debt. Our how-to-buy-a-house area got remodeled and significantly expanded. And we introduced a full-featured new retirement section, including guidance on how to invest in retirement, with three real-money teaching portfolios.
-- We rolled out many new products. One of our most popular items each year is Industry Focus, which covers the outlook for many industries and reviews the most interesting companies in each. Also just out is our much-expanded Motley Fool Investment Tax Guide 2000, co-penned by yours truly and TMF Taxes, Roy Lewis. It covers nearly every tax topic of interest to investors and offers money-saving strategies to use all year long. TMF Jeff, Jeff Fischer, came out with a very comprehensive (yet fun to read) book on investing without a broker through Drips: Investing Without a Silver Spoon. Also of interest: our bi-monthly Internet report, our new Motley Fool Monthly magazine. Tom Gardner held several investing seminars via e-mail in the fall and they worked well. So look for more in the future.
-- Of course, while we think that the above items represent great values for the few dollars they cost, it remains true that you can still learn a heck of a lot here in Fooldom -- for free. This is even easier now, since the advent of our free e-mail subscriptions. Head there and you can sign up for regular investing basics lessons, investment club tips, women and investing articles, tax strategies, portfolio reports, and much more.
-- We debuted a new and improved search engine on our site. It works well now, and will be working better and better as time goes by. Know that from just about any page anywhere in Fooldom, you can access "Search" near the top of the page. Looking for a discussion on "Return on Equity" or "Global Crossing"? Just type it in and hit "Search."
-- In an ongoing effort to make it easier to navigate our site, we redesigned it once more and began usability testing. Our news offerings, initially just a Breakfast, Lunchtime, and Evening report each weekday, have morphed into many news reports streaming in throughout the day. We've still got our daily "Fool Plate Special" and "Fool on the Hill" features for you, though. And a convenient, all-in-one, end-of-day news compilation: "QuickNews."
-- Fool HQ staffers are now breathing a sigh of relief as our Fool School Principal, Dayana Yochim, is enjoying a loaner car and is no longer asking everyone for rides. Fool productivity spiked when that happened. The boost in productivity was short-lived, though, as we recently got our second Foosball table, permitting twice as many staffers to be not working at one time. Tuesdays at Fool HQ have now been dubbed "Movie Night" and our techies present a different fun feature each week. Could this be why The Fool was featured on the cover of Washingtonian magazine as one of the Washington, D.C. area's best places to work?
-- We've had some staff changes at the Fool Intergalactic HQ. Yes, it's clear that we've been hiring like mad (and will continue to -- see if we're looking for you). As we like to do, we've hired some wonderful community members from right off our own message boards: For example, we've bestowed TMF monikers on Hunzi, DawnC, and upupaepops. We bid a reluctant goodbye to writers Dale Wettlaufer, Alex Schay, Louis Corrigan, and Yi-Hsin Chang (who's still writing for us part-time from business school). And we welcomed a bunch of new writers, as well. I expect that you are or soon will be familiar with the thoughts and writings of Richard McCaffery, Bill Mann, Zeke Ashton, Bob Fredeen, and John Del Vecchio.
-- Over the past year, our real-money portfolios have blazed ahead, led by the Rule Breaker Port. It's advanced by around 70% per year. Since August of 1994, the portfolio has grown from $50,000 to more than $875,000 as of December 20th. We do not expect the growth to continue at this pace. But while it lasts, it continues to be a fun ride. As of December 20th, the Rule Maker port is up about 35% for the year -- more than twice the return of the S&P 500, but half that of the Nasdaq. The Foolish Four portfolio is up about 18%, while the Drip and Boring ports are up about 12%. Still, we should remember that a single year isn't that meaningful for any portfolio. It's the long run that matters. And we've only just begun.
These items are all just the tip of the iceberg, really. And given all the developments in our newly expanded hopper, they'll likely pale when compared to our accomplishments in 2000. For starters, we expect to add one very special employee this coming year -- a CEO. Our office's recycling program will be kicking into high gear, recycling even more items than before. We'll soon be offering in-depth research reports. And look for the launch of a top-secret new branded Internet service, code-named "MOI." Hmm... Make-your-own Oblong Igloos? Mascara for Offshore Ingenues? Maybe it's best if we just wait and see, eh?
Happy New Year -- and Fool on!